Kary:

This is The Crime Story Podcast with Kary Antholis where stories of crime and justice or told.

On today’s podcast we have the second part of a two part interview with crime story contributors and producers and writers of the podcast series The Truth about True Crime, Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson.

Kary:

In part two of the interview, Amanda expresses her perspective on the tabloid journalists who covered her story, and where she takes inspiration for her own journalism. Amanda and Chris discuss how they approach their work on The Truth about True Crime, particularly the podcasts that they wrote and produced about the murder of Jessica Levin and the story of Jens Söring, both of which echoed Amanda‘s experience during her four year ordeal in Italy. And so without further ado here is part two of my interview with Amanda Knox and Christopher Robinson.

Kary:

Can you just talk a little bit about your experience watching Nick Pisa in the film, and-

Amanda:

(laughs)

Kary:

… the, and, and any impact or influence that may have had on you in pursuing a, a career in journalism? Um…

Amanda:

You know, Nick Pisa has never been an inspiration for me in my work. (laughs)  you know, he, he, it was, it was interesting for me to watch him because I feel like I am a lot more understanding of Nick Pisa than other people who have viewed the film are. Like, I know that for most people who have seen the film, Nick Pisa, comes out as the surprising bad guy, and he just digs his own grave saying, like, every horrible thing you can ma-, and imagine, like, “Oh, yeah, girls and sex, and drugs” and like, “God, it’s like so great. It’s better than orgasms to write headlines about that kind of stuff.” And you’re just like, ah.

Amanda:

And the thing that stuck with me was how he, how like insulated he was within his world of tabloid journalism, and how he doesn’t recognize, he clearly doesn’t recognize that he has a responsibility as a journalist that goes beyond just making money by creating clickbait. And the reason why he’s lost sight of that is because he’s in his own little rat race to get ahead of the next tabloid journalist, and he’s invested himself in that world to such an extent that he’s lost touch with reality. And I… on the one hand, I can sit there and go, “You are a bad journalist. You should not be allowed (laughs) to write headlines, and, and you deserve to, like, you know, suffer consequences (laughs) professionally for how you’ve dealt with my case.” But on the other hand, I hand it to him and I say, “But you’re right, Nick Pisa, when you say “A lot of people judge me for the headlines that I’ve done, but meanwhile, they’re the ones who are clicking on the headlines.”” Like Nick Pisa wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the people who consume his media, and that falls on us and, and our sort of like thoughtless consumption of, of, of news. So-

Christopher:

That, you know, that’s, that’s kind of like the drug dealers defense, though, of like-

Amanda:

Fair…

Christopher:

… people want to buy it, so here I am selling crack. You know, it’s like, well, you know, just because someone else is the willing accomplice for that transaction because they’re ready with the money, doesn’t mean that it’s moral for that person to enable their bad habit.

Amanda:

That’s true. No, I don’t-

Christopher:

Right?

Amanda:

… I don’t absolve Nick Pisa.

Christopher:

Yeah.

Amanda:

I just say that, like, the, the…. I acknowledge all of this stuff around him. (laughs) Now, he made the choice to do that profession and so, you know, I’m not ever going to sit down and allow myself to be interviewed by Nick Pisa. I would be very interested in sitting down and interviewing him, but, you know, because I trust myself to not do what he does (laughs) for a living.

Christopher:

(laughs)

Kary:

the reason I…  it, it, it’s, it’s interesting. The reason I asked the question the way that I did is that obviously Nick Pisa is using the film to represent a number of tabloid journalists, and does so-

Amanda:

Right.

Kary:

… with gusto.  I, you know, you, in your first piece for a crime story, wrote about Nancy Grace.  you’ve spoken about clickbait journalism, and it’s… you know, how it degrades both the writer and the clicker. Um…

Amanda:

Right.

