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From cold cases to convictions: how the ‘Criminal’ podcast sheds light on real criminal cases

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Podcasts have been a revelation in the digital age, offering an abundance of accessible, often gripping content for a global audience. Among them, the...

Podcasts have been a revelation in the digital age, offering an abundance of accessible, often gripping content for a global audience. Among them, the true crime genre is perhaps one of the most captivating. And when it comes to the best true-crime podcasts, few names resonate as powerfully as the "Criminal" podcast. Hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Julienne Alexander, this podcast is part of Radiotopia, a network known for its high-quality storytelling. It's also a part of the Vox Media Podcast Network and has garnered international attention, being featured in publications such as The New York Times and BBC.

The craft behind the crime

The uniqueness of the Criminal podcast lies not just in its carefully chosen crime stories but also in its presentation. Phoebe Judge’s calm but engrossing voice weaves tales that keep the listener glued to their headphones. Coupled with thought-provoking interviews and beautifully crafted narratives, the episodes are a tapestry of storytelling excellence. The craft isn't just about what is said, but also about what is left out. Unnecessary theatrics are avoided. Each episode is a carefully woven tapestry, where interviews with victims, perpetrators, and experts are edited with precision. This balanced portrayal allows the stories to resonate with listeners, offering a multi-dimensional understanding of each crime's impact on the justice system and society at large.

Episodes that stand out

When a podcast accumulates a vast library of episodes, new listeners often ask, "Where should I start?" In the case of the Criminal podcast, this is a particularly challenging question, given the consistently high-quality storytelling and intricate exploration of the justice system, human psychology, and social implications of crime. Below are some standout episodes that exemplify what makes Criminal a must-listen.

Episode 233: Iceland noir

This episode takes you far from American soil, to the chilly landscapes of Iceland. It uncovers a cold case in a small town, weaving elements of the nation's folklore into a real-life crime. With less of a focus on the criminal and more on the emotional resonance of the crime itself, the episode crafts a hauntingly beautiful narrative that is, paradoxically, both alien and familiar.

The bodies in Florida

In contrast to the isolated landscape of Iceland, this episode dives into the heart of America—Florida, to be precise. The episode is a deep dive into a serial killer case that shook the nation, disturbingly capturing the dark underbelly of the American justice system. Here, the show does not shy away from discussing the complex issues of race, with the victims and the suspect being white, and dives into the consequences of systemic flaws in America's justice system.

America has its share of high-profile crime stories, but few are as chilling as the unsolved cases of bodies found in Florida. In this episode, Phoebe Judge interviews John, a retired detective who spent years investigating the case, providing his unique insights that shed light on the complexities of the justice system. What sets this episode apart is its brutal honesty in exploring the racial complexities and systemic flaws in the American justice system, laying bare its often white-centric viewpoints.

Animal instincts

When true crime and nature cross paths, the result is the episode called "Animal Instincts." Not your usual human criminal, but rather an exploration into instances where animals are at the center of legal cases. This one is intriguing because it challenges the listener’s perspective on what constitutes a "criminal."

Love in Texas

What happens when love and crime entangle? Set in Texas, this episode explores a story that crosses both these aspects, giving an unusual but necessary twist to the narrative. The comparison of love and criminal behavior serves to highlight the complexities of human emotions and actions.

Small Town Secrets

While major crimes in large cities often capture headlines, crimes in America's small towns are frequently overlooked. This episode explores the eerie, yet captivating, stories from lesser-known areas, forcing listeners to recognize that crime is not bound by geographical or social limitations.

Where to listen

You can find episodes of the Criminal podcast on various platforms. If you're a loyal Apple Podcasts user, you'll find them there, complete with an ad-free experience for subscribers. Spotify and NPR also feature the Criminal podcast, making it easy for you to get your fix regardless of your preferred listening platform.

International acclaim

Though primarily an American podcast, Criminal has garnered international attention. It has been featured on the BBC in London and holds a significant listener base in Canada and other English-speaking countries.

A picture of excellence

The artwork and visual storytelling, masterminded by Julienne Alexander, are not to be overlooked. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when coupled with Phoebe Judge’s narration, it takes on a new dimension. The artwork often offers a glimpse into the essence of the episodes, be it a cold case from North Carolina, a legal battle reaching the Supreme Court, or something as light-hearted as their sister podcast "This Is Love."

A gateway to more

If you have combed through all the episodes and are looking for more, Phoebe Judge also hosts "Phoebe Reads a Mystery," where she tackles classic mystery novels, offering a respite for those who have binged all the true crime they can handle for a while.

Critical reception

The New York Times has praised Criminal for its narrative depth and ethical considerations. In an industry overflowing with crime stories, it stands apart by also considering the broader implications of crime and justice, and how stories of people affected by crime can shed light on systemic issues.

In a world where podcasts have become ubiquitous, Criminal Podcast is like a precious piece of art in a crowded gallery. It does not just tell crime stories but crafts them into compelling narratives that probe the complexities of the justice system, human nature, and society at large.

For more information and a complete list of episodes, you can visit their official website, [](, which also hosts an assortment of merchandise, for those who can’t get enough of Phoebe Judge and her storytelling prowess.

So, if you’re a fan of true crime or simply a connoisseur of well-crafted stories, the Criminal podcast is a treasure trove that will keep you on your toes. With its ethical integrity, nuanced perspectives, and international acclaim, it is a must-listen in the world of podcasts.

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What is the number one rated true crime podcast?

The ranking of true crime podcasts can vary depending on the metric used (listener reviews, number of downloads, etc.). However, as of my last update in September 2021, podcasts like "Serial" have frequently topped the charts in the true crime genre.

Who hosts the podcast Criminal?

The Criminal podcast is hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Julienne Alexander. Phoebe's calm and engaging narrative style has made her a beloved figure in the podcasting community.

What are the best episodes of Criminal podcast?

Selecting the best episodes is subjective and depends on individual preferences. However, some standout episodes include "Episode 233: Iceland Noir," which takes listeners to the frigid landscapes of Iceland to explore a cold case; "The Bodies in Florida," which goes into a serial killer case; "Animal Instincts," an intriguing episode that looks at animals in legal cases; and "Love in Texas," which explores the intersection of love and crime. These episodes offer a range of topics and narrative styles, making them popular choices among fans.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.