Transcript

Episode 05: Pleas Baby Pleas

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Anna Faraglia

Did you try to help this little boy?

Rj

Correct.

Anna Faraglia

OK?

Ira Glass

Previously on Serial.

Anna Faraglia

And don't you think you owe it to him to tell this jury who shot this little boy, and not be afraid anymore, sir?

Jennifer King

The defense attorney came to me at the first pretrial and said, you're going to dismiss this.

Judge Gaul

You, sir, are going to be looking at the harshest possible penalty. OK?

Charles Wakefield

It pisses me all the way off. Like, every time I go outside, I just look at everybody different. Like, you know what happened, but you won't say nothing.

Sarah Koenig

I don't think that's what happened.

Da'von Holmes

That's what my lawyer told me.

Sarah Koenig

He said that's why you're getting out?

Da'von Holmes

Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

From This American Life and WBEZ Chicago, it's Serial, one courthouse told week-by-week. I'm Sarah Koenig.

Brian Radigan

This is one of those cases that is so puzzling because so many people are so certain of what they saw or who was involved. And we just have no way of knowing what it is, and what it isn't. And one break could change all of that. One break could change it all.

Sarah Koenig

This is a prosecutor named Brian Radigan. He's talking about the Aavielle Wakefield case, the one where the baby was shot in the car. He and another prosecutor were in charge of that case. They're the ones who sought a thirteen-count indictment against Da'Von Holmes. They are the ones who argued, a year later, to let him go. And it eats at Brian that they haven't solved it.

Brian Radigan

I'm like, why does it have to be this one? Why does it have to be the five-month-old?

Sarah Koenig

When I asked to interview someone about Aavielle's case, the county prosecutor's office easily could have said, this is still an open investigation. We can't comment. But they did not do that. Instead, they gave me Brian, and Brian told me a lot. I went to Brian chiefly to find out why the case fell apart. Did they release Da'Von Holmes because of some technicality? Or did they release him because, wrong guy?

First, though, we spun through the reasons they thought it was Da'Von to begin with. Initially, they had anonymous tips that it was Da'Von. People who said, this is what I know, but you didn't hear it from me.

Brian Radigan

Just said, nope. This is my information. You'll never find me. If you bring me into court, or if you try to put me on paper or record me, I'll deny that I ever said any of this stuff. But meet me in this park at eight o'clock, and I'll tell you. I mean, really like the stuff you see in the movies.

Sarah Koenig

In the movies, that's exciting. In real life, not so great. But Brian said he was hoping to persuade one or two of those people to become witnesses by the time the trial rolled around. They had the jailhouse statement from that guy who I'm calling John, the guy who'd known Da'Von since he was little—their brothers were friends.

Brian told me more about what John said, but he also told me they didn't really find it credible since some of the other people John had mentioned in his statement didn't seem to have a connection to Da'Von. They were older, for one thing. Brian's office was also looking into the guy Aavielle's father thought was responsible for the shooting, [BLEEP], but they didn't have enough evidence to charge him with anything.

On Da'Von, they also had his cell phone records putting him in the neighborhood at the time—his own neighborhood. They also had his statement to the detectives in which he said he'd been up the street at the Family Dollar when it happened. Again, a statement Da'Von told me he'd never made. It didn't add up to much. But then they got the landscaper's ID. The landscaper, remember, was the guy who finally chose Da'Von's picture out of a photo array third time around, almost two months after the shooting.

As I thought, it was the landscaper's ID that made the prosecutors feel comfortable, like they were looking at the right person. The landscaper came off as genuine, believable. And Brian told me, the landscaper—he came to them. He showed up one day at the Justice Center, took the elevator up to the ninth floor to the lobby of the prosecutor's office. Brian gets a call at his desk. There's a guy out here who says he wants to talk to you.

Brian Radigan

So I show up to the front. I say, hi. How are you? You know, introduce myself. And he says, I've got some information I want to talk to somebody about. So I called the homicide unit. I didn't talk to him again. We don't want to be witnesses.

Sarah Koenig

Right.

Brian Radigan

So I call the homicide unit. They come over here. They pick him up, and they talk to him. And when they're talking to him, there was a belief at the beginning from the officers handling the case that this guy knows who it is, but he's not going to pick him out.

Sarah Koenig

Brian says this guy was like a lot of witnesses they deal with—wanting to do the right thing, afraid to do the right thing. Waffling.

Brian Radigan

He came down here a number of times and contacted the homicide unit a number of times saying, listen, I wanted to do this, I wanted to come forward, but I do not want to come to court. I do not want to testify. I've got kids. He talked to us. He wanted us to move him out of where he was living because he was afraid of—

Sarah Koenig

Was he living in the neighborhood?

Brian Radigan

He was living in Cleveland, and—

Sarah Koenig

But not in that neighborhood.

Brian Radigan

No, but he still was working in that neighborhood afterwards and those types of things. So he had his own concerns. But I think if you asked him again, he would still believe that Da'Von Holmes was the one.

Sarah Koenig

Do you think Da'Von Holmes is the one?

Brian Radigan

I think that there was pretty strong evidence that we found during the course of this that he was not. He's not.

Sarah Koenig

Now, we turn to part two of our conversation—what made the case against Da'Von collapse? Though, I just want to note, the amount of evidence Brian had laid out does not seem like it should be enough to take a person to trial for aggravated murder, much less convince a jury to convict a person of aggravated murder. But it is enough.

I'm not saying it would have been a slam dunk for the state, but assuming the landscaper showed up to court and testified, it's not far-fetched to think Da'Von might have been convicted. He easily could have gone down for this murder. But about a month before the trial was supposed to start, Brian said they were made aware—he doesn't want to say exactly how—but they were made aware of a phone call—an exonerating phone call.

Brian Radigan

We had some evidence of somebody else that we believe is involved in the case on a recording, that they didn't know was being recorded, saying that Da'Von was not there.

Sarah Koenig

Can I ask? Was it a jailhouse call?

Brian Radigan

It was not.

Sarah Koenig

OK.

Brian Radigan

It was not.

Sarah Koenig

Again, Brian didn't want to divulge too much about this recording. He thinks that if this case is ever going to be solved, this call might be the key, so he doesn't want to say too much about it. But what surprised me was it didn't come from the detectives. It didn't come from their side. The most I can say is, the recording came to them. And once it did, they all sat down in a conference room in the prosecutor's office—the defense attorneys, Brian, the cops—and they listened to this call.

It was between someone who knows and cares for Da'Von, and a young man I'm not going to name. In the call, nobody identifies the shooter, but it was pretty clear the young man knew what had happened the day Aavielle was killed. Brian says he understood right away that he had to take it seriously.

