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The People vs. True Crime

Australian police are currently conducting a five-day forensic search of a property in Sydney, the former residence of missing woman Lyn Dawson and her husband Chris. Police have said they will soon be pursuing charges against the latter. This case is the subject of the popular true crime podcast The Teacher’s Pet, made by The Australian newspaper and downloaded over 17 million times. Of course, now that the investigation into this disappearance from 1982 has ramped up again, there has been plenty of chatter about the power of true crime podcasts and documentaries to influence real-life criminal cases (see: Adnan Syed, Steven Avery, Robert Durst, etc)

I poured some cold water on this theory for the Metro last week. The key part:

Greater awareness of injustice is always a good thing, especially if it leads to cash-strapped authorities dedicating more resources to cold cases and potentially giving closure to grieving families, but we mustn’t presume that’s the case just because of a few Twitter hashtags and water-cooler chats. After all, despite millions of Serial fans advocating for his innocence, Adnan Syed is still in prison.

Basically, as ever, it’s more complicated than it seems.