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'Serial' podcast to tackle criminal justice system in Season 3

The third season of the popular “Serial” podcast will take on the criminal justice system through episodes that examine everyday court cases in Cleveland when it launches later this month.

In a trailer on the podcast’s website, host Sarah Koenig said ever since the first season of “Serial,” which revisited a Woodlawn High School student’s murder and the conviction of her former boyfriend, people have asked her what that case says about the criminal justice system.

The new season promises to take listeners inside a Cleveland criminal courthouse, where Koenig and her team spent a year documenting day-to-day cases.

“I don’t think we can understand how the criminal justice system works by interrogating one extraordinary case,” she said in a trailer for Season 3. “Ordinary cases are where we need to look.”

Speculation about the possibility of a third season of “Serial” began swirling in late 2016, when Koenig was spotted with a producer sitting in on trials in Cleveland. They chose the city because they were allowed to record everywhere, from the courtrooms to the judges’ chambers, Koenig said in the trailer.

Koenig, a Baltimore Sun alum, teases listeners with a summary of one of the ordinary cases she witnessed, in which a man was facing decades of jail time for an alleged mugging.

“Inside this regular prosecution I’d seen a litany of things that shouldn’t be allowed,” Koenig said. “It was like a checklist of almost all the stuff reformers complain about: extra charges loaded onto a case, pressure to plead, shabby police work, a police officer possibly lying on the stand, 11th-hour evidence shoehorned into a trial, overworked attorneys, dozing jurors, dozing judge and finally an outsized prison sentence. But no one was stomping their feet too hard about any of that.”

Season 3 of “Serial” comes more than two years after its second season debuted. The last season focused on the case of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who left his post in Afghanistan and was captured and held by the Taliban for nearly five years.

The first episode of Season 3 drops Sept. 20.

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