Kary:

I,  I wonder if… and, and, I wondered… the reason I framed the question that way that I did was I wondered whether seeing all of that galvanized into one human being who is-

Amanda:

(laughs)

Kary:

… completely un-self-aware of how he’s coming off, whether that kindled in you any notions of,  building a working life where you were counteracting that, because in some ways, that is what your journalism career is all about, a, at least in my interpretation of it.

Amanda:

Sure. I mean, I definitely know that his form of journalism, and this was really hammered home in the Netflix documentary,  and hearing him say it really sort of solidified, for me, the mindset that certain types of journalists have when they’re approaching their subjects with like, utter entitlement and, and disregard for their humanity, and the consequences of their, the… how their work impacts that human being’s life.  that really hammered home for me what unhealthy journalism looks like, and just because some journalism is incredibly unhealthy, doesn’t mean that all journalism is unhealthy, and in fact, it sort of calls for, it demands for healthy journalism as an alternative.

Amanda:

And you know, I can’t force people… like, I’m never going to… like,  I know that people are drawn to tabloid journalism because it’s like candy. You don’t have to think. You just get to indulge in judgment, and it’s… and that feels good, but I want to offer a kind of journalism that feels good, that makes the investment in another human being worth it. And it… you know, I don’t… when I’m doing work with Chris, and you tell me if you, if, if you feel this way when you’re doing work, when I’m, when I’m working, I’m not thinking about the Nick Pisa’s in the world. I’m thinking about my subjects, and I’m asking myself, am I doing something… am I failing to see this human being somehow?

Amanda:

And if so, what do I need to think about in order to make sure that that person is seen for what they really are, and what they really represent? Which, again, doesn’t mean that you’re ever absolving anybody of anything that they’ve done that hurts other people or whatever, but it does mean sitting uncomfortably in these spaces where something bad happens, and yet… and like… but there is, in this, in the greater grand scheme of things, there are no good guys and bad guys. Like, there are very rarely like just crystal-clear bad guys. So, I don’t know. Does that…

Kary:

Yeah. That, that, that… no, that, that, that makes, that makes a lot of sense,  and I’m not sure if you were asking me the question or Chris the question, but my own perspective on, on this is that, as I was assessing what kinds of stories I wanted to tell,  clearly, there’s a lot of work being done in the crime space, and I-

Amanda:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kary:

… found myself feeling very strongly that a lot of the work was reinforcing perpetuating,  myths and misunderstandings that were, that was also perpetuating systemic problems, systemic inequities, systemic injustices, and that-

Amanda:

Mmh.

Kary:

… if, if I were to get involved in telling those kinds of stories, then my focus both on the kinds of stories that I chose to tell, and the way that those stories were told,  that, that, that shift in narrative perspective. And, you know, the emp- the kind of empathy that you approach your journalism with can perhaps move the needle in the direction of… towards justice.

Amanda:

Here, here. Yeah. No  I totally agree with you, and one of the things that I have felt as I’ve observed this,  this sort of Renaissance in the true crime genre is that a l- a lot of it out there is al- is exploitative or is,  sensational, and I find myself drawn… I find myself energized to create work that does not… that, that treats its subjects the way I wish that I had been treated.

Christopher:

I think I, it… for me, and I think Amanda’s with me on this, um…

Christopher:

It’s about,  it’s about getting at the truth, and judgment is a truth destroyer.  it… the lens of judgment gets in the way of seeing things clearly. So, when, when a person like Nick Pisa, or the kind of journalism that, that he represents in the film,  that mode of going about collecting facts, when you have an agenda it, it makes you, it makes you see things in an obfuscated way. and so for us, I think coming from this place of, of moral nihilism, basically-

Amanda:

(laughs)

Christopher:

…  and I’ll.. I, and I’ll, I’ll say I’m a moral nihilist and atheist.  when you encounter someone, and we, we… this happened to us all the time in the podcast, you encounter someone who’s, who’s lifestyle choices,  like the, like the guy who was, you know, exposing predators online, people who were doing things that many people would judge the hell out of them for.

