Host Ira Glass interviews Joe Amrine, who was falsely accused of murder. Rather than avoid the death penalty, Amrine said everything he could think of on the witness stand to get the jury to give him a death sentence. He figured that would be better than life in prison. Since he would need media attention and free legal help to appeal his case, he calculated the only way he could get it was to sit on death row, because nobody pays attention to lifers. He nearly was executed, and lived on death row for seventeen years before being released. (8 minutes) Joe's story is a part of the McSweeney's Voice of Witness Project—Oral Histories of Victims of Contemporary Human Rights Abuses and Social Injustices.
Charles Johnson was living in St. Louis, married with a young daughter, and he had no job. He looked around, and decided he'd try trucking. There was this company offering to train and hire drivers, so he signed up. The only problem was, he couldn't read. Jonathan Menjivar reports on how Charles traveled all across the country making deliveries, without ever consulting a map. And without ever telling anyone—even his own wife and brothers—that he couldn't read. The literacy program where Charles learned to read accepts volunteers. Their website: LiteracyChicago.org. (16 minutes)