Wandering Eye: How lead-poisoned Baltimoreans get swindled, update in 'Serial' trial, and more

If you wonder how people who win lead-paint settlements worth hundreds of thousands of dollars end up penniless and on the street, check outh The Washington Post's piece on the companies that buy "structured settlements." It's all here—the failed reform from 15 years ago, the judge-shopping, the sleazy lawyers who pretend to "advise" mentally disabled people "independently" to sell their $350,000 settlement for a 10th of that. The Post talks to them all, and to several victims of the practice, including the family of Freddie Gray who, with his sister, unloaded annuities worth $435,000 for about $54,000. As with check-cashing, payday loans, car-title loans, rent-to-own scams, and all the other financial practices of inner-city America, the perpetrators always say the same thing. "These are people, respectable people who have honest needs," Michael Borkowski CEO of Access Funding, tells the Post. "We're trying to help these people." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

There's a new update in the "Serial" trial, reports Justin Fenton, and it could overturn the ruling that sent Adnan Syed to prison in 2000 after he was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Lee's death and Syed's trial were the sujbect of "Serial," the most popular podcast in the history of the medium. C. Justin Brown, the attorney in his appeal, says cellphone evidence from AT&T that placed Syed in Leakin Park, where Lee's body was found, should have been ruled inadmissible during the originial trial. A fax cover letter sent to Baltimore Police at the time said: "Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location." "If that warning had been 'properly raised at trial' by Syed's previous defense attorney, Brown wrote, 'much of, if not all of, the cellular evidence would have been rendered inadmissible.'" (Brandon Weigel)

 

We're a little late on this one, but we'd be remiss if we didn't highlight the episode of WYPR's The Signal from a couple weeks ago about "Doctor Who" fandom. On the episode, friend to City Paper and Signal host Aaron Henkin talks to fans of "Doctor Who," the long-running British sci-fi show about a time-traveling, problem-solving Time Lord—a show Henkin has avoiced for all of his life, and even mocked his father for watching. What's so great about the piece is that it's a serious interrogation of fandom, but it's never condescending or dismissive. It forces these Whovians to explain the show to someone who has never seen it, which means questioning things the show's internal logic has pushed forward as commonplace such as, why a fucking telephone box? I mean, there's a reason for it, that is explained within the internal logic of the show, but still, what the hell, you know? It's a really sweet piece that's firm but fair about fandom. Check it out. (Brandon Soderberg)

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