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

Or the Border Patrol guy who, you know, is defending… rounding up immigrants on the border without proper authority.  it’s very easy from… for people to judge those people, but for me, I’m seeing that person as a human being, who has behavioral quirks that separate them from the rest of human beings  from the majority anyway, in, in an interesting fashion. And I want to know why it is that this person thinks this and does this when other people don’t think that and do that, and that… answering that question requires stepping back from any, you, you know, moral intuition that we have,  to judge that person.

Amanda:

Yeah. You have to understand first, and I think that a lot of people feel this like moral intuition that as they are attempting to understand the world, they have to be judging it in tandem. And sometimes, the best way to understand something is to allow yourself a moment to sit with judgment, and, you know, judge away afterwards, but understand it first, and oftentimes, that requires a great leap of not only humility, but also uncomfortability. You have to be able to sit uncomfortably with another person’s perspective,  if you’re ever going to attempt to understand them.

Christopher:

And, and even further than just refraining from judgment is steel manning their position.  that’s a a term of art in the rationalist’s community. people probably know the straw man phrase, attack the straw man.  when you attack the stupidest weakest version of someone else’s argument. Steel man is the opposite. You present the argument of your opponent in its most robust, rigorous form, and, you know, it doesn’t have to be an argument, but just when you, when we’re interviewing someone, say,  it’s important for us to give them the most benefit of the doubt possible.

Christopher:

And, you know, we… in that, in that immigration episode we did, we talked to an ACLU representative. We talked to this militia border guy, and we talked to a local sheriff on the ground in that city, and all three of those people, we just, we gave them maximum benefit of the doubt,  to express their viewpoint. And so it’s, it’s about not just refraining from judgment, but sitting there and saying, like, “Okay, I’m gonna, I’m gonna lawyer up on your team for a second, and help you argue this.”

Amanda:

 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christopher:

And sometimes those people don’t even have the best words to articulate what their viewpoint is.

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

And we’re both word people so we can help them. (laughing) It doesn’t mean we agree with them,  but I know that my own understanding of the world is going to become more nuanced and refined, if I can step into each of those viewpoints and present them in their best possible light, and then put them all next to each other and see how they look together.

Amanda:

Yeah, and be in conversation with each other, because again, it goes back to that golden rule of like, one of the most moral acts that I can, that I can do is to recognize the humanity in another person, regardless of who that person is, and acknowledge their perspective of their own actions and ideas before I interact with them in any other kind of way, before I choose what to do about that.  and you know, you’re right that when you’re choosing what stories you want to tell, like myself… like I, I’m constantly thinking about how a story is being not told fully or is not being told at all. And, you know, with scarlet letter reports, I had never seen anybody talk to shamed women about what they felt about being shamed.

Amanda:

Note that there are certain sort of untouchable people who we’ve all sort of written off as, you know, this person is only good for this, and in my case, you know, a lot of people think the only thing I’m good for is to… for vilification. Like people won’t… don’t want to read my journalism because they’re like, “Oh, she’s just a tabloid person.” And I sympathize with people who have been written off,  and I think that their perspective about what it means to have been written off is worthwhile to explore, and also tells us something about the broader world. you know, the world of true crime is a very, very judgmental place, and especially what I’ve found, especially in wrongful conviction cases, is all of the prejudices that people quietly don’t acknowledge in their mind, as soon as someone is accused of a crime, those prejudices come all… right out and unapologetically launch for judgment.

Christopher:

Yeah, it’s, it’s carte blanche for judgment.

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

But it, you know, it happens in reverse, too, even in the, on the left leaning N PR type crowd. The, you know, the people who listen to something like cereal,  when there’s a strong case for a wrongful conviction. In the Dark, you know was like this. The last season In the Dark, there’s a new person who gets vilified. It’s not the wrongly accused man who’s serving time for a murder he didn’t do. Now it’s the evil prosecutor.

