ADMISSIBLE: SHREDS OF EVIDENCE investigates controversial era of forensic science at Virginia crime lab
Without confidence in evidence, our faith in the criminal legal system crumbles. A new investigative podcast co-produced by VPM, Story Mechanics and iHeartPodcasts is shining a light on how evidence itself is often flawed, disputed or even manipulated.
ADMISSIBLE: SHREDS OF EVIDENCE looks back at how evidence testing went awry at the Virginia state crime lab in the 1970s and 80s, and the ramifications that continue to the present day. Hosted by reporter Tessa Kramer, ADMISSIBLE premieres February 7.
In the first season of ADMISSIBLE, Kramer investigates the story of 13 men who were exonerated thanks to the miraculous discovery of biological evidence that had been preserved by forensic scientist Mary Jane Burton and stashed away for decades in a Virginia records facility. Burton was hailed as a hero for saving the evidence. Many speculated that she’d foreseen a future in which DNA testing could deliver more accurate convictions and clear the innocent. But when a former coworker disputes that narrative, a pattern of questionable practices and shadowy motives begins to emerge.
“In so many stories about the criminal legal system, forensic science is one chapter in a bigger story – one scene in a police procedural or one episode in a true crime podcast,” said Kramer. “What I love about our first season of ADMISSIBLE is that the crime lab is the story, and the people who work in the lab are the main characters. Through my reporting, I’ve learned so much about what actually happens in a forensic lab, and I hope that listeners – especially true crime lovers – will come away with new questions about evidence and proof.”
Kramer has spent several years as a reporter and narrative audio producer. Her interest in the criminal legal system stemmed from her work on the CNN documentary series Death Row Stories. While she was pursuing her master's degree from Columbia Journalism School, Kramer began reporting on the story that would eventually become ADMISSIBLE: SHREDS OF EVIDENCE.
ADMISSIBLE will also feature reporting from VPM News reporter Ben Paviour and editor Whittney Evans.
"Working on ADMISSIBLE, I combed through gubernatorial archives, dug into forgotten forensic reports and interviewed U.S. senators,” said Paviour. “I dug deep into the story of Earl Washington, Jr. -- an innocent man who came within nine days of being executed because of bad policing, shoddy forensics and fraught politics. The series shows how our most trusted crime-fighting tools can't escape the shortcomings of the people and society using them."
Distributed by iHeartPodcasts, new episodes of ADMISSIBLE will be released every Tuesday on the iHeartRadio app and all podcast platforms. For more information, visit admissiblepodcast.com.
Listen to the first two episodes of ADMISSIBLE here.
As Virginia’s home for public media, VPM connects nearly 2 million people across Central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley to insightful programming in arts and culture, history, science, news and education. VPM operates public television stations VPM PBS, VPM Plus, VPM PBS KIDS, lifestyle channel VPM Create and international program channel VPM WORLD, as well as Richmond NPR station VPM News (88.9 FM) and VPM Music (107.3 FM, 93.1 FM and 88.9-HD2). In the Northern Neck (89.1 FM) and Southside Virginia (90.1 FM), listeners receive a combination of news and music. Audiences can access VPM online at VPM.org and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
About Ellen Horne & Story Mechanics
Associate Professor Ellen Horne is the director of the podcasting and audio reportage program at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. In 2019, after 12 years as Radiolab executive producer, she founded the production company Story Mechanics, specializing in podcasts (The Joy of x, Pandemic Economics, Luminary’s Lies We Tell, Admissible), podcast theme songs/scoring (Spotify Original’s The Oral History of the Office, Queer Space), and audio installations (The Audio Portrait for Citizens: The Living Portrait).
iHeartMedia, Inc. [Nasdaq: IHRT] is the leading audio media company in America, reaching over 90% of Americans every month. iHeart’s broadcast radio assets alone have more consumer reach in the U.S. than any other media outlet; twice the reach of the next largest broadcast radio company; and over four times the ad-enabled reach of the largest digital only audio service. iHeart is the largest podcast publisher according to Podtrac, with more downloads than the next two podcast publishers combined and has the number one social footprint among audio players, with seven times more followers than the next audio media brand, and the only fully integrated audio ad tech solution across broadcast, streaming and podcasts. The company continues to leverage its strong audience connection and unparalleled consumer reach to build new platforms, products and services. Visit iHeartMedia.com for more company information.