In 1979, a group of labor organizers protested outside a Ku Klux Klan screening of the 1915 white supremacist film, The Birth of a Nation. Nelson Johnson and Signe Waller-Foxworth remember shouting at armed Klansmen and burning a confederate flag, until eventually police forced the KKK inside and the standoff ended without violence.
There are more tigers in captivity in America than wild tigers in the entire world. The exact number of captive tigers in this country isn't known, because many of them live in people's backyards or unaccredited zoos, and the legality of their ownership varies widely by state and even by circumstance. We travelled to Louisiana to see a 550-pound Siberian-Bengal tiger who lives at a truck stop, and the man who's fought very hard to persuade Louisiana lawmakers he's not a criminal.
Police officer John Edwards was patrolling a quiet neighborhood in Bellaire, Texas when he saw an SUV driven by two young African-American men. It was just before 2am on December 31, 2008. Edwards followed the SUV and ran the license plate number. When his computer indicated that the SUV was stolen, Edwards drew his gun and told the two men to get down on the ground. It wasn't until later that he realized he'd typed the wrong license plate number into his computer. He was off by one digit. By the time he realized his mistake, one of the men had already been shot in the chest at close range.
Jane Toppan was born in Massachusetts in 1857. She attended the Cambridge Nursing School, and established a successful private nursing career in Boston. Said to be cheerful, funny and excellent with her patients, nothing about "Jolly Jane" suggested she could be "the most notorious woman poisoner of modern times."
Dan Stevenson has lived in Oakland's Eastlake neighborhood for 40 years. He says crime has been an issue for as long as he can remember, but he isn't one to call the police on drug dealers or sex workers. He's a pretty "live and let live" kind of guy. Or he was. Before he finally got fed up and took matters into his own hands. Criminal is a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX
When Axton Betz-Hamilton was 11 years old, her parents' identities were stolen. At that time, in the early 90s, consumer protection services for identity theft victims were basically non-existent. So the family dealt with the consequences as best they could. But then when Axton got to college, she realized that her identity had been stolen as well. Her credit score was in the lowest 2%. As she was working to restore her credit, she inadvertently discovered who had stolen the family's identity. It would change everything forever.
Since 1965, there's been an unsolved murder in Houston, Texas. The main suspect managed to disappear and police were never able to find him. The case is still considered open. In 1997, a couple of accountants decided to look into the murders, and were able to uncover evidence that the police missed. They think they've solved the mystery.
Michael Ross was the first person in Connecticut to be sentenced to death since 1960. He claimed that he wanted to die in order to atone for what he had done. One journalist spent twenty years trying to figure out whether or not his remorse was real.
Shortly after Meridy Volz moved from Milwaukee to San Francisco, she received a phone call from a friend asking her to take over a small bakery business. Meridy agreed to run the bakery, but she only wanted to sell one thing: pot brownies. Her brownies were a massive success, and soon she was making enough money to support three families. Meridy tells her story alongside her daughter, Alia Volz, who describes what it's like when San Francisco's "original brownie lady" is your mom.
2008 was an exciting time to be a Harry Potter fan. The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, had been released. Movies were on the way. And author Melissa Anelli was at the center of it all, running a popular fan site called The Leaky Caldron and working on a book, Harry, a History. Just as things couldn’t get better, Melissa received her first death threat.
In November of 1988, Robin Woods was sentenced to 16 years in the notoriously harsh Maryland Correctional Institution.
Not only was John Frankford a famous horse thief, he was also a notoriously good escape artist. People thought no jail was strong enough to keep him, but then in 1895 he was sentenced to Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary. At Eastern State, Frankford became the victim of a strange practice that carried implications for both the state of Pennsylvania and the medical establishment we know it today. Reporter Elana Gordon from WHYY's The Pulse has today's story.
In 1983, three men were prepared to plead guilty to a violent sexual assault in Anderson, South Carolina. Defense attorneys did not want their clients to go before a jury, and arranged a plea deal. This left the sentencing in the hands of the judge, who gave the assailants a very controversial choice.
When it comes to the bourbon Pappy Van Winkle, it doesn't matter who you are or how much money you have - you can't get it unless you're exceptionally lucky or willing to break the law. The Pappy frenzy has law enforcement, bartenders, and even the Van Winkle family themselves wringing their hands.
People have been giving each other "the finger" since Ancient Greece. The first documented use is said to be a photograph from 1886 in which the pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters extends his middle finger to the camera (ostensibly to the rival New York Giants). Even though it's been around for so long, many still find the gesture offensive enough to try to bring criminal charges. Courts have ruled that "flipping the bird" is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment.
To celebrate Criminal's 50th episode, we check in with some of our most memorable guests including Fran Schindler from Episode 17: "Final Exit," Dan Stevenson from Episode 15: "He's Neutral," Corporal Scott Foster from Episode 29: "Officer Talon," and Marian Tolan from Episode 18: "695-BGK."
Sgt. David Mascarenas is the Dive Supervisor for the Los Angeles Police Department. He's been diving his whole life, and prides himself on never refusing a dive, no matter how treacherous. At least until the summer of 2013, when a murder investigation led him into unusually murky waters.
In 2005, Danny Egipciaco had the opportunity to participate in a robbery of a drug supplier's stash house. He was told he'd take home between $100K-200K. In the end, the robbery never happened, so why has Danny spent the last ten years at Fort Dix Correctional Institution?
When we're kids, we have ideas of what we want to be when we grow up -- movie star, doctor, astronaut. But what if we dream of being like Butch Cassidy, Jesse James, or John Dillinger? And what happens when you're not a kid anymore but you're still obsessed with becoming an outlaw?
Ed Crawford had never been to a protest until he heard about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Robert Cohen, a staff photographer with the St. Louis Post Dispatch, ended up taking a photograph of Ed that would be seen around the world, and change both of their lives.