True Crime podcasts are addicting and seem to be showing up everywhere, featured in popular TV shows like Only Murders In The Building or playing out in real time with stories ripped from the daily headlines. Whether it’s murder, corruption, sexual abuse or fraud, there’s no shortage of people doing bad things. More than just guilty pleasures, true crime podcasts can reveal both the worst and the best humanity has to offer, inspiring us to speak out for truth or find redemption in helping others. Here are some of the best recent true-crime podcasts for your next listening binge.
Journalists Matt Shaer and Eric Benson examine a grisly murder at a 2008 Seattle Halloween party. The mystery of Aparna Jinaga’s death haunts everyone who attended. Crime scene DNA evidence was linked to three men, but only Emanuel Fair was convicted. He’s a black man with a prior record but had no connection to Jinaga. After serving nine years in prison maintaining his innocence, he was found not guilty of her murder and was released in 2019. This investigative podcast goes into the pros and cons of DNA evidence and how it can present racial disparities. Through extensive interviews with partygoers, forensic experts, her friends and family, they cover injustice, race and perhaps getting away with murder.
The skeletons in the closet at Liberty University go way beyond Jerry Falwell Jr. and wife Becky Falwell’s pool-boy, real-estate fraud scandal. Shocking revelations of rape, assault, anti-LBGTQ and racism run rampant on the Virginia campus. Many students go to this school because of the “Liberty Way”. This is how they bill themselves as a safe, wholesome Christian University. Since the Gangster Capitalism podcast has been released, 12 women have filed lawsuits against Liberty. They claim the school created an environment that increased the likelihood of sexual assault and rape. You’ll hear all the shocking details, allegations and the brave women willing to tell their stories. And this just scratches the surface.
Renowned doctor and surgeon Paolo Macchiarini appears to be a medical hero with his supposed revolutionary organ transplants. In reality his surgeries lead to horrible results, even death. Enter TV Producer Benita Alexander. When she does an NBC series on his procedures with children, she is mesmerized by his work. Alexander resists him at first, but once the project is over they fall in love. The whirlwind romance eventually leads to a marriage proposal. She soon finds out he is not at all what he seems. He makes wild promises like how the Pope was going to marry them at the Vatican and John Legend was going to perform. How she believed some of these wild lies is almost as big of a mystery. In the end her journalistic instinct helps expose the grifter and criminal he really is.
Silicon Valley startup Theranos was all the rage promising lab results with one drop of blood. This was the convincing sell by founder Elizabeth Holmes. She was a Stanford drop out and PR darling who raised billions for a technology that never actually worked. Now she’s on trial for it. Keep up with what’s going on through these two outstanding series. First, Bad Blood from Wall Street Journal Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Carreyrou. He blew the whistle on Theranos with his 2016 reporting. He later wrote a book about it, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. The Drop Out is from ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis. She’s been covering Theranos and Holmes extensively for years. They are both in and out of the courtroom, documenting the daily happenings of the trial. Rejected jurors, legal experts, former employees and investors give their take. The trial is set to go on for at least three months so the details are never ending. Warning: the corruption, hypocrisy and billions of dollars being wasted will make your blood boil.
Former SDNY and New Jersey Prosecutor, now CNN legal correspondent Elie Honig talks to informants, criminals and the lawyers who defend them. Although some of the guests have done some truly terrible things, Honig has a way of humanizing them. Go behind the scenes of some of the biggest mob scandals and how deals are made. A highlight episode is a revealing interview with the real life Better Call Saul defense lawyer, Murray Richman. The story of his humble beginnings and jury strategies are fascinating. Bonus points for a great Frank Sinatra meeting—a mob podcast wouldn’t be complete without it. Honig is such a great host; his experience in the courtroom translates beautifully to the podcast space.
The most bonkers crime story in decades is unfolding in real time. In South Carolina’s Hampton County, the death of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh prompted national headlines. Months after the murders at the family hunting lodge, the father, Alex Murdaugh hired a hitman to kill him, so his son could collect the insurance. This prompted both of their arrests. This is only the beginning as there is much more to this story. It starts with a 2015 hit-and-run and 2019 boat accident. Journalist Mandy Matney from FITS News has been covering the family for years. She brings a gritty nuts-and-bolts timeline to what’s going on. You’ll hear the 911 call of Alex Murdaugh reporting the murders and the tragic details of the boat crash involving son Paul Murdaugh. And it’s only going to get crazier. Matney really takes you there. I especially love the hyper-local ads (“From the big house to your dream house, the Bannon Law Group has got you covered”). If you want to know the latest on this case, The Murdaugh Murders is a must subscribe.
Oscar Pistorius was a national hero, record breaker and one of the most iconic athletes of all time. Known as the “Blade Runner” he was the first double-amputee to compete against able-bodied runners in the Summer Olympics. It was like he could do no wrong—until he shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp to death in the bathroom. Host Tim Rohan covers his humble beginnings, what other athletes thought of him and why this case was a national touchpoint for women and sexual assault in South Africa. Yes, there is a lot of focus on Pistorious but False Idol makes it a point to shine a light on Steencamp and the wonderful person she was. It also looks at hero worship, gender-based violence, and race in post-Apartheid South Africa.
In 2018 Navy SEAL Eddie Gallager was accused of murdering an ISIS fighter. The story made national headlines because of the accounts from other SEALs. They claimed to witness the supposed war crimes. It also became political as the story was a hot point on conservative media and then President Trump got involved. Dan Taberski (Finding Richard Simmons) talks to more than 50 members of the military about what happened, mental health and the trial that followed. What happens in court is a true jaw dropper. There are so many twists and turns that you don’t expect. Also unexpected: the frank conversations about mental health in the military. The Line is a fascinating thought-provoking dissection of what the military goes through and the complicated lines that go with it.
It’s hard not to have an emotional reaction to the gymnasts who spoke out at a senate panel hearing about the abuse of USA Gymnastics Coach Dr. Larry Nassar. For more on what they went through, the Believed podcast is an important listen. This is an inside look at how a team of women won a conviction in one of the largest serial sexual abuse cases in U.S. history. This series shows how victims find their power by speaking out, even when members of their own families don’t believe them. You’ll hear from survivors, parents, and police in an attempt to explain why, for so long, hundreds of women weren’t believed. Lindsey Smith and Kate Wells from Michigan Public Radio do an excellent job breaking down this complicated but important subject.