By Lydia McFarlane
With the popularity of podcasts, and notably true crime podcasts, on the rise, an area lawyer decided to start his own to give a platform to some of his most compelling cases.
Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. of the law firm Scartelli Olszewski, P.C., launched “The Hammer” podcast to highlight criminal cases he has worked on as a lawyer as well as those he saw as a judge during his time on the Luzerne County bench. He described the podcast as an opportunity “to see what (it) is like from the inside.”
Olszewski has used the podcast to feature notorious cases such as Keith Snyder, who was convicted of killing his wife and infant son in a fire in 1982 in Mountain Top, and Joanne Curley, who served a 20-year sentence for murdering her husband by lacing his iced team with rat poison.
The podcast can be found by searching “The Hammer” on various podcast streaming platforms, such as Apple, Spotify or Google Podcasts. There is only an audio component to the podcast. The full list of platforms that offer the podcast can be found on the law firm’s website.
Olszewski initially decided to start the podcast due to a high volume of people approaching him with questions about some of the high-profile cases he has been involved with over the years.
“We started it in response to many people talking to me over the years and asking questions about some of the more infamous homicide cases that I investigated and prosecuted,” he said.
After thinking about it, he decided a podcast would be a great way to feed the community’s curiosity on some of these infamous cases while also reaching a wider audience.
“We thought the podcast would be a way to reach out to more people from the community to tell them about how those cases get investigated, some of the decisions that have to be made, (and) the issues that are faced by investigators and by prosecutors,” he said.
Although the podcast does not make any money, Olszewski is motivated to continue producing content for the podcast because he thinks it provides a public service.
“Because my insight was something that’s typically not available to the public, I think it does a public service,” Olszewski said.
In deciding which cases to highlight, Olszewski said he just goes with the ones that were the most talked about.
“We looked at the ones that were shocking to the community which people had a lot of interest in,” he said.
The podcast episodes follow cases from the crime being committed to the verdict.
As for the name of the podcast, Olszewski credits Dan Simrell, his partner on the podcast, with coming up with it. Simrell has worked in radio for years and serves as Olszewski’s moderator for the podcast, facilitating the conversations about each case.
“When (the) podcast became popular, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is absolutely for me,’” he said.
As the moderator, Simrell takes the role of the listener, because he is finding out all the details of the case in real time.
“I do zero background (research),” he said. “I come in, and I’m a moderator. I asked questions from the perspective of the listener. I’m as surprised as the listeners are when they tune in.”
Along with being the moderator of the podcast, Simrell also provides the recording equipment and edits the audio. After he finishes editing, he sends the file to the company that handles the firm’s website for uploading it to all the listening platforms.
Simrell has found the experience rewarding. He said one of the best parts is, “the fact that I could be part of helping people remember.”
Olszewski does his best not to sensationalize any of the information from the cases for the podcast, instead opting to break down a case from start to finish for the audience to better understand. There are no legal boundaries to talking about these cases in a podcast format, as all the information shared on the podcast has already been made public by the media or court records.
Although Olszewski was involved in some manner, whether as a judge or a prosecutor, in all the cases talked about on the podcast, he does not want to make the podcast episodes about himself.
“I don’t make it about me or what I personally did,” he said. “We make it about what the team did, what the facts were, and how circumstances presented themselves.”
As Olszewski reflects on cases he’s been involved with through the podcast, he said the podcast has allowed him to review his performance of the past to learn and grow in his practice as a lawyer today.
“I reflect back how 20 years ago or more what the thought process was, think about maybe how we did things well and how maybe we could have done things better,” he said.
Now in its third year, Olszewski is looking to the future. Because the podcast has received positive feedback thus far, with Olszewski describing it as “remarkably successful,” he said he has plans to continue the podcast, and even plans to improve it in the new year.
Some of his plans for the new year include inviting guests such as law enforcement officers onto the podcast, doing an episode on the experience of being a juror, and delving into his transition from prosecutor to judge. Simrell said that their goal is to release six new episodes in 2024.
Olszewski recommends new listeners check out the first podcast episode about Snyder.
“I think each of them (episodes) is pretty intriguing,” he joked when asked which episode he would recommend to a first-time listener. “I would think that one of my prosecutions that I really, really worked hard at and I’m most proud of is the investigation, arrest and conviction of Keith Snyder.”