Michael Caine · Retired Cops · Rape Kits

Also: hip-hop's link to mass incarceration

Actor Michael Caine hosts a new true-crime podcast. The show’s called Heist with Michael Caine, and it’s about “extraordinary heists and robberies from around the world that have inspired some of Hollywood's most famous films,” a press release for the six-part series reads.

(Also, to prove they’re in on the joke, the release quotes Caine as saying, “They really do mean it when they say fact is stranger than fiction - the ingenuity of the perpetrators, and the determination of those working to bring them to justice, is a marvel to listen to. To amend a much-loved phrase, this podcast will blow your bloody socks off.”)

The show, which drops today on Audible (that’s why I don’t have a link for you — you know what a hassle Audible is), is “told in Caine’s trademark style that switches from matter-of-fact to dramatic,” the Guardian reports. My guess is that this won’t be amazing tales of crimes you’ve never heard of, but it’ll be a lot of fun. — EB


Fine, you don’t want Michael Caine in your ears? How about a couple retired cops? Two separate podcasts from former police officers crossed my desk this weekend; here’s the deal:

True Crime Takedown is hosted by Troy Daniels, the former Deputy Chief of Police of Champaign, Illinois. It’s only got one episode so far, a history of Crime Stoppers, the national anonymous tip line intended to assist in investigation of serious crimes. Daniels says that the intention of the podcast is to “kick crime’s ass,” which, OK! It’s safe to say that this is a show that is unlikely to interrogate the current criminal justice system, but might provide a simple, cops-and-robbers listen for those times when one needs an uncomplicated yarn.

10-41 with Todd McComas is from “retired police detective and standup comedian Todd McComas,” which might give you pause right there. McComas was with the Indiana State Police for 21 years prior to his career in comedy, but he plays it pretty straight with the show, which dropped in February. It’s a loose, chatty show that (thus far, I’m only a few episodes in) has yet to completely horrify me with its politics, though who knows? It could happen! The most recent episode, on the year-old disappearance of Najah Ferrell (that’s her in the photo above), interviews family members of the victim with a sensitivity you might not expect from a guy who’s worked with Barstool Sports. Life is complicated, I guess. — EB


The podcast onslaught continues with two from NPR. According to a press release sent last week, the non-profit journalism outlet is plotting two new shows with true crime angles. Here’s the scoop:

The name: Untitled NPR Music Podcast

Release date: September, 2020

The blurb: “This short-run narrative series ​traces the interconnected rise of hip-hop and mass incarceration. But is it coincidence or by design? We’ll delve into some of the biggest names and cases in hip-hop to reveal just how much the criminal justice system has impacted the culture. Hosted by Rodney Carmichael, NPR Music’s resident hip-hop critic, and Sidney Madden, NPR Music reporter and editor.”

(Sarah notes that her review of Rap On Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America might be of interest to those intrigued by this podcast’s premise. Based on the podcast’s brief description, it covers much of the same ground!)

The name: Unsealed

Release date: Early 2021

The blurb: “A limited-run podcast that explores how police police themselves through an analysis of hundreds of police misconduct files, body camera footage and audio recordings of internal investigations that have been kept secret for decades. Unsealed will be hosted by KQED’s criminal justice reporter Sukey Lewis and produced by KQED’s race and equity reporter Sandhya Dirks.”

(Sukey is the real deal — you can catch up on her criminal justice reporting for KQED here. Sandhya’s also the host of a podcast called American Suburb, which isn’t specifically true crime-focused, but is a great look at gentrification and other systemic issues in the San Francisco Bay Area.) — EB


You can hear from Kathy Reichs this Friday. You know who Reichs is: the forensic anthropologist wrote a series of detective novels featuring Temperance Brennan. That’s right, without Reichs there would be no Bones (aka the show where David Boreanaz settled a fairly yucktastic sexual harassment lawsuit, thus inspiring my husband to make dramatic masturbatory gestures every time Angel appears on my television screen).

Where was I? Ah yes, Reichs. So, Smithsonian Associates — the educational arm of the Smithsonian Institution* just announced the release of 91 new streaming classes, tours, and lectures. The full schedule of events is here, but it was the Reichs event that jumped out at me: according to SA’s site, Reichs will be “in conversation” with novelist Karin Slaughter to discuss stuff like her expert witness role in the Casey Anthony trial.

The conversation will be on Zoom, and is $30 to attend. Online registration is available here. — EB

*Bones was set in the fictional Jeffersonian Institution, reportedly a reference to the real-life Smithsonian. Now let us never speak of Bones again!


Speaking of forensics, how much thought have you given the history of the rape kit? In an opinion section piece for the New York Times, contributing writer Pagan Kennedy looks into the “campaign to treat sexual assault as a crime that could be investigated,” a campaign that began — stomach-churningly — in the 1970s. Here’s a snip:

As soon as I began to investigate the rape kit’s origins, however, I stumbled across a mystery. Most sources credited a Chicago police sergeant, Louis Vitullo, with developing the kit in the 1970s. But a few described the invention as a collaboration between Mr. Vitullo and an activist, Martha Goddard. Where was the truth? As so often happens in stories about rape, I found myself wondering whom to believe.

Mr. Vitullo died in 2006. Ms. Goddard, as far as I could tell, must still be alive — I couldn’t find any obituaries or gravestones that matched her name. An interview in 2003 placed her in Phoenix, and so I collected phone listings for Martha Goddard in Arizona and called them one after another. All those numbers had been disconnected.

Little did I know that I would have to hunt for six months before I finally solved the mystery. I would learn she had transformed the criminal-justice system, though her role has never been fully acknowledged. And I would also discover that Louis Vitullo — far from being the inventor of the rape kit — may have taken credit for Ms. Goddard’s genius and insisted that his name be put on the equipment.

You can read “The Rape Kit’s Secret History” here. — EB


Wednesday on Best Evidence: No podcast this week; sorry, folks! Sarah will have to whip something up in the Best Evidence kitchen with whatever I’ve left her. I’m sure it’ll be delicious.


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