Brian Radigan

When you actually hear somebody say it, when they don't know that they're being recorded, that changes things.

Sarah Koenig

They were only a few weeks from trial at this point. Now they scrambled. They needed to verify that the recording was real, that the people in the call were who they said they were, and that the call itself wasn't theater, manufactured to spring Da'Von. Once they did all that, they reassessed. Do we still think Da'Von Holmes is the guy? They weren't sure. Maybe not.

They decided they couldn't proceed, filed a motion to dismiss. The phone call undid the case against Da'Von, but it also gave Brian new evidence to work with. The young man in the recording—he sounded involved in some way.

Brian called up detectives he knew in the Fourth District. Do you know anything about this guy? Funny thing, they said, as a matter of fact, we're looking at him for a carjacking, also for a shooting. Brian says, can you hurry it up? Chop chop? And they do.

Pretty soon, they've got him in custody. They charge him for the carjacking and for the other shooting. Even though these wouldn't normally be cases for Brian's unit since nobody died, Brian prosecutes him, tries to get the guy to cooperate, starts squeezing him. I'll help you out on a plea if you help us on the Aavielle Wakefield case. Twelve years is better than, say, thirty years, right?

The guy won't talk, won't talk, won't talk. Brian tried for months. Nothing. Last fall, the guy pleaded guilty in those cases to ag robbery and attempted murder, and was sentenced to seventeen years. Brian knows that this guy serving time for something entirely else might be the closest they'll creep towards justice in Aavielle's case, a kind of sideways justice. We'll Al Capone him, Brian had said, which is a funny thing for him to say, because Brian looks a lot like a young Al Capone.

It's unsatisfying, I know. The crime isn't solved. That's unsatisfying, obviously. But also, Da'Von sat accused for a year. That shouldn't have happened. But when I asked around the Justice Center about it, people said, yeah, that's a shame. But at least they corrected it. No one was demanding an inquiry into what went wrong or yowling for reform. No hand-wringing. it was more resignation. What are you going to do?

Judges say they can't control what cases the prosecutors bring to them. Prosecutors say they're relying on the detectives. Detectives say their information is only as good as what the public coughs up. Can they help it if people lie or withhold? I get it. When no one feels fully responsible for the outcome, when blame is spread out and diluted, a situation like Da'von's becomes easier to shrug off. What are you going to do, starts to feel like an answer, rather than an urgent question.

I ended up spending a bunch of time with Brian Radigan, hanging around while he did his job, in part because I liked him right away, and also because he is one of the most powerful people in the Justice Center. He'd never admit that. I'm not sure he fully sees it, but it's true. Prosecutors are the most powerful people in any courthouse.

Defense attorneys will tell you they'd rather have a fair prosecutor and an unfair judge than a fair judge and an unfair prosecutor. Because of all of the people who shape a criminal case, the prosecutor has the most discretion, especially at the crucial beginning when the thing is still germinating. The prosecutor's deciding whom to charge and with what crimes. He's also deciding what the plea deal is going to look like. And don't tell the judges in the building, but often the prosecutor is more or less deciding the sentences people get.

Because of this big power they hold, prosecutors of late have been the focus of blame for a lot of the problems in our system and the focus of reform efforts. And that's not undeserved, but it is incomplete. Most of the prosecutors I've talked to, it's not that they're gunning for cheap assembly-line justice or for unprecedented, discriminatory, devastatingly high rates of incarceration, it's that that's the job we've given them.

I feel like I can't explain this without telling you some history of how we got here. But I want to explain it, so here goes. Our worst modern era of crime in the U.S., if you look at the FBI stats, began in the 1960s and '70s. Most people now agree we were underpolicing and also under-incarcerating. Then we swung way, way the other way. Cops made more arrests, which meant more prosecutions. But the huge increase in arrests and charges did not correspond to a commensurate increase in the number of prosecutors—or the number of cops, but that's another story.

This one statistic really hit me. In 1974, there were around 17,000 local prosecutors dealing with around 300,000 felony prosecutions. By 2007, the number of prosecutors had jumped to about 32,000, so a significant increase. But they were dealing with nearly 3 million felony prosecutions. That's a ten-fold increase from 1974.

The upshot? Vastly more prosecutions handled by relatively fewer prosecutors. The only way for them to keep afloat? Plea bargains. As one Cleveland judge said to me, plea bargaining isn't part of the criminal justice system, it is the criminal justice system. Pleas are cheap. They lead to more convictions and to more incarceration.

And we've given prosecutors many tools to negotiate these pleas. Lots of forces help this push toward harsher criminal justice—economic forces, the forces of racism and discrimination, some unfortunate U.S. Supreme Court decisions, politics, and more politics. But the one you don't always hear about is legislation.

In the decades post-1970, most states began revamping their sentencing guidelines and their criminal codes. A lot of crimes were being defined both more broadly and more specifically. Theft, fraud, burglary, robbery, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping—their definitions expanded, which made them harder to defend against. And they carried more serious penalties.

Same with laws about guns and especially about drugs. Expansive criminal codes allow prosecutors to expansively charge, because a single criminal act doesn't have to be singly charged. You can pile on as many charges as you want. It doesn't matter if they overlap, so long as each one requires you to prove something slightly different. That's how an armed robbery can end up charged as, say, eight felonies that sound like echoes bouncing around a canyon—committed a theft while having a deadly weapon, committed a theft while having a deadly weapon and either displayed the weapon, brandished it, indicated that he possessed it, or used it.

On top of all that, you've got sentence enhancements, what are known in Cleveland as specs, that you can tuck inside particular charges—repeat offender specs, gang specs. Gun specs are the one I saw most in Cuyahoga County. Usually one and three-year mandatory prison time for the use of a gun, even though the use of a gun is baked into the definition of many charges already. The result is a kind of indictment shock and awe.

Charging like this—what's known as stacking charges, or just overcharging—induces pleas. Of course it does, because the prosecutor can accordion the indictment however he needs. If you plead, we'll drop everything but the felonious assault. Or you go to trial on the full, formidable indictment. And chances are, if you go to trial, you're going to get convicted of something. Just the visual of a long indictment is a signal to the jury—look at this list. He must have done something.

And while some charges probably are going to merge at sentencing, as a rule, the more stuff you're convicted of, the longer your sentence is going to be. So yeah, you plead. That's why the prevailing practice in most prosecutor's offices is to charge crimes as harshly as they can. It might swell prisons and eviscerate entire neighborhoods, but it is efficient.

All of this brought me to Brian Radigan. I wanted to know something very basic. How does he make his decisions? How much of what Brian's doing is coming from Brian, his own sense of what's right? And how much is beyond his control, the job we've given him?

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

Brian works in the major trial unit, homicides mostly. In his office, he's got a mini-fridge, and a neat-ish desk, and a window with the blinds drawn that overlooks Lake Erie. It's nothing fancy, by a long shot. Case files and boxes of evidence are piled around a complaining chair.

[CHAIR SQUEAKING]

Brian looks sharp, though. He wears a suit every day. He never knows when he might be pulled into a courtroom. But the way his beard stubble scrapes against his collar, you understand he's enduring the costume, not enjoying it. He doesn't appear to revel in his power. He favors the aw, shucks variety of dominance.

From what I can tell, Brian is universally respected in the Justice Center. He's forthright. He has compassion. He can take a joke. He's thirty-eight, married, two little kids. A regular, amiable guy.

The days I spent with him, he had twenty cases on his docket—one aggravated vehicular homicide, a rape case, one felonious assault—which he normally wouldn't get, but the guy assaulted three police officers—the rest, murders or aggravated murders. Mostly drug deals gone bad.

Brian Radigan

Or some bullshit, like retaliation thing, you know?

[KNOCK ON DOOR]

Yep?

Sarah Koenig

All day, people are knocking, calling, texting. He's getting updates on cases, giving updates on cases.

Brian Radigan

To be decided.

Sarah Koenig

Do you need to take it?

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

That's fine.

Brian Radigan

Yeah, hold on. Hey, Ray.

Sarah Koenig

Brian takes a call from Ray Diaz, a homicide detective. He's working on a shooting case, happened outside a nightclub on the West Side. Detective Diaz tells Brian they're about to interview a witness.

Brian Radigan

Great, Ray. Call me when you're done.

Ray Diaz

OK.

Brian Radigan

All right.

Ray Diaz

Bye.

Brian Radigan

Bye. This is a guy that we've been—he was with the defendant, and we've been trying to get him to come in and do an interview. And every time he says he's coming in, he cancels, or I didn't have a ride, or we'd show up at his house, and he's not there. So last week, I printed out a subpoena for the two homicide detectives. They went and served him. And so he just called and said he's going to be here today.

Sarah Koenig

This is excellent timing. Brian has a pretrial on that case this afternoon. Right now, though, he's about to have a meeting with two other detectives on another case. They just walked in.

Brian Radigan

Hey, Art. Hey, Rhonda.

Rhonda Gray

Hi.

Sarah Koenig

Hi.

Art Echols

[INAUDIBLE].

Sarah Koenig

Art Echols and Rhonda Gray, the same one from Da'Von's case. And no, they wouldn't let me record them. They were there to talk about a case that had made the news. It wasn't the kind of shooting you usually hear about in Cleveland. It had started as a squabble between strangers on a city bus, and then spilled onto the sidewalk where an older man had shot and killed a younger man. Brian explained to me that this case was unusual for them because the entire episode was recorded by security cameras on the bus.

Brian Radigan

This is one of those rare cases where you see the whole story. Ninety percent of our cases, we're not watching them unfold. And if something is caught on camera or whatever, usually it's from a distance. And you don't hear the dialogue. And you don't get to see everybody's reaction. You don't have seven different angles, or nine different angles of it. You know, this is like the outlier, crazy, I can't believe I have to watch this whole thing and see all the decisions that were made that led to this guy dying.

Because you're watching it. You're watching—like, god, just—and you want to tell him, like, just stay off the bus. Just stay off the bus.

Sarah Koenig

This incident happened three and a half weeks earlier. The older guy was in jail, but he hadn't been indicted yet. The meeting with detectives this morning is to figure out how they're going to handle it—what charges Brian should present to the grand jury. This is a tricky one, though. Because Brian can see how the whole thing unspooled, now he's not sure a crime even occurred.

The stories in the newspaper had quoted police as saying that the older guy, the shooter, had been harassing passengers on the bus. But the bus videos show the opposite—the older guy, the shooter, he was the one being provoked. It's possible this was self-defense.

We go to a conference room. There's a big screen set up so they can watch the footage from the bus. Brian had mentioned something about seven or nine camera angles. And I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. For exactly this reason—crime—city buses in Cleveland are wired up like itinerant bank vaults. The footage we're watching starts from before the beginning, when everything was calm.

Woman 1

OK. Well, have a good one. And thank you.

Woman 2

Thank you.

Sarah Koenig

The older guy, the shooter—his name is Abdul Rahman—had gotten on the bus at Public Square right near the Justice Center. He's in his early 60s, but he looks older. He's got a long, gray beard, a loose sweatshirt. He's scruffy. He's not homeless, but he might have been mistaken for homeless.

You see Mr. Rahman sitting in a window seat by the rear doors of the bus, minding his own business. He's holding what looks like a folded newspaper or magazine in his hand. Then a younger guy sits down next to him. They don't know each other, but evidently the younger guy starts insulting Mr. Rahman.

You can't make out what he's saying, but other passengers told the cops later that he was complaining to Mr. Rahman that he smelled bad. This younger guy is not the one who gets shot, by the way. Mr. Rahman gets up, tries to leave his seat. The younger man blocks him.

Brian's watched all this before, but he can't help wishing it won't go the way it's going to go.

Brian Radigan

This guy just keeps jawing at him. Just go sit. There's an open spot right up there. Just go sit there.

Sarah Koenig

The younger guy is being an asshole. He's ginning up a confrontation. But as Brian pointed out, assholery is not a criminal offense. He finally lets Mr. Rahman pass. Mr. Rahman stands by the bus doors, but he doesn't move to a different part of the bus. He's still arguing with the younger guy, who's starting to get physical now. He slaps the folded magazine from Mr. Rahman's hand. Mr. Rahman bends rather gracefully to the floor, picks it up.

Younger Guy

Go ahead. [INAUDIBLE].

Brian Radigan

Did he say, you're going to get shot?

Sarah Koenig

It's not clear, but you can hear Mr. Rahman say, I like my freedom, as in, I'm not going to fight with you.

Abdul Rahman

I like—I like—I like my freedom.

Sarah Koenig

They start name-calling.

Younger Guy

Bitch.

Sarah Koenig

Bitch, you bitch. Younger guy says, call me another bitch, I'm going to fuck you up.

Younger Guy

Call me another bitch. I'm going to fuck you up.

Abdul Rahman

Bitch.

Sarah Koenig

It's familiar, this scene. A bunch of strangers getting into it on public transportation. And the whole time, you're doing the bystander's trigonometry. How long till my stop? Should I say something? Where are we? Should I move seats? At this point, a woman named Rachel asks the men to can it. She's sitting nearby with a few other people, including her boyfriend, Andrew Easley, the man who's going to get killed in about two minutes.

