Criminal (general)

In 1979, a group of labor organizers protested outside a Ku Klux Klan screening of the 1915 white supremacist film, The Birth of a Nation. Nelson Johnson and Signe Waller-Foxworth remember shouting at armed Klansmen and burning a confederate flag, until eventually police forced the KKK inside and the standoff ended without violence. The labor organizers felt they'd won a small victory, and planned a much bigger anti-Klan demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina. They advertised with the slogan: “Death to the Klan" and set the date for November 3rd, 1979.

As protestors assembled, a caravan of nine cars appeared, and a man in a pick-up truck yelled: "You asked for the Klan! Now you've got 'em!" Thirty-nine shots were fired in eighty-eight seconds, and five protestors were killed. The city of Greensboro is still grappling with the complicated legacy of that day.

The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s full report is available online.

Today, Reverend Nelson Johnson is a pastor with Faith Community Church and serves as the Executive Director for the  Beloved Community Center of Greensboro, which advocates for social and economic justice.

Signe Waller-Foxworth is the author of  Love and Revolution: A Political Memoir.

Eric Ginsburg is the associate editor at the Triad City Beat

For this story, we also interviewed Elizabeth Wheaton, author of  Codename Greenkill.

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. 

Direct download: 01_Episode_43__39_Shots.mp3
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People have been giving each other "the finger" since Ancient Greece. The first documented use is said to be a photograph from 1886 in which the pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters extends his middle finger to the camera (ostensibly to the rival New York Giants). Even though it's been around for so long, many still find the gesture offensive enough to try to bring criminal charges. Courts have ruled that "flipping the bird" is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. It's not a crime to be obnoxious. But there's a man in Oregon who tests the limits of free speech by giving the finger to every police officer that he sees. 

To learn more about the legalities of the middle finger, you might
enjoy: "Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law" from the UC Davis Law Review. 

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If you enjoy the show, please write us a review on iTunes. 

Direct download: 01_Episode_42__The_Finger.mp3
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Since 1965, there's been an unsolved murder in Houston, Texas. The main suspect managed to disappear and police were never able to find him. The case is still considered open. In 1997, a couple of accountants decided to look into the murders, and were able to uncover evidence that the police missed. They think they've solved the mystery. 

To learn more about Hugh and Martha's book. The Ice Box Murders, click here:
We're heading to Los Angeles on May 4th for a special Radiotopia live event. Find out more:
Direct download: Episode_41__Open_Case.mp3
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When it comes to the bourbon Pappy Van Winkle, it doesn't matter who you are or how much money you have -- you can't get it unless you're exceptionally lucky or willing to break the law. The Pappy frenzy has law enforcement, bartenders, and even the Van Winkle family themselves wringing their hands.  

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. On May 4th, all of the Radiotopia shows are coming together in Los Angeles for a very special live performance. Tickets and information here:

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Direct download: 01_Episode_40__Pappy.mp3
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In 1983, three men were prepared to plead guilty to a violent sexual assault in Anderson, South Carolina. Defense attorneys did not want their clients to go before a jury, and arranged a plea deal. This left the sentencing in the hands of the judge, who gave the assailants a very controversial choice.

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. 

Direct download: 01_Episode_39__Either_Or.mp3
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Jane Toppan was born in Massachusetts in 1857. She attended the Cambridge Nursing School, and established a successful private nursing career in Boston. Said to be cheerful, funny and excellent with her patients, nothing about "Jolly Jane" suggested she could be "the most notorious woman poisoner of modern times."

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Direct download: 01_Episode_38__Jolly_Jane.mp3
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In 2010, an eighth-grader brought a loaded gun to a middle school in Hastings, Minnesota. We speak with two students and the principal about the minutes and hours in lockdown. 

Read Jake Bullington's essay, "Yeah, I'm Afraid of Guns.

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. Say hello on Twitter @criminalshow and on Facebook. Visit us online at


Direct download: 01_Episode_37__Hastings.mp3
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The 500-year-old Treaty Oak in Austin, Texas was once called "the most perfect specimen of a North American tree." But in 1989, Austin's city forester realized that the Treaty Oak didn't look so good, and began to wonder whether someone had intentionally tried to kill it.

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. 

Direct download: 01_Episode_36__Perfect_Specimen.mp3
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As a young woman in the 60s, Andy Austin talked her way into a job as a courtroom sketch artist in Chicago. She spent 43 years sketching everyone from disgraced governors to John Wayne Gacy, and says she only made someone look bad on purpose once.

See Andy Austin's sketches, including the one she made of Phoebe, on our website

Her book, Rule 53: Capturing Hippies, Spies, Politicians, and Murderers in an American Courtroom, is available here or here

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX. 

Direct download: Episode_35__Pen_and_Paper.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:48am EDT

Michael Ross was the first person in Connecticut to be sentenced to death since 1960. He claimed that he wanted to die in order to atone for what he had done. One journalist spent twenty years trying to figure out whether or not his remorse was real.

Learn more about Martha Elliot's relationship with Michael Ross in her
book, The Man in the Monster.

Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.

Direct download: 01_Episode_34__The_Stay.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am EDT