Amanda:

(laughs)

Christopher:

And so, like that… you know, even the crowd who’s, who’s supposedly out for justice and,  wants to right this wrong, is still indulging in judgment. They have just displaced that impulse towards the bad law enforcement officers. And for us, we’re sitting here going like, okay, like, yeah, probably those people fucked up, but, you know, the vast majority of the time, prosecutorial,  misconduct is a result of, of accidents. It’s a result of ego blinding people. It’s a result of cognitive biases that afflict us all. very, very rarely do I imagine it is the result of a, a, a law enforcement or legal authority intentionally trying to screw over someone they know to be innocent.

Amanda:

Right.

Kary:

Can, can we use this as an opportunity to se- segue into your work on the Robert Chambers podcast? Um…

Amanda:

Sure.

Christopher:

Yeah.

Amanda:

 I… because, specifically, Linda Fierstein has been vilified and demonized in the wake of the-

Amanda:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kary:

… Central Park Five case and the various…  and the publicity that has surrounded that since the exoneration of the five young men  accused and convicted originally in that case. first of all, tell me about approaching that story and all of its sort of indirect echoes of your experience,  and then and then talk a little bit about your approach to interviewing Fierstein, and your assessment of her after speaking with her.

Amanda:

Yeah. Wow. So,  (laughs) going into telling Jennifer Levin’s story,  I was unaware of who exactly Linda Fierstein was. I had already seen When They See Us. I had already read extensively about the Central Park Five case. I already knew the Central Park Five as people. I had met, not all of them, but a number of them. And as soon as I realized that she was the very same prosecutor,  of these two enormous Central Park cases from New York in the ’80s, I felt the moral imperative to acknowledge that these cases were in conversation with each other, and that it wasn’t enough to tell the one story without telling the other. It would be, it would be not that…

Christopher:

It would be incomplete.

Amanda:

It would be incomplete.

Christopher:

And further, just for the record,  Fierst- Fierstein’s office oversaw the prosecution of the Central Park Five. Elizabeth Letterer was the lead attorney on that case.

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

 so she was not the trial attorney in both those cases, but it was her office that she ran the sex crimes unit in Manhattan.  you know, this… we’re partnered with Sundance AMC on The Truth About True Crime, and, the way it has worked in the past, it might be switching up here in the, in the coming seasons,  but we were sort of tied in with doc series that they’re putting out. So, they were doing a, a doc series on the preppie murderer, and they asked us to do a, a podcast series about it. And as it, as it always goes, we reserve the right to have whatever viewpoint we want on this.  that was sort of part of the arrangement when we decided to work with them. And one thing that… when this immediately became apparent to us, we said, “Oh, wow, Linda Fierstein has to be a part of this story.” And she wasn’t. her work with the Central Park Five case was not at all in the Sundance documentary.

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

 so we had… we butted heads a little bit with them about how to tell this story because from their… the doc filmmakers wanted to tell Jennifer Levin’s story. And the other thing we realized is that, you know, Jennifer Levin,  is dead and she has a story. There’s a legacy there. Her death led to, activist movements and people. You know, they’re… yeah.

Amanda:

[crosstalk 01:09:29] Rape shield laws and… yeah.

Christopher:

So like they’re… it’s not like the,  her story ended with her death, but there is also the story of Robert Chambers,  which has continued on decades later, with different twists and turns, and in a way, it’s like, he’s, he’s kind of a victim, too, in some ways. He’s a victim of drug addiction.  he’s a victim of a system that wanted to see him suffer and fail, and that never gave him a chance at rehabilitation. And we have compassion for him as much as we, you know, wouldn’t have him have killed Jennifer Levin. (laughs)

Amanda:

(laughs) Yeah, exactly.

