In the last two episodes of the Section G podcast, we looked back at Judge Frank Shea’s political career, his judicial style, the ways he kept certain lawyers out of his courtroom, and above all else his desire for speed. 

In this episode we are going to look at what it was like to be a defendant in front of Frank Shea — specifically, what it was like to be a defendant charged with murder, and the particular ways in which Shea’s judicial style could influence a trial where someone’s life was on the line. 

Isaac Knapper and George Toca have similar stories. They were both teenagers when they were accused of killings in New Orleans they claimed to have nothing to do with. They were both tried in front of Judge Frank Shea. They were both convicted. And they were both eventually let out of prison when serious questions were raised about their guilt. 

Combined, they spent nearly 50 years in prison. Toca’s trial lasted a day and a half. Knapper’s was over in a day.

Read The Section G Project Part 1Part 2  and Part 3. Listen to the Section G Podcast episode 1episode 2 and episode 3. The podcast also is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Play and Stitcher.

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Nick Chrastil

Nicholas Chrastil covers criminal justice for The Lens. As a freelancer, his work has appeared in Slate, Undark, Mother Jones, and the Atavist, among other outlets. Chrastil has a master's degree in mass...