Rachel

Hey, can't y'all see my niece sitting right here?

Sarah Koenig

Rachel says to the guys arguing, hey, can't you see my niece is sitting right here?

Rachel

Get your ass off the bus and calm on down.

Sarah Koenig

Get your ass off the bus and calm down. And he does. Mr. Rahman gets off at the next stop. But then, he lingers on the sidewalk. You just want to scream, walk. Walk the extra five blocks, for god sakes. But he gets back on the bus. Ten seconds later, the younger guy says this. It is especially hard to hear, but it's important because it's possible this is what jacked up the situation.

Younger Guy

I got a CCW. That's it.

Sarah Koenig

He says, I got a CCW. CCW stands for carrying a concealed weapon—gun license. He's implying that he's armed right now, legally. He does not have a gun, but presumably Mr. Rahman doesn't know that. Then the younger guy pulls the cord to signal he wants to get off at the next stop. He says to Mr. Rahman, come on, let's get off the bus.

Younger Guy

Come on. Get off the bus.

Sarah Koenig

Like, let's take it outside, you and me. He's up in Mr. Rahman's face, starts slapping at him. Suddenly, Mr. Rahman pulls a gun, his own gun. He's got it in his right hand, and he points it at the younger guy's head. Rachel and the other people on the bus start freaking out.

[INDISTINCT YELLING]

The bus pulls up to the stop. Rachel muscles her way to where Mr. Rahman is. The doors open, and then she kicks him square in the butt, straight off the bus onto the sidewalk.

Rachel

Get your ass off the public—[INAUDIBLE] off this bus.

Sarah Koenig

Her boyfriend, Andrew Easley, is right behind her now. He steps off the bus. He's tall and lanky, dressed all in white—long white shorts, white shirt, white hat, white sneakers. He strides toward Mr. Rahman, who's walking backwards now. Mr. Rahman holds up his gun again, waves it around a little. Andrew Easley retreats quickly back onto the bus where the younger guy who started all this is hovering by the open doors. Then you hear Rachel and someone else say something you especially wish they had not said, which is, that's a water gun.

Rachel

That's a water gun.

Sarah Koenig

Mr. Rahman is walking away now, but Andrew and the younger guy go after him again. Finally, right as someone on the bus says something like, why do you all gotta beat up on this old man?

[GUNSHOT]

Mr. Rahman shoots Andrew Easley in the torso. He falls. Someone starts screaming. Mr. Rahman jogs away.

The police have statements from some of the people inside the bus, but the statements aren't as reliable as the myriad recordings we've just watched. The detectives can see for themselves how the thing cranked up emotionally, block by block, as the bus traveled east on Superior Avenue.

At Mr. Rahman's house, they found a gun. It fell out on to Detective Echols' foot when he was looking through Mr. Rahman's clothes. They don't have casings, but they're ninety-nine percent sure it's the same gun from the bus.

So no question what happened here. Abdul Rahman used his own gun to shoot Andrew Easley. The question is, was it a crime? OK, Brian says, so really the issue is, did he have a choice? He had these two guys coming after him. One of the detectives nudges back, says, I feel that argument won't work. After all, Mr. Rahman could have made other choices. He could have gotten off the bus earlier.

Brian says, when he gets off the bus the last time, he's walking away. He's not re-engaging. And he's got two guys after him. One of the detectives suggests Brian might change his mind when he sees this one last video. We watched it later, one more camera angle. The part the detectives wanted Brian to see is Mr. Rahman's posture right at the end.

Sarah Koenig

No.

Brian Radigan

So at that point, I mean, he's going backwards, but he is doing that weird boxing shuffle.

Sarah Koenig

It's true. He's doing a boxing shuffle, like he's fixing to fight. I learned Mr. Rahman wasn't always called Mr. Rahman. Decades ago, he was called Ricardo Spain, and he was a heavyweight fighter. He mostly lost his professional bouts—twenty-three losses out of twenty-six fights. One of them—

[BELL RINGING]

Boxing Announcer

And now, ladies and gentlemen, man your battle stations.

Sarah Koenig

—was against Mike Tyson. Atlantic City, 1985.

Boxing Commentator

That was a giveaway. Oh, the legs have gone. This is all over. Yes, it is. I don't believe it. That's well inside a minute.

Sarah Koenig

Yes, it is—thirty-eight seconds, which is not the fastest Tyson ever knocked a guy out. Now I understand why the detective wanted to be sure Brian saw that last video, because it does make you wonder. Was a former heavyweight who can still muster a boxing shuffle really afraid of those two guys on the bus? After the meeting with the detectives, I'd say Brian was leaning slightly self-defense, but he's still not sure. And because he's not sure, he's going to let the grand jury make that call tomorrow when they present the case for indictment.

Technically, of course, the grand jury is always supposed to make that call. They're the ones who vote on whether there's probable cause to charge someone with a crime. But, well, for you lawyers and legal eagles, ham sandwich, I know. For the rest of you, I will spare you the ham sandwich cliche and just explain, the grand jury is supposed to be a citizens' check on government power. But in practice, grand juries usually vote the way prosecutors want them to vote. Probable cause is a low, low standard. You just have to show that it's logical to believe this person might have committed this crime.

At a grand jury presentation, there's no judge, no cross-examination, no defense. In fact, in Ohio, according to the state bar, quote, "Even if a prosecutor knows of information which would help show that the accused person is innocent, he is not required to present it to the grand jury." So how it works is that the cops and the prosecutor tell the grand jurors what they think happened. The prosecutor presents them with a proposed indictment. Here are all the charges we believe fit this crime. If you guys agree, sign right here. So Brian's got to figure out what charges is he going to ask them to vote on tomorrow.

Sarah Koenig

Like what will you write up in the indictment in terms of the charges, do you think?

Brian Radigan

I don't know yet. Murder, I think, is the high end that it would be. And below that is voluntary manslaughter. And I think it goes between those two. And voluntary manslaughter is basically, like, in the heat of passion, or you being provoked. It's a crime that's provoked.

Sarah Koenig

And that's you're deciding.

Brian Radigan

Yeah. This is—well, I am—

Sarah Koenig

You're the decider.

Brian Radigan

No, I'm not the decider. I am not the decider I don't decide anything, except for what suit I'm going to wear today. No, it's—

Sarah Koenig

Sure, he has to run stuff by the bosses down the hall, usually Sol Adawalla who supervises Brian's unit. His brother, Mo, is also in the major trials unit. But the idea that Brian's not deciding anything? Uh, no. Because he could play this various ways.

