The Saturday premiere of 48 Hours (10/9c) marks the start of the CBS newsmagazine's 25th season. But executive producer Susan Zirinsky can think of far more important numbers connected with the program.
Since it began its focus on crime and law enforcement in 2004, 48 Hours has helped exonerate seven people after they were wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. The program has assisted in the investigations of 12 homicide cases where there was no body.
Tenacity has been a characteristic of 48 Hours and it's demonstrated in the premiere. Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports on a 2002 double murder in Topeka, Kansas that was a cold case for six years. In July 2002, Karen Harkness and Mike Sisco were murdered as they slept in Karen's home. The woman's father, who showed up for a scheduled Sunday meal, found the bullet-riddled bodies. Dana Chandler, Sisco's ex-wife, had a history of harassing the engaged couple and was suspected by family members — including her own children — of committing the crime. But there was no physical evidence or witnesses to link her to it.
Chandler was first named publicly as a suspect when 48 Hours reported on the case in 2008. Viewers will see what happened when Chandler finally went on trial this past summer and watched as her own daughter testified against her.
The Sisco family believes the case stayed in the public eye thanks to 48 Hours' doggedness on the story. One job requirement on the program is keeping up with the investigators and the people that the victims leave behind, according to Zirinsky. Those bonds can last for years. "I say every year when I meet with the correspondents and producers at the end of the season — every story you do as long as you work here — you are tied to that story for life," she says. "I tell them 'I expect you to check in and have relationships and make sure that if something you have in a case, we know about it.'"
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