On Jan. 4, 1998, the dry cleaning business owned by Dale Chus family in Appleton, Wis., was destroyed by fire, and nearly two years later, he was prosecuted for arson by Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic. Although convicted, Chu has always maintained his innocence. He is seen here outside the food truck he now operates, Miss Kims Mobile Kitchen, in Chesapeake, Va., on March 16, 2022. (Stephen Katz for Wisconsin Watch)
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Open and Shut, a seven-part podcast focusing on the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system, has been named a finalist in the American Bar Association’s 2023 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts

Open and Shut, co-produced by Wisconsin Watch and Wisconsin Public Radio, is being honored in the radio category. 

The podcast exposes the gaps in the U.S. justice system that allow its most powerful actors to use their nearly unchecked authority to win questionable cases, convict the innocent and pervert the pursuit of justice. The podcast was inspired by reporting spanning 20 years on how a pair of Wisconsin prosecutors misused their authority with tragic consequences. 

Hosted by Wisconsin Watch reporter Phoebe Petrovic, the podcast launched in April 2022, featuring two district attorneys, Vince Biskupic and Joe Paulus, who had a close personal and professional relationship during their tenure as politically ambitious prosecutors in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley. 

The Silver Gavel Awards recognize “outstanding work that fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system,” and is the association’s “highest honor in recognition of this purpose.” 

The screening committee consisted of 50 professionals with a wide range of legal and media expertise, including lawyer-members of the ABA. Open and Shut is among 30 finalists from 165 entries in the categories of books, commentaries, documentaries, drama and literature, magazines, multimedia, newspapers, radio and television. 

The ABA chooses finalists based on educational value of legal information; impact on, or outreach to, the public; thoroughness and accuracy in presentation of issues; creativity and originality in approach to subject matter and effectiveness of presentation; and demonstrated technical skill in the entry’s production. Winners will be announced May 24, and awards will be presented July 25 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin Watch’s team included Petrovic, who served as reporter, host and producer; producer Nina Earnest; reporter and digital story editor Dee J. Hall, Wisconsin Watch’s managing editor; editor Karen Given; production assistants Enjoyiana Nururdin and Clare Amari; and Coburn Dukehart, digital project manager and Wisconsin Watch’s associate director. 

The WPR team included digital editors Alyssa Allemand and David Hyland; technical director Brad Kolberg; music director Karl Christenson; art director John Thomas Nichols; marketing specialist Angela Woodward; and digital designers Amanda Starich, Anna Rueden and Jane Jiumaleh.

Legal review for Open and Shut was provided by Christa Westerberg and Aaron Dumas of the Pines Bach law firm in Madison. Additional support was provided by Wisconsin Watch Executive Director Andy Hall and intern Madeline Heim and volunteer sound engineer Wesley Lethem. Noah Ovshinsky, WPR’s interim senior content director, and reporter Bridgit Bowden provided additional support. 

Other finalists in the Silver Gavel Awards radio category are “Affirmative Action Faces Toughest Test in a Generation” by the Bloomberg Industry Group; “Breakdown: Season 9, The Trump Grand Jury” by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and “Missing Justice” by Paramount/CBS News/Neon Hum Media.

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