After listening to the last episode of the podcast Serial by Sarah Koenig, I’m still not completely convinced of Adnan Syed’s guilt or innocence concerning the murder of Hae Min Lee. On one hand, there’s a lot of things that happened that day that would have had to be coincidences, making Adnan really really really unlucky. Really though, there are so many events that would have all had to be coincidences that it’s nearly impossible to believe that he had nothing to do with the murder. But on the other hand, there’s not any solid and clear evidence against Adnan either. A specialist on murder cases that Sarah interviews in the last episode states that while there’s usually some ambiguity in murder cases, the case of Adnan Syed is far more confusing and has way more missing information than most.
Diana (one of the producers of Serial) points out many events that would have had to be coincidences. Jay had Adnan’s phone and car, that a call to a friend named Nisha was a pocket dial unanswered and unknown about by either party, but was still charged on Adnan’s phone bill because it was over the “reasonable limit”, among many other things (for all of them see Episode 12 of Serial 38:00-41:10), do make it difficult to not think that Adnan is guilty. And another thing, Adnan’s friend Jay told the police and another friend named Jen that Adnan killed Hae, and that he helped Adnan bury the body. There are quite a few things that make it seem as though Adnan actually is guilty of Hae’s murder.
But………there’s no other real evidence. No solid, undisputable, scientific, factual evidence.
Jay told the police that he helped Adnan bury the body. So they had a witness…who was an accessory to the murder. Why on earth would anyone proudly confess, to the police no less, to helping someone bury a body? In the first episode of Serial, Sarah includes a police interview with Jay about the murder. He doesