Serial podcast presents novel collision of law and technology

Serial podcast presents novel collision of law and technology

The incredible true crime podcast Serial presents a novel collision between technology and the law. This time, it’s not that technology plays or should play a particular part in the case itself, but that a podcast has shed light on a cold case that may lead to an unexpected outcome.

The podcast’s producers interviewed Deirdre Enright, director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project for Episode 7.

Lindsay Beyerstein reports at the Columbia Journalism Review:

The UVA Innocence Project is poised to ask a court to test an old physical evidence recovery kit (PERK) that was used on Lee’s body to test for possible sexual assault in 1999 but was never tested for DNA.

The DNA is an issue that might never have come up but for the Serial producers’ interview with Professor Enright. It’s the first instance I’ve heard of where a podcast may directly affect the outcome of a legal case. And considering the defendant, Syed, has already been sentenced to life in prison, any change at all to his sentence, let alone total exoneration, would be unexpected and important.

It implicates a power to uncover truth in cold cases heretofore reserved primarily to outfits like Professor Enright’s. What’s even more compelling to me is that Serial mixes the modern technology of podcasting with the very old style of serial storytelling. The whole thing exposes how, increasingly, the law benefits from ancillary developments in journalism and technology. It’ll be fascinating to hear the ultimate outcome when we get there.

Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program

Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret U.S. Spy Program

Devlin Barrett reports at The Wall Street Journal:

The program cuts out phone companies as an intermediary in searching for suspects. Rather than asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect, which law enforcement has criticized as slow and inaccurate, the government can now get that information itself. People familiar with the program say they do get court orders to search for phones, but it isn’t clear if those orders describe the methods used because the orders are sealed.

SCOTUS Servo tracks and announces changes to Supreme Court opinions

SCOTUS Servo tracks and announces changes to Supreme Court opinions

GitHub is where most software developers maintain their projects. It provides version control, issue tracking and much more to its users. I even have a few repositories of my own.

SCOTUS Servo is developed by V. David Zvenyach, a self-described “lawyer and web tinkerer.” His list of projects is impressive, but SCOTUS Servo is so simple it’s beautiful.

Zvenyach’s software watches Supreme Court PDFs for changes to the file and then posts notifications via Twitter user @SCOTUS_servo.

It’s legal geekery at it’s best and most civic-minded.

Anita Sarkeesian asserts her right not to be in danger of being shot

Anita Sarkeesian asserts her right not to be in danger of being shot

Tim Vitale, spokesman for Utah State University, on Anita Sarkeesian’s cancellation of a planned lecture in the wake of emailed threats:

She was worried about Utah law preventing police from keeping people with legal, conceal-carry permits from entering the event. But our police were prepared and had in place extra security measures. It was her decision to cancel.

Vitale’s tone suggests Sarkeesian overreacted, that the University could somehow guarantee her safety. That, of course, is an absurd implication, particularly because the email, which Bob Mims of the Salt Lake Tribune described as “threatening bloody mayhem,” apparently came from a USU student.

Sarkeesian’s cancellation was the most responsible course of action, and the school should be ashamed of its failure to cancel, not bragging about it.

Utah citizens with permits have the right to carry concealed guns. And Anita Sarkeesian has the right to avoid the danger created by the juxtaposition of that freedom with threats on her life and the lives of her audience members.

HBO without cable coming in 2015

HBO without cable coming in 2015

Peter Kafka reports at Recode:

[HBO CEO Richard] Plepler said the company will go “beyond the wall” and launch a “stand alone, over the top” version of HBO in the US next year, and would work with “current partners,” and may work with others as well. But he wouldn’t provide any other detail.

Plepler has been pondering this possibility for a while, and a couple of years ago I did some back-of-the-napkin math which suggested there is a lot of money to be had in a web-only subscription.

I’m not known for my math skills, but it looks like I was on to something.


Correction: This post has been updated because I originally stated the year HBO plans to launch its web-only offering as 2014 in the link at the top, instead of 2015, which is the correct year. Sorry folks.

A sense that it wasn’t design

A sense that it wasn’t design

Robert Sullivan has such a good interview with Jony Ive over at Vogue:

In other words, the secret weapon of the most sought-after personal-electronics company in the world is a very nice guy from Northeast London who has a soft spot for woodworking and the sense that designers ought to keep their design talents backstage where they can do the most good. “There’s an odd irony here,” he observes. “I think our goal is that you would have a sense that it wasn’t design.”

I’m not sure the Apple Watch is for me because I haven’t had the chance to hold one yet. But the passion and sincerity Ive exudes for his work compels me to at least check it out.

Philly will consider adding LGBTQ protections to hate crimes ordinance

Philly will consider adding LGBTQ protections to hate crimes ordinance

Randy Lobasso, writing at Philly Weekly‘s PhillyNow blog:

Last week, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a proposal along with Councilman Jim Kenney to add disability, sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s ordinance. The proposal would add up to 90 days of jail time and a $2,000 fine if someone is convicted of hate crimes in addition to whatever other specific crime they’ve committed. It’s not much — but it’s something.

Lobasso’s piece is a great primer on the politics of bill passage, and he explains eloquently and with just the right amount of indignation why Pennsylvania has so far failed to address hate crimes, housing and other venues of discrimination with respect to the Commonwealth’s LGBTQ citizens. Go read it.