When a Reporter Enters a Bamboo Grove: Reflections on Serial


The popular podcast Serial offers a careful, nuanced perspective on a criminal prosecution, but at the same time represents a missed opportunity to question the workings of criminal law enforcement. The narrative, which chronicles the re-investigation of a fifteen-year-old Baltimore murder case by a reporter, is brilliantly told. Serial illustrates how elusive and unreliable memory can be and how powerful the state’s enforcement machine is, and offers a gripping story of a possible miscarriage of justice. Yet this Essay suggests that Serial ultimately both fails to establish actual innocence of the young man convicted and sentenced for the killing and, more importantly, fails to challenge the enforcement regime that charged him with the crime.


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