CSI On Trial

CSI On Trial

It is nearly impossible to imagine a criminal investigation that does not involve some kind of forensic science: firearms analysis, bloodstain patterns, arson, etc. But what leads us to trust these methods? Some point to the “CSI effect.” Viewers who have been watching true crime shows and trials for years have been trained to assume these methods lead to the right people getting arrested and convicted of some of the most heinous crimes. But what’s the science behind them? Are they valid? In this podcast, host Molly Hermann lays out the lack of science behind some of the most well-known CSI tools, and tells the stories of the wrongfully convicted who went to prison for years. She interviews nearly 70 people - including forensic scientists, legal experts, and the exonerated - and digs into the larger issues within the criminal justice system that have let the “junk science” in.

Episodes

April 18, 2023 33 mins

In our final episode, law professor Maneka Sinha and criminology professor Nicholas Scurich join host Molly Hermann to talk about lessons learned from the series and how the criminal justice system can make forensic science more reliable.

CSI On Trial is a co-production of iHeart Podcasts and School of Humans. It is a Curiosity Podcast based on the Curiosity Stream series CSI On Trial. You can watch all six episodes of the video s...

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Warning: This episode contains details of violence against children. 

New science in the 1990s advanced the understanding of how fires work, but it took years for substantive change to follow. That had a huge impact on those already sitting in prison for arson convictions that were actually accidents.  David Gavitt and Anthony Kyles each spent over 20 years in prison, both convicted using now-outdated investigative methods for ars...

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Warning: This episode contains details of violence against children. 

Shaken baby syndrome is a hypothesis that has been around for decades, rooted in the mechanics of whiplash.  Medical academics, law enforcement, and prosecutors all agree that violently shaking a baby is a form of child abuse. But Audrey Edmunds, a pregnant mother running a daycare out of her home, was wrongfully convicted of shaking a child who died in her care...

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March 28, 2023 37 mins

Warning: This episode contains details of graphic violence and sexual assault against children. 

Before he was drafted into the NBA, Chris Paul experienced a tragic loss: the murder of his grandfather Nathaniel Jones. Five teenagers were ultimately convicted, including brothers Rayshawn Banner and Nathaniel Cauthen. The key piece of physical evidence was a pair of size 9 Nike Air Force 1s found in the boys’ home. But with millions...

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Warning: This episode contains details of gun violence against children.

The man who taught police departments around the country how to analyze bloodstain patterns went on to testify in one of the most famous cases of the 20th century: The OJ Simpson trial.  But in the case of Indiana state trooper David Camm, the interpretation of just a few specks of blood sent him to prison for the murder of his entire family-a crime he was ac...

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March 14, 2023 35 mins

Warning: This episode contains details of gun violence. 
 
The gangster era of the 1920s led to breakthroughs in firearms used as evidence in criminal trials. But many studies now show that matching cartridge casings from a crime scene leaves room for human error. And for Odell Adams, the questionable reliability of firearms analysis put him on trial twice for the same crime. 

CSI On Trial is a co-production of iHeart Podcas...

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March 7, 2023 34 mins

Warning: This episode contains details of graphic violence and sexual assault. 

Using bitemarks to investigate crimes dates back centuries to the Salem Witch Trials, but it became famous in the modern era during the prosecution of Ted Bundy. Bitemarks are often touted as being as unique as a person’s fingerprint.  But Keith Harward calls that claim bogus. He was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape based on bitemark evidence. 

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Popular TV shows and high-profile televised trials have made forensic science famous…but what’s the science and history behind it? Host and filmmaker Molly Hermann traces the roots of these tools and the questions surrounding their accuracy.

CSI On Trial is a co-production of iHeart Podcasts and School of Humans. It is a Curiosity Podcast based on the Curiosity Stream series CSI On Trial.  You can watch all six episodes of the vid...

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February 21, 2023 2 mins

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