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Radiolab

First, the sto­ry of a three-year-old girl and the high­est court in the land. The Supreme Court case Adop­tive Cou­ple v. Baby Girl is a legal bat­tle that has entan­gled a bio­log­i­cal father, a heart-bro­ken cou­ple, and the trag­ic his­to­ry of Native Amer­i­can chil­dren tak­en from their families.

When pro­duc­er Tim Howard first read about this case, it struck him as a sad but seem­ing­ly straight­for­ward cus­tody dis­pute. But, as he start­ed talk­ing to lawyers and his­to­ri­ans and the fam­i­lies involved in the case, it became clear that it was much more than that. Because Adop­tive Cou­ple v. Baby Girl chal­lenges parts of the 1978 Indi­an Child Wel­fare Act, this case puts one lit­tle girl at the cen­ter of a storm of legal intri­ca­cies, Native Amer­i­can trib­al cul­ture, and heart-wrench­ing per­son­al stakes.

Then, the broad­cast debut of More Per­fect, Radi­o­lab’s first spin­off show about how an elite group of nine peo­ple shape every­thing from mar­riage and mon­ey, to safe­ty and sex for an entire nation. In this seg­ment, More Per­fect explores three lit­tle words embed­ded in the 8th Amend­ment of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion: cru­el and unusu­al.” Amer­i­ca has long wres­tled with this con­cept in the con­text of our strongest pun­ish­ment, the death penal­ty. A major­i­ty of we the peo­ple” (61 per­cent, to be exact) are in favor of hav­ing it, but inside the Supreme Court, opin­ions have evolved over time in sur­pris­ing ways. And out­side of the court, the debate drove one woman in the UK to take on the U.S. death penal­ty sys­tem from Europe. It also caused states to resus­ci­tate old meth­ods used for exe­cut­ing pris­on­ers on death row.