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'Serial' Inspires New Cleveland State Law School Course

The third season of the Serial podcast is set in a Cleveland court house.
Serial Podcast
The third season of the Serial podcast is set in a Cleveland court house.

Local law students are getting a new insight into the Cuyahoga County justice system thanks to the latest season of Serial. A new Cleveland State University law school course will focus on the popular podcast.

Season three of Serial has prompted much local buzz for its probing of the criminal justice system in Northeast Ohio.

One of the program's avid fans is Cleveland Marshall law professor Jonathan Witmer-Rich, who said the show provides real world examples of issues that he tries to teach in the classroom. He's calling his new course "Understanding and Reforming the Criminal Justice Process."

"We want to move our students from reading what the rules are and how the rules apply in cases into the next step, which is: How do these institutions actually function, and what are the problems and are there any ways we can fix it?" he said.

Witmer-Rich explained that law students are traditionally immersed in learning the statutes, the precedents — what he calls "black letter law."

"But a step further is realizing that, sometimes, the way that the court talks about it in a case isn't the same as how the system is operating," he said.

The course debuts this January.

Copyright 2018 WOSU 89.7 NPR News

David C. Barnett