Brian could show the jurors one camera angle, or seven camera angles. He could present all the statements from the people on the bus, or just the ones that say Mr. Rahman was the aggressor. He could put murder on the proposed indictment and never mention the word self-defense.

But this one, he tells me, he really can see it either way, crime or no crime. So his plan is to put the whole megillah in their laps. Let the grand jurors decide. He's going to show them all the camera footage, read them all the witness statements. He talks it through with a paralegal, Naida, who's preparing the materials for the grand jury.

Brian Radigan

Should we do the video before we talk about what each one says, or play the—what do you think? I think I want to play the video first.

Sarah Koenig

See that? He doesn't want the camera footage to be colored by the statements, so it's going to be footage first. And, he decides he is not only going to mention self-defense, he's going to explain self-defense—tell them what the legal elements are.

Brian Radigan

I might have you throw something together for me real quick on self-defense. I've got stuff—let me go see if I can find it.

Sarah Koenig

He goes and gets the pages.

Brian Radigan

To establish self-defense, the following elements must be shown. And this is out of an Ohio Supreme Court case. The slayer was not at fault in creating the situation giving rise to the situation. The slayer had a bona fide belief that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.

Sarah Koenig

You didn't instigate it. You had a genuine fear that you'd be killed or badly hurt. You fulfilled your, quote, "duty to retreat," meaning you tried to get away.

Brian Radigan

But if you just want to add in those two things—

Naida

Can I make a photocopy of those two pages?

Brian Radigan

I'm going to give it to you.

Naida

Oh.

Brian Radigan

I'm going to give it to you, and then you can—

Naida

[INAUDIBLE]

Sarah Koenig

A while later, Brian tells me he's thinking he's not going to put murder on there, just the voluntary manslaughter.

Brian Radigan

This is not set in stone yet, but I believe it's just going to be voluntary manslaughter. I don't think there's going to be a murder charge.

Sarah Koenig

Oh. When did that get decided?

Brian Radigan

It hasn't been decided, that's why I said, just I think that that's what it's going to be. But there's clearly some agitation here. There's clearly some—you know, he's being prodded. All right? I mean, I think you can see that in the video.

Sarah Koenig

Yeah.

Brian Radigan

And it's clear from the beginning, the kid won't even let him get out of the seat. He didn't start this, so we'll see. And it could be—I mean, here, and really, from my perspective, it's not so much a matter what I think right now, it's kind of what the grand jury is going to think. You know? So I'll play it for them and tell them—

Sarah Koenig

But I mean, you have a point of view that's going to come across, for sure.

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

How you present things, what you stress, it's probably hugely influential. I don't mean in a creepy way—

Brian Radigan

No.

Sarah Koenig

I just mean, like—

Brian Radigan

Yeah. I think so. But I also try to be fair to the process. You know? I mean, I don't want them to just say, well, what do you think? What do you think? Because then what's the point? I might as well just—if I was going to do it that way, why even do the whole thing? Why play the video for them? Why talk about what each witness in there says? Why talk about where they are in the bus?

I could just go in there and say, he shot him. He shouldn't have shot him. Indict him with murder. You know? In a case like this, I think that it's so important to give the full picture. And if they have the full picture, they should be able to make the decision based on that, not on what I say.

Sarah Koenig

Afterwards, I went down to the first floor atrium to get a snack. The atrium has a little cafe, and tables and chairs that you have to choose carefully because they are frequently sprinkled with bird poop. Now you know.

I was chatting with Emmanuel. And then we started talking to these three defense attorneys we knew at a nearby table. I told them about the Rahman case, about how much material Brian Radigan was going to show the grand jury. And their faces—one looked furious. Another was smirking. I feel like one of them rolled his eyes at me, but I might be making that up.

Regardless, the gist was clear. He's putting on a show for you. It's never like that, they said. They never have that much evidence before they go to the grand jury. People get indicted for stuff in ninety seconds, no discussion. They knew you were coming. Sucker.

These are all people who know Brian Radigan, who respect him. But such was their disbelief that actual fairness could be at work upstairs they almost couldn't allow it was possible. I told Brian about this conversation, a little awkwardly.

Sarah Koenig

People were just like, oh, you got played, sister.

Brian Radigan

Who said it? Who said it?

Sarah Koenig

I'm not telling you who said it.

Brian Radigan

Tell me who it was.

Sarah Koenig

Why?

Brian Radigan

Because, why not?

Sarah Koenig

Because then I'll be busted.

Brian Radigan

Off the record. It's all right.

Sarah Koenig

Ted, Jack, Bob, your secret's safe with me. I did not tell. But I did want to know, what did Brian think of what the defense attorneys were saying, that prosecutors and cops are taking cases before the grand jury, often seeking severe charges based on thin information before the crime has been investigated in any real way? His answer was, yeah, that does happen. Sometimes, you do get cases that are solid right from the get-go, or maybe get lucky with evidence, like with this Rahman case.

Brian Radigan

And again, sometimes, there's just not enough there. Or we think we have enough, and then you learn information later on. And again, remember, a lot of times, too, you're under a time crunch.

Sarah Koenig

He's talking about speedy trial rights for defendants. Also, if they don't indict within ten days, the defendant gets a preliminary hearing before a judge to determine probable cause, which the prosecution does not want. That is a whole procedural nonsense that you do not want me to get into right now, I promise. But what it all means is that they are in a hurry to get cases to the grand jury. Brian told me, it's all about speed, unfortunately.

And again, speed might not be a problem if you didn't have 13,000 felonies to process, but you do. So yeah, it's obviously not ideal when investigations aren't fully cooked. But Brian said, sometimes, you've got a major crime in front of you.

Brian Radigan

If somebody's arrested for it, and you've got to make a determination, I mean, what are you going to do? If you really think that you have the guy, that you have the right guy, do you want him out on the street to—you know, say it's a murder. You want him on the street to go do another one? Or do you say, you know, I think we've got enough here? You know?

Sarah Koenig

It's not perfect. And sometimes, because of that, he said, they make mistakes. And sometimes, because of that—and this is me talking now—you end up with cases like Da'Von's. But what are you going to do? More, after the break.

This afternoon, the main thing Brian's got is a pretrial, a humble back-of-the-hallway pretrial, which is precisely where I'll get to see the most powerful guy in the equation, Brian, do the very thing a half-century of legal tinkering has primed him to do—negotiate a plea.

The case is the one that Detective Ray Diaz called about this morning. It's a nightclub shooting. The defendant, named Dominique Williams, had been at the M&M Saloon. And when the place let out for the night, Williams allegedly shot and killed a guy right outside—a bunch of shots, fairly close range.

As Williams was running away, an off-duty police officer working security at the club started after him, and Williams shot at him. Didn't hit him, but the cop shot back and hit Dominique Williams in the butt. He was arrested on the spot. A gun was found under a porch nearby.

Detective Diaz calls again and tells Brian about the witness he'd brought in to interview. The witness is a friend Williams was at the bar with. And apparently, the friend talked.

Ray Diaz

—jogged his memory on what he may have said to folks.

Brian Radigan

OK. So he's identified Williams as the shooter, then?

Ray Diaz

Yes. He said Dominique was the shooter.

Brian Radigan

OK.

Ray Diaz

He goes, and then I didn't see him again.

Brian Radigan

All right. Well, that's a pretty good statement for us, then, I guess, huh?

Ray Diaz

Yeah.

Brian Radigan

When you come up, Ray—you think you'll be done with him by—what time is it? Shit. It's already 1:15.

Ray Diaz

Probably about another half-hour.

Brian Radigan

OK.

Sarah Koenig

Brian's pretrial in this case starts in fifteen minutes. This call puts Brian in a stronger position to negotiate. On the way to the elevator, Brian sees his supervisor, Sol Adawallah in the hallway. Gives him a swift update on this new evidence.

Sol Adawallah

Oh, that's good.

Brian Radigan

[INAUDIBLE]

Sol Adawallah

Go from circumstantial to like eyeball witness.

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

We take the elevator up to sixteen, head to the pretrial area. Brian finds Dominique Williams' attorney, Craig Weintraub. He's been assigned this case, along with another attorney who didn't show up today. They sit down. Craig starts to talk about a possible plea. He doesn't know about the ID witness cops are interviewing downstairs at this very moment.

Craig Weintraub

We got to present an offer to you. Is that the deal?

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Craig Weintraub

OK. Well—

Brian Radigan

One thing I should tell you—the guy that Williams was with, his buddy at the bar, that we were able to track him down. They just interviewed him today. And he IDs your guy, says, yeah, I walked outside. Walked out before your guy. And then Williams walks out. He says, then I see Yanetta walk out.

Sarah Koenig

That's the victim, Derrick Yanetta.

Brian Radigan

He goes, Yanetta doesn't say a word, and Williams rattled off like five shots at him.

Craig Weintraub

How was he tracked down? What was the story?

Brian Radigan

I put a subpoena out to him, put it on his door.

Craig Weintraub

What sewer did you go into to drag him out of?

Brian Radigan

Found him at his mom's house, you know? I mean, what do you think?

Craig Weintraub

Oh, that's the sewer.

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Craig Weintraub

OK.

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Craig Weintraub

I should've known. And so now that he's seen sunlight—where did he go, by the way? Why did he disappear? And what's been his story? How come he hasn't stepped forward to say, oh, my god, I witnessed a homicide?

Brian Radigan

My understanding is that he's been in contact with Diaz and stuff, and just has stood him up like five or six times to come down.

Craig Weintraub

He's got more important things to do?

Brian Radigan

He doesn't want to be a rat. He doesn't want to rat on your guy.

Craig Weintraub

Yeah, well, apparently he has.

Sarah Koenig

Brian is used to Craig Weintraub. He's probably done about ten murder cases with him. Un-fun fact about Craig Weintraub—he represented Ariel Castro, the guy who imprisoned three women in his house for ten years. After a case like that, maybe you either quit the law, or you shtick it out. Wisecrack your way through the day, whenever possible.

Brian Radigan

Regardless—

Craig Weintraub

Wait a second. I know who you're talking about now. He was the guy—I walked in, and I saw him being led by Diaz. He had the cane and a dog? The guy couldn't see?

Sarah Koenig

Get it? Brian plays along.

Brian Radigan

He was being led by Diaz.

Craig Weintraub

Those are props you'll get rid of before the trial.

Brian Radigan

Exactly. Yeah. I'm going to get him into the courtroom. We're going to practice how many steps straight, how many steps to the right, you know?

Craig Weintraub

It's sickening what you guys do.

Brian Radigan

I know. It's what we do best.

Sarah Koenig

They start talking numbers. It sounds like an auction, but that's how they're negotiating this plea. First, figure out a prison sentence Dominique Williams can live with. Then, figure out the charges he'll have to plea to that'll add up to those numbers.

Craig Weintraub

I was looking at a range of like, maybe, twelve to fifteen. You don't get smiles on there, you see?

[LAUGHTER]

Brian Radigan

Yeah, no. You're not going to—

Craig Weintraub

I was looking at a range of twelve to fifteen, until you found this guy slithering around.

Sarah Koenig

Brian's laughing because—laughable. There's no way. Twelve to fifteen is more like armed robbery time. Weintraub knows that.

Craig Weintraub

What do you think a bottom-end number is on this?

Brian Radigan

Flat time?

Craig Weintraub

Yeah.

Brian Radigan

It's going to be a big number, if it's not going to be a life tail. You know what I mean? That's the issue here.

Sarah Koenig

I'll translate. Flat time means the number is the number—twenty years is twenty years. But murder charges in Ohio carry what's called a life tail. Murder starts at a mandatory fifteen to life. Aggravated murder starts at a mandatory twenty to life. Williams is charged with both kinds, which come with a raft of gun specs.

If you get a life tail—say twenty to life—it means you have to serve twenty years before you can apply for parole, which you're not likely to get, at least not the first time around. So twenty to life could mean twenty years, or it could mean you spend the rest of your life in prison.

Dominique Williams is twenty-seven years old. Understandably, he wants flat time. For that to work, they're going to need to reduce the charges to some kind of manslaughter.

Craig Weintraub

Well, what do you think, realistically?

Brian Radigan

It's not twenties. I mean, it's not twenties.

Craig Weintraub

Oy.

Brian Radigan

It's not twenties.

Craig Weintraub

I thought last time you said it was going to be in the high twenties.

Brian Radigan

That was before—

Craig Weintraub

Oh, before you had—

Brian Radigan

—the other guy said, yeah, he's the one that shot him, and I watched him—

Craig Weintraub

I guess [INAUDIBLE].

Brian Radigan

Yeah. It's not a good fact for you guys.

Craig Weintraub

I mean, I really think it could be a manslaughter with a range of maybe, you know, fourteen to twenty, potentially. But be that as it may, I forgot, I have a police officer I've got to worry about, too.

Brian Radigan

So keep that in mind. I mean, that's where you're talking—if you want a range, you're talking high twenties into mid-thirties, probably. Or he just takes it on the chin and does a murder, and he's got the life tail.

