Podcast alert: Serial is back to reporting true crime for season 3 and it launches soon

While Adnan Syed's case remains in limbo, the global podcasting sensation will get behind the scenes of Cleveland's criminal court system

The promo image for the new season gives little away. Photo / Sandy Honig, courtesy Serial 
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"I spent more than a year inside the criminal courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio," journalist Sarah Koenig says of season three of Serial, which will return on Thursday September 20, and then be released week-by-week.

Super fans may be disappointed to hear that season three doesn't pick up on season one's case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted in 2000 for the murder of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Syed has been granted a new trial, but his case remains in limbo and he will likely remain in prison for at least another year.

Season two followed the story of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who left his army outpost in the middle of the night in eastern Afghanistan. But season three does return to the world of true crime: it follows a year of the criminal justice system in Cleveland, Ohio.


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"The case of Adnan Syed wasn't typical in any way," Koenig, who is host and executive producer of Serial explains in the trailer of season three. "A defendant with no criminal record, a private defense attorney, and rarest of all, a six week trial. The vast majority of cases don't even go to trial.

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing.    A Maryland appeals court has upheld a ruling, Thursday, March 29, 2018,  granting a new trial to Syed, whose conviction in the murder of his high school sweetheart became the subject of the popular podcast "Serial." Syed was convicted in 2000 of killing Hae Min Lee and burying her body in a shallow grave in a Baltimore park. A three-judge panel on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling granting him new trial.(Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

"I don't think we can understand how the criminal justice system works by interrogating one extraordinary case. Ordinary cases are where we need to look," she adds.

Why did they choose Cleveland? "Because they let us record, everywhere," Koenig explains, adding that they then also followed cases into neighbourhoods, families and prison.

But, as Koenig points out, even these ordinary cases prove to be extraordinary: "every case we looked into there came a time when I said, 'this can't be happening,' and then it did".