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'Serial' podcast set in Cleveland courts spurs response from attorneys, judge

Posted at 5:03 PM, Sep 25, 2018

A spotlight is shining on Cleveland’s criminal justice system, brought front and center as the focus of "Serial’s" latest season.

The wildly popular podcast spent a year inside the justice center in downtown Cleveland, chronicling the day-to-day of defendants, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges.

RELATED: ‘Serial' comes to Cleveland and peels back the curtain on our criminal justice system

Reporters Sarah Koenig and Emmanuel Dzotsi take listeners inside courtrooms, judges’ chambers, even elevators.

The podcast is heard worldwide and some fear the way it will make Cleveland courts appear outside of our city.

It’s part of the reason why civil attorney Rebecca Maurer started her blog, Serial Land. The blog is in response to the podcast, providing history and context in response to each and every episode.

Maurer was born and raised in Northeast Ohio.

“I care deeply about what happens in Cleveland,” Maurer explained.

When asked if the podcast makes Cleveland look bad, Maurer replied, “I think it makes the criminal justice system look bad and part of why I want to do this project is so that people don’t misunderstand that as Cleveland looking bad.”

She said she hopes the takeaway — from the Serial podcast and from her Serial Land blog — is that, systematically and nationally, there is a crisis in the criminal justice system that needs to be fixed.

As for the Serial team’s response to the response, executive producer Julie Snyder sent News 5 the following statement:

“We’re happy to see people engaging with the podcast and we hope it continues to spur discussions about what we want from our criminal justice system.”  

According to the Serial team, Episode One of Season 3 was downloaded 1.46 million times in the first 14 hours of release. Based on day one downloads, it’s the most successful launch in the podcast’s history.

As for the Cuyahoga County judge who is the main focus of Serial’s episode 2 "You've Got Some Gauls?" That's Judge Daniel Gaul, who isn't portrayed in the best light in the episode. He sent News 5 a statement as well:

In the nearly 28 years I have had the privilege of serving as a judge on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, I have presided over approximately 40,000 cases.

During that time, there has not been one credible complaint of discrimination raised against me based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.

I am known as a fair, honest, and impartial judge. The thousands of attorneys who practice in my courtroom know me best. They have a high regard for my reputation as evidenced by my excellent rating by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and the Cuyahoga County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Indeed, in the current election cycle, the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, a bar association comprised of minority men and women, and the Ohio Women’s Bar Association, rate me as a good judge.

Moreover, additional groups and organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police, the AFLCIO, the Teamsters Ohio D.R.I.V.E., the Cleveland American’s of Middle Eastern Origin(known as “Cameo”), and The Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, an LBGT Group, have all endorsed my candidacy on the basis of my excellent reputation for fairness and equality.