Craig Weintraub

All right, let's figure it out. Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

Whatever number they settle on, they're confident the judge will go for it. By the time we get back to Brian's office, the detectives on the Williams case are waiting for him to tell him more about the witness interview. It's Ray Diaz and also Detective Jody Remington.

Brian Radigan

So any record or anything on this kid, or no?

Jody Remington

He did five years federal time.

Brian Radigan

Did he? For what [INAUDIBLE].

Jody Remington

For something. Yeah.

Sarah Koenig

Brian and the detectives are easy with each other—no airs or formalities. You can tell they've worked together a long time.

Brian Radigan

Did he know what the beef was, or no?

Jody Remington

He won't tell us.

Ray Diaz

He won't tell us. He said that he tried to—people have been talking. But he said as far as he knows, it was for no reason.

Sarah Koenig

Watching how closely Brian works with detectives all day gave me an appreciation for why the system finds prosecuting a cop so excruciating. Brian has had to do it. Just a month and a half ago, he prosecuted a Cleveland officer after he shot and killed a teenager, eighteen, who had broken into a store. The cop was charged with negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. And Brian took it to trial, not with relish.

Brian Radigan

Yeah. Nobody wants to do them. I mean, nobody—judges don't want them, prosecutors don't. Defense attorneys don't want them. The police that are investigating them don't want them, because they're hard.

Sarah Koenig

Legally, they're complicated, because cops are allowed to kill people in certain circumstances. But also for Brian, they're morally complicated.

Brian supports police officers. He knows how many guns are on the street. He thinks their job is harder than it's ever been. But he also doesn't think that eighteen-year-old deserved to die that night. By prosecuting the officer, Brian didn't feel like he was taking a side, he felt like he was doing his job. But at the trial, the police made it obvious they did not feel the same way.

Brian Radigan

You were in that room. What was the thing that seemed the weirdest to you in that room? Me at the table by myself, and like forty police officers on the other side? I mean, did that—

Sarah Koenig

That was weird.

Brian Radigan

Wasn't it? I mean, it was weird. It was strange, you know? And then I had one detective that came and sat with me, finally. But you know, that's weird. I mean, I know them. But you see what I mean, though—how easy it can turn into us verse them? How it looks like we've turned on them?

Sarah Koenig

The all around discomfort of that—the police feeling attacked, Brian feeling as if they're glaring at him like he's a traitor, plus the public perception that the government suits on the ninth floor will never really give their all to prosecuting their pals in blue, is why Cuyahoga County recently changed its policy. Local cases of police shootings are now farmed out to prosecutors from another county.

Incidentally, the judge in that case found the officer not guilty. And the judge was endorsed for re-election by the police union soon after. Neither outcome surprised Brian.

Back to the Dominique Williams case, the nightclub shooting. Brian asked the detectives what they think Williams' sentence should be.

Brian Radigan

I know you guys usually don't give a shit, but what do you guys think of for a number for Williams?

Ray Diaz

I don't know. I'm always open when it comes to that.

Brian Radigan

Are you guys buying any of this shit that our victim did something before this to bring this about?

Ray Diaz

He may have. I think the problem that Dominique has is—I mean, he shoots him five times. He's not armed. And then he knowingly runs from a police officer who's identifying himself. And he has the—

Brian Radigan

And he shoots him.

Ray Diaz

—audacity to turn and shoot at a policeman.

Brian Radigan

I mean, they're talking flat time. And I don't know. Am I off-base by saying twenties is a no-go? And now the one witness has identified him and said he's the shooter. So I mean, I—

Chris Shroeder

I'm not on the case, so I don't know if it's my place to speak. But yeah, twenty seems low.

Sarah Koenig

That's Chris Shroeder, another prosecutor who is waiting to talk to Brian about a different murder case.

Brian Radigan

Yeah.

Chris Shroeder

For a guy who—

Ray Diaz

And he shoots.

Chris Shroeder

It sounds like he just executed this guy outside, and then he shot at the cop as he was fleeing.

Ray Diaz

Does he shoot twice at the officer? We find two casings on that side?

Jody Remington

I know we found two casings, but I know the policeman thought he shot more.

Ray Diaz

Right.

Jody Remington

But even who we brought in today said he stood over him and shot him.

Chris Shroeder

Oh, shot after he was down [INAUDIBLE].

Jody Remington

Yeah.

Brian Radigan

Yeah. So if he wants flat time, it's at least thirty, right?

Chris Shroeder

I would, yeah.

Brian Radigan

OK.

Chris Shroeder

All right.

Brian Radigan

OK.

Sarah Koenig

After the detectives left, Brian and Chris Shroeder discussed a double homicide. If that guy wants to plead, Chris said it'd have to be something like forty to life, or fifty to life. It's going to have to be a high, high mark, he said.

I found these huge numbers shocking. I'm not even sure why. Obviously, I know people get multidecade sentences, life sentences, all the time. Maybe it was because I had just been reading about Germany's sentencing practices where a sentence for the very worst crimes usually lasts about fifteen years, at most. Or maybe because I'd now seen and talked to people—young, young people—who were staring at the prospect of ten years, or fourteen years, and they were desperate.

Brian and I talked about this for a while. I told him about my conversation with Charles Wakefield, Aavielle's father. He wanted the person who killed Aavielle to be punished, but he also considered what happened to his daughter a, quote, unquote, "accident." He knows whoever shot her didn't set out that day to murder a baby. It was a mistake. By Justice Center standards, his vengeance was very conservative.

Sarah Koenig

I can't remember how it came up. But so he kind of threw out the number, like ten years. And I was really surprised, because I was like, a person gets convicted for that murder, there's no way ten years is coming out the other end. You know? But it was interesting to me that that seemed he could balance the scales in his head with a ten-year sentence. Like, that seemed about right to him.

Brian Radigan

Do you think ten years is fair, though, for killing a kid?

Sarah Koenig

I mean—[SIGHS] I don't know. Fair is such a weird thing, because I feel like—

Brian Radigan

And that's the problem.

Sarah Koenig

It totally depends on the person, right? So like say it's an eighteen-year-old or a seventeen-year-old. Maybe ten years is fair. Because by the time that person is closing in on thirty years old, they've totally changed and matured and realized like, whoa. I made a lot of horrible choices. I don't know that you're going to have a difference between thirty and fifty, or thirty and sixty, or thirty and seventy, in terms of a danger to the public.

Brian Radigan

I get that, but shouldn't there be some aspect of a significant punishment for it, too? And I don't know that ten years, after taking the life of somebody, is enough. I just don't. I mean, I understand that there is going to be that change, and hopefully there is. There's that realization in your late twentiess, or something, like holy shit. I fucked up. You know, I fucked up.

Sarah Koenig

Right.

Brian Radigan

But I don't know that just because you have that realization, then you should be able to get out. There should be some aspect of a punishment with it.

Sarah Koenig

But ten years is a punishment.

Brian Radigan

For—I don't know.

Sarah Koenig

ten years.

Brian Radigan

Yeah. Ten years for—it's not just that it was a baby, OK? It was a blatant disregard for everybody's safety on that street. Thank god somebody else didn't get shot, OK?

Sarah Koenig

At this point, I feel like even I need a reminder. It is not Brian's job to sentence anyone. That's for the judge. But certainly, Brian is teeing up the sentences people get. And when he's thinking about sentences, it was also striking to learn what Brian was not thinking about—deterring crime, or who exactly is getting locked up. He doesn't come to work everyday thinking about criminal justice policy. That's not what's guiding him.

Brian Radigan

You know deterrence, and laws, and how to fix communities, and all that type of stuff—I try not to think of it that way. I think it's just we're better off worrying about our victims here. Because when I'm talking to somebody that had their son killed, or their daughter killed, or mother raped and murdered, they don't care about the deterrent. They don't give a shit about somebody else's kid, or whatever, they care about what am I doing for them. And that's how I try to keep it.

So I try to think of, what's the best thing I can do for these people? You know? Sometimes it's a plea. Sometimes it's going to trial, whatever.

I don't know that we deter people. We hope we do. I mean, that's why we have some of these sentences and things like that. But we've got gun specs now for people that, if you commit a crime with a gun, you're going away for more prison. You know, we have one-year gun specs, and three-year, and five-year, and eight-year specs. And I think they're great, but I don't know if it's eliminated the amount of guns that are on the streets.

Sarah Koenig

Right.

Brian Radigan

You know? I mean, is it deterring the next guy from picking up a gun? I don't know.

Sarah Koenig

Brian is using all the legal and procedural tools at his disposal—all the tools we've given him to resolve cases, mostly through pleas. But he doesn't know if what he's doing is making Cleveland any safer.

He can't consult research, that'll tell him what sentences equal what result, or a statewide database showing whether sentences are being applied equally without racial bias, because—and I know I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating, because it is a massive black hole in our own understanding of our own criminal justice system—but there is no comprehensive data on sentencing. We don't keep track.

What we do know is that, overall, more and more prosecutions, longer and longer prison sentences, well, they do have some effect on crime, but not that much. It's very little bang for such huge bucks. That's why Brian concentrates on the only result he can really see day to day, which is when some measure of peace descends on a crushed family. So that's what he aims for—a punishment big enough to trigger the healing power of retribution. I mean, that's the way you have to look at it, he said, because if you look at it any other way, you'd lose your mind.

Dominique Williams wasn't going to agree to thirty years flat time. He also rejected an offer of twenty to life. Instead, he took it to trial. He was convicted easily. He is now serving a sentence of thirty-five years to life.

And the grand jury vote on the Abdul Rahman case? They no-billed the voluntary manslaughter. They did not think he should be charged with a crime for shooting Andrew Easley. Seems they decided it was self-defense. After spending about seven weeks in jail, Mr. Rahman pleaded guilty to illegally having a gun, and he was sentenced to two years probation.

Brian met with Andrew Easley's family to tell them about the grand jury vote. He said they were unhappy about it, but that he thought they understood it. Many months later, I interviewed Andrew Easley's older sister, Jacqueline. She did not understand it.

She had watched the security tapes from the bus. She didn't understand why the prosecutors didn't charge the two people whom she thought incited the thing—Andrew's girlfriend, Rachel, who'd kicked Mr. Rahman off the bus, and the younger man, who'd initially bullied Mr. Rahman. And she didn't understand why Mr. Rahman himself wasn't charged. She didn't think he was acting in self-defense when he shot her brother.

Jacqueline Easley

The two people that did put their hands on, he didn't shoot. So you had every reason to shoot if it was self-defense. You know, they coming up hitting you, slapping you, kicking you. OK, yeah, self-defense. My brother didn't touch you. My brother ain't said one word to you.

Sarah Koenig

Could you understand how a grand jury could watch those same tapes and come to a different conclusion than you did?

Jacqueline Easley

No. Nope. We did ask why, but you know, they really didn't give an answer and say, you know, all we do is present, and it's up to the grand jury. That's all I got.

Sarah Koenig

Right. Do you believe that?

Jacqueline Easley

No. [LAUGHS DERISIVELY] I mean, I know a lot about the judicial system, politics, but no, I don't believe that.

Sarah Koenig

When I asked Jackie what would have been different for her family, what would have felt different if Mr. Rahman had been indicted for murder or manslaughter, she couldn't say exactly. It might have helped some, she said, but it wouldn't have helped a great lot. Either way, her brother would still be gone, and the pain of that would still be radiating through her family. Even so, she said, she wanted it.

The best outcome you can hope for when a crime happens to you is that your pain is acknowledged, that the person who harmed you is punished, and that you get some reparation. And believe it or not, that trifecta does happen. We met someone—next time on Serial.

Serial is produced by Julie Snyder, Emmanuel Dzotsi, Ben Calhoun, and me, with additional reporting by Ida Lieszkovszky. Editing on this episode from Ira Glass. Whitney Dangerfield is our digital editor. Huge congratulations to her for having a baby this week. Research and fact-checking by Ben Phelan. Sound design and mix by Stowe Nelson. Additional production from Kate Bilinski.

Music clearance by Anthony Roman. Seth Lind is our director of operations. The Serial staff includes Emily Condon, Julie Whitaker, Cassie Howley, Frances Swanson, and Matt Tierney. Our music is by Adam Dorn and Hal Willner, with additional music from Matt McGinley, Nick Thorburn, and Wes Schwartz. Our theme song is by Nick Thorburn and remixed by Adam Dorn.

Special thanks to Lisa Noller, Donna Weinberger, Sara Andrews, and Scott Schumaker at the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, Ram Subramanian at the Vera Institute of Justice, John Pfaff, Paula Boggs Muething, Rachel Dissell, Judge Pinky Carr, Kimberly Corral, Kim Yoder, David Raphael, Mike Barber, and Katie Fuchs.

The art on our website was made by Adam Maida. He created the mural for this episode. And Moth Studio did the animation. Please check it out on our website, serialpodcast.org. That's serialpodcast.org where you can also sign up for our email newsletter and be notified when new episodes are released. We're also, of course, on Facebook and Twitter. Serial is a production of This American Life and WBEZ Chicago.

 

 

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