Christopher:

Um-

Amanda:

(sighs)

Christopher:

… I don’t think that he deserves to rot in prison for the rest of his life because I don’t think anybody deserves that.  you, you know, the worst possible murderers who can’t be safe in society, remove them from society-

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

… in, in a safe way,  but with… when we realized that, we realized it’s three stories. It’s Jennifer Levin’s story, it’s Robert Chambers story, and it’s Linda Fierstein’s story.

Amanda:

Right, because like, it’s, it, it seemed very interesting to us that, first of all, Jennifer Levin and her legacy, and how she was villainized after her death,  was something that I could deeply relate to both from my own experiences, and for my thoughts about Meredith and how, you know, the vast majority of people in the world have heard her name, but don’t know her, and her experience is not known. Like, we can’t know what happened to her because she’s not here to tell it, and that is one of the great tragedies of, of crimes, but also true, the true crime genre, is that almost inevitably, there is someone who is absolutely central to the story, who it cannot… who their voice is not there and that’s deeply tragic, and we wanted to really hone in on that. And then on the other side we were looking at the issue of rehabilitation and vilification, and sort of putting Linda Fierstein in juxtaposition with Robert Chambers, because Robert Chambers did what he did, and he’d never acknowledged it fully. He ne-, you know, he never really apologized and acknowledged what he did, and for that we fault him, and of course, we fault him for that.

Christopher:

I mean, that’s the central reason in our reckoning of why society never gave him a, a second chance. Like when he got out, he was hounded out of New York. He was chased away.  he, no one would let him alone. The tabloid media followed him down to-

Amanda:

Georgia.

Christopher:

… Georgia-

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

…  and, you know, got up in his business down there, um and then, the minute that he got, you, you know, he got stopped for a traffic violation, and they found a tin foil wrapper in his car with a little bit of cocaine residue in it, and this is a guy who couldn’t kick his coke habit.

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

 he wasn’t, he wasn’t… society, the justice system did not help him at all, to combat that habit,  and as soon as that little infraction happened, the tabloids pounced, you know. “Killer crackhead,” you know, “back in prison.”

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

 and everyone was gleeful about his downfall.

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

 and then, you know, god, there’s… when we interviewed this NYPD guy, we were just shocked to discover that they, they targeted him intentionally in order to arrest him because they felt that he got off light for the killing of Jennifer Levin, which means that they are going out of their way to imprison a guy because they have feelings about a previous case that he already went to trial for and-

Amanda:

And already served his time.

Christopher:

… and served his time for, you know. Um…

Amanda:

So, yeah, that sort of entitlement on their part to use their position of authority and power, to flex the legal systems muscles upon him not because of the present crime that he was committing… yes, a little bit because of that, because he was selling drugs and all of that, but in large part because they didn’t like the outcome of his trial before-

Christopher:

Right.

Amanda:

… and that was shocking to us.

Christopher:

It’s not, it’s not their job to determine that, right?

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

It’s the jury’s job.

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

So, his failure to acknowledge his own wrongdoing is part of what allows people to be gleeful about his downfall, and in that regard, Linda Fierstein is a strange and unexpected parallel to Robert Chambers.

Amanda:

Right. Her unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes or wrongdoing, or misconduct for her peripheral, peripheral role in the Central Park Five case is the reason people want to cancel her, and that sort of reflection, that sort of weird eerie reflection between the two of them,  was something that we wanted to convey.

Christopher:

I mean it’s that and it’s, and it’s the victim blaming because-

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

Chambers’ whole defense with Jack Littman,  was essentially blaming Jennifer Levin for her own death, and that’s, it’s what really angered people about, um… it’s, it’s what gave rise to the advocacy movements in Jennifer Levin’s name,  but that’s kind of exactly what Fierstein and, and that Manhattan prosecutor’s office have said about the Central Park Five. They point… yeah.

Amanda:

They’re not angels. They, you know, they weren’t going into Central Park to go to the zoo.

Christopher:

Right.

Amanda:

Like, they… just comment after comment.

Christopher:

There were other assaults that happened in the park that night, and they connect them to those even though there isn’t physical-

Amanda:

Proof.

Christopher:

… evidence connecting them, and they say, “Well, you know, if it wasn’t… if they didn’t rape that… if they didn’t rape Trisha Meili, then they were doing something nefarious in there.

Kary:

Right.

Christopher:

It’s like, that… you can’t prove that, one. You wouldn’t bring that to trial with the current evidence, two, and three, they… those five young boys did not walk into interrogation rooms intending to confess to a rape they didn’t commit.

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

Something went wrong in those interrogation rooms, and those five boys had the least amount of power and control over what happened in those rooms. So, whatever went wrong, it’s not on them.

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

You know?

Kary:

Right.

Christopher:

Right?

Amanda:

So, like, blaming them for their own wrongful conviction, to me, is just as bad as blaming-

Christopher:

Jennifer Levin.

Amanda:

… Jennifer Levin for her own death.

Christopher:

Yeah, right.

Amanda:

And now, that’s the kind of thing that I wanted to convey.

Christopher:

But by the same token, Linda Fierstein was a fierce champion for Jennifer Levin in defending her legacy and her memory from the victim blaming attack of Jack Littman and Robert Chambers’ defense.

Amanda:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christopher:

And we wanted to really take pains to point out that whatever her role in the Central Park Five-

Amanda:

And her blind spots.

Christopher:

… yeah,  we don’t think she’s a bad person, and we think she has done a lot of good work for victims of crime, including Jennifer Levin and her family.

Amanda:

And, you know, the vast majority of people who are… who do have blind spots and who are making mistakes that have actual victims attached to those mistakes, are working within that realm of being complex creatures,  who have… you know, who are complicated and are not always… who are empowered to do things, but don’t always have… don’t always understand how their power affects other people.

Kary:

 that was a fantastic (laughs) answer to, um-

Amanda:

(laughs)

Kary:

… uh  to, to a really thought-provoking set of questions that both the documentary and particularly, your podcast,  explores.  

Commercial Break

Kary:

I want to be respectful of the 12 minutes that we’ve got left before you have to,  hop on a ferry.

Amanda:

Thank you so much. (laughs)

Kary:

 I… but…

Amanda:

Thank you. Ferry time. Island time. (laughs)

Kary:

But I, I… so, I’d like, I’d like for you… I’d like to throw,  two things out there. I’d like for you to, tell us about the impact of Jens Goering story on both of you and on your work, and on your lives.  I’d like for you to give us an up to the minute update on Jens status. And then finally, I’d like for you to tell us where you are going in the future of your  storytelling lives and careers.

Amanda:

All right, let’s get into it.  Jens, Jens Soring. Jens Soring as you well know,  he, he is the subject… his, what we feel, wrongful conviction is the subject of the third season of our, of The Truth About True Crime. And, you know, going into his story,  I felt very strongly that there wasn’t… you know, the evidence that was used to convict him was no longer there, and that because of that, he, his, he had… he deserved the chance to be tried again, and would likely not be found guilty of this crime. And, you know, there were a number of things that made me relate to Jens. The fact that he was a foreign exchange student at the time, that he was in this new relationship with this young woman. He was madly in love. So, he was in a… you know, he was a foreigner in this country.  all of those reasons that… you know, it’s a brutal knife killing in a small town. There’s a lot of, you know, othering and prejudice that’s going on, big media circus. So, there are a lot of aspects of his case.

Christopher:

Yeah. First, first televised trial in Virginia.

Amanda:

Yeah. So-

Christopher:

Um… yeah.

Amanda:

… a number of reasons why his case resonated with me because it reflected my own,  but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to feel about Jens because when I read his book that he wrote in prison about the case, hi-… the way that he talked about Elizabeth, his girlfriend, who very likely was involved in the killing of her parents,  the way that he talked about her made me uncomfortable because he talked about how she was manipulative of him, using, you know, her voice powers. Like, he off-… like, he had sort of like this witchy imagery abou-, eh, about Elizabeth, and her ability to manipulate and lie that I felt was informed by misogynist stereotypes that had been used against me in my own case. And so, there was this sort of awkward conflict, where it’s like I wanted to acknowledge Jens’ experience and how he felt when in his relationship with Elizabeth, and how he felt about taking responsibility for what she had done.

Amanda:

And at the same time, acknowledge that ultimately, we don’t know exactly what role Elizabeth played in her parents death, nor do we know exactly what her intentions and in relation to talking with Jens about what happened. Like, you know,  I don’t think that she’s a magical human being who can magically manipulate people. What I can believe is that he as a young man was very emotionally invested in this person, and was therefore easily suggestible. So, like, sort of taking into account what her reality might be, as well as what his reality might be.  so really, really fascinating space to be in, as I’m talking with this person who I can deeply relate to and sympathize with. And I’m… and as, you know, we were talking to him, we became very, very emotionally invested in this person because he’s just… I can relate to, to him in a big way. He’s a, he’s a very intellectual guy. He’s a very thoughtful guy. He’s a very romantic guy, and if, you know…

Christopher:

And, you know, and he’s… when we talked to him, he had been in 33 years, and longer than Amanda had, has been alive, and, you know, he’s… in a lot of ways, he was like the version of Amanda that never got out. I mean, their stories-

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

… are so similar  at the beginning. False confession, bungled police work,  you know, a bad DNA, um-

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

… collection. I mean, actually they didn’t have DNA. They just had blood type-

Amanda:

Yeah. So, yeah.

Christopher:

.. at the time. So, you know, this… It was d- deeply sad in a, in a big way-

Amanda:

Right.

Christopher:

… because every day we’re talking to him on the prison phone system, he gets little 20-minute bursts to chat, and the little GTL prison phone tree voice comes on. “You are receiving a call from an inmate,” you know, and Jens has heard that so many times, he’d, he refers to it as his girlfriend. (laughing) You know,  “There’s my girlfriend warning us we have one minute left.”

Amanda:

(laughs)

Christopher:

 you know, so like, talking to him was very emotional and after recording interviews with him for the podcast, we mai- maintained a relationship with him and he would just call us to chat once a week.  and, you know his every, every appeal has been exhausted. His… all of his parole hearings.

Amanda:

[crosstalk 01:24:01] He’s been denied parole 14 times in a row, yeah.

Christopher:

Six… 16 times, 14 times, yeah.  and just yesterday, we were in the grocery store, and we got a call from the Virginia prison system. Yeah.

Amanda:

So, of course, there we are, like, parked in the cereal aisle.

Christopher:

Yeah, whenever, (laughing) whenever Jens calls, we just drop everything and talk to him, and it was the last call we’re going to get from him through the prison phone system because he is on a plane probably-

Amanda:

Right now.

Christopher:

… right now on his way back to Germany.  he was paroled by the Virginia Parole Board after a lot of ag-, advocacy and work. I mean, not just, not just us, not just Amanda and myself, but you know, Martin Sheen and Angela Merkel, and, um-

Amanda:

Jason [Flobb 01:24:46] and-

Christopher:

… Jason Flobb-

Amanda:

… Chip Harding, and-

Christopher:

… and Er-, Erwin Kotler-

Amanda:

… like there are so…

Christopher:

… the former,  Justice Minister of Canada. A lot of, a lot of prominent people have come to the Jens’ defense after looking at the evidence, and have written letter after letter to Governor Northam trying to get him pardoned. And unfortunately, they did not pardon him,  and it never looks good for… it’s never politically a good play for a governor to release a convicted killer.

Amanda:

(laughs) Right.

Christopher:

Right?  so, they paroled him finally. He’s never allowed to return to the US, which is unfortunate because he really needs to come to an Innocence Network event. Um…

Amanda:

They have them in Europe.

Christopher:

But… yeah.

Amanda:

But anyway, so on the phone yesterday, he was just glowing. Glowing. And, you know, we were walking him through what it’s going to be like to, you know, go through the airport, and there are going to be journalists on the plane, and he, he… it’s okay to say no.  a kind of like fun sort of thing that has developed in our dynamic is despite the fact that I am decades younger than him, he sort of treats me like his big sister just because I’ve been through it before. (laughs)

Amanda:

And so, he’s always asking me questions, asking me for advice, and in the meantime, he is so, so excited to go home, and he’s going to be spending Christmas with supporters. And he’s now facing this tremendous challenge of rebuilding his life after so long,  basically being dropped down on an alien planet for how different freedom is from prison, and he’s like, “I’m going to call you.” (laughing) So, really, really exciting, wonderful, super recent developments in his case. He still has to fight to be acknowledged as an innocent person, but in the meantime, the greatest challenge is over. He’s no longer going to die in prison, and that’s what matters. So…

Christopher:

And he can fight that fight much better on the outside than he can on the inside.  so that, and that fight matters, too, because it’s… I mean, Amanda is still fighting that fight to be fully exonerated. She’s still convicted of slander charges in Italy,  and Jens is still, in the eyes of the law in Virginia, responsible for two murders that he didn’t commit. and that’s a horrible thing to weigh on you, you know. So, it would be great if, if he gets that pardon, but it’s not likely.  maybe he won’t choose to devote all his energies to fighting that. We don’t know. He’s got a lot of decisions to make now that he has a new life ahead of him.

Amanda:

Yeah.  and then to answer your question about where we’re going from now,  so we’re, we’re taking The Truth About True Crime into the new year,  and we’re going to be doing seasons that are more similar to our fourth season, The Vigilante Justice season,  where we’re going to take… we’re going to look at a theme over the course of the season, and then put different cases in juxtaposition and conversation with each other so that we’re really embracing a, a lot of alternative perspectives.

Christopher:

Yeah, rather than a deep dive on a single case  as we did with Jens’ story in season three. This is going to be, you know, uh one story per episode maybe, or sometimes multiple stories per episode, all centering on a, on a theme. And that might be… there might be a visual element to this. Like, that’s…

Amanda:

We’re still working out the details on that.

Christopher:

Yeah.  We can’t say more about that yet. (laughing)

Amanda:

 and otherwise, actually, me and Chris are starting another new podcast. It’s totally not a True Crime podcast at all, but it’s called Labyrinths, and it’s, um… we’re going to be deep diving into individual people’s stories of the unexpected twists and turns that occur in their lives, and how it changes them. So, you know, always in theme. (laughs)

Christopher:

Yeah,  and, of course, we’re, our heads are ducked down big time right now, preparing for our wedding which is on Leap Day, 70… how many days left?

Amanda:

74.

Christopher:

74 days and counting down.

Amanda:

(laughs)

Christopher:

 very stressful.

Amanda:

(laughs)

Christopher:

And,  and then there’s a few other secret projects that we also can’t talk about, but like, you know how that world works. Nothing’s real till it’s real.

Amanda:

Yeah.

Christopher:

 so once it’s real, we’ll let you know. (laughing)

Kary:

Fantastic. Guys, thank you so much for the generosity of your time, for the work that you’ve done for Crime Story. I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a phenomenal, joyous wedding.

Amanda:

Thank you.

Christopher:

Thank you.

Amanda:

Happy holidays.

Kary:

Happy holidays, and get that ferry.

Amanda:

Okay, we got it.

Christopher:

All right.

Amanda:

Running. (laughs)

Christopher:

Thanks Kary.

Kary:

Bye, guys. Thank you.

Amanda:

Bye.

Christopher:

Bye.

End of interview.