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ADMISSIBLE recognized with VTLA’s Excellence in Journalism Award

Tessa and Joanna Award
Virginia Trial Lawyers Association
Tessa Kramer, host of ADMISSIBLE, and Joanna Suyes, President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.

Tessa Kramer, host and reporter for the award-winning podcast ADMISSIBLE: SHREDS OF EVIDENCE, has earned the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association’s (VTLA) Excellence in Journalism Award for her reporting on season one of the show. Kramer was presented with the award at VTLA’s Annual Convention Membership Luncheon at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C. on April 5.

“The investigation behind ADMISSIBLE took years of work, countless documents, lots of dead-ends and dozens of interviews with people generous enough to share their stories. It also required a level of persistence that I couldn’t have kept up without my amazing team (Ellen Horne, Danielle Elliot, Sophie Bearman, Ben Paviour and all our partners at VPM, to name a few),” said Kramer. “At many points along the way, one of them could have pushed to restrict the scope of the reporting. Instead, they encouraged me to keep digging, to ask more questions and to think about systemic problems bigger than one forensic analyst. It’s an honor to be recognized by the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association for that work.”

VTLA’s Excellence in Journalism Award honors an outstanding Virginia journalist who fosters increased public awareness and understanding of our civil or criminal justice system and its effect on Virginians. Established in 1988, the award honors journalists for their accuracy, initiative, originality, tenacity, effectiveness and skill in reporting on a diverse range of topics.

A co-production of VPM, Story Mechanics and iHeartMedia, ADMISSIBLE examines 13 wrongful convictions all tied to one forensic analyst. The analyst – Mary Jane Burton – was hailed as a hero for storing the DNA evidence in a Virginia records facility, and the 13 men were ultimately exonerated. But when Kramer starts investigating, she meets a former lab trainee with a very different – and much darker – story to tell.

“There is a lot of harm in this story that can’t be undone: 13 innocent men (that we know of) who spent years in prison, crime victims wracked with guilt over their role in convicting the wrong person, families left without answers,” said Kramer. “I hope that this award helps to compel leaders in Virginia to do everything possible to rectify the wrongs that were set in motion — and brought to the state’s attention — almost five decades ago.”

The impact of ADMISSIBLE has been felt across Virginia. In January 2024, a state scientific advisory panel recommended action on thousands of past criminal cases involving Burton as a result of the allegations posed by the podcast. In April, the Virginia State Crime Commission was directed by the state to review all the case files of Burton to determine the number of her cases that resulted in convictions, executions, exonerations and more.

ADMISSIBLE’s first season continues to be recognized a year after its initial release. After eclipsing the 1 million downloads milestone in July 2023, the podcast earned a ‘Best Podcast’ award from the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) at the 2023 Public Media Awards. The show also brought home two honors at the 2023 Signal Awards, including a ‘Gold Award’ in the documentary category and a ‘Listener’s Choice Award’ in the same category.

You can listen to ADMISSIBLE on the VPM website here.

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