Two new student-produced podcasts explore criminal and environmental injustices
The Innocence Project’s new podcast delves into the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Dontae Sharpe, and Apoorva Dixit ’24 explores the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy in a seven-part series
Two new podcasts produced by Duke Law students launched Feb. 22 on major podcast platforms.
Voices of Innocence, produced by the Duke Law Innocence Project, is a season-long exploration of the case of former Wrongful Convictions Clinic client Dontae Sharpe, who was convicted of murder by a Greenville, N.C., jury in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison despite the recantation of testimony by a key witness just weeks after trial. Sharpe was offered multiple plea agreements but maintained his innocence and spent 25 years in prison. He was exonerated in 2019 following ten years of work by Duke Law faculty and students and received a gubernatorial pardon of innocence in November.
Voices of Innocence takes listeners inside Sharpe’s case in six episodes, highlighting his enduring faith and perseverance while examining the legal issues that emerged during his quarter-century quest for freedom. Episodes will include interviews with Sharpe’s mother, Sarah Blakely, and members of his legal team, including Charles S. Rhyne Clinical Professor Emerita Theresa Newman ’88; Caitlin Swain ’12, co-founder and co-director of Durham-based Forward Justice; John S. Bradway Professor of the Practice of Law James E. Coleman, Jr.; and Clinical Professor Jamie Lau ’09. Coleman is director of the Wrongful Convictions Clinic; Lau is its supervising attorney. Since its founding in 2008 by Newman and Coleman, the clinic has secured the exonerations of ten North Carolina men. L. Neil Williams, Jr. Professor of Law Brandon Garrett also is interviewed. Garrett, a renowned criminal justice scholar, directs the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke Law.
“I am so excited to share Dontae’s story and know that he will be an inspiration to all of our listeners," said Jessica Poggi '22, co-chair, with Ellen Goodrich '23, of the Innocence Project communications team. More than 25 students worked to produce over two years, she said.
Dixit ’24 explores the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy in podcast, website and TEDx talk
Also debuting is They Knew Which Way to Run, a podcast written, produced, and hosted by Apoorva Dixit ’24 and childhood friend Molly Mulroy that examines and brings new attention to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.On Dec. 2, 1984, a cloud of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, suffocating at least 10,000 Bhopalis and causing long-term health problems in more than 500,000 others.
Despite being born in Bhopal, Dixit first learned of the incident years later as a student in Memphis, Tennessee. After graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in anthropology she returned to Bhopal as a Fulbright scholar to research the tragedy, its aftermath, and the resilience of the Bhopali survivors who continue to fight for justice.
Dixit called the project a labor of love, noting that she and Mulroy spent weekends working on the podcast over the past five years as Dixit moved from her Fulbright year in India to working in Boston to beginning law school in Durham.
"The podcast is about many things, but among my favorite is it focuses on the survivors' movement building, and how they were silenced in the decades of litigation that followed the disaster," Dixit said. "This is a huge part of the reason I decided to come to law school and informs what kind of lawyer I hope to be.
"I am both elated and terrified for this to finally be out in the world. I hope I make my fellow Bhopalis proud."
Episode one of They Knew Which Way to Run is available for download on Apple Music and Spotify. An accompanying website provides more information about her project and NGOs supporting survivors in the region, where toxic waste buried on the grounds of the defunct chemical factory has leached into the groundwater, poisoning the primary water supply for tens of thousands of people.
In addition to the seven-part podcast, Dixit spoke about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and what it means to survive a disaster at TEDx Duke 2022 on Feb. 26 in Page Auditorium. The program also featured a talk on lessons from the Afghanistan crisis by Duke Law’s Sebghatullah Jalali LLM ’19, who currently is working as a fellow in the Immigrant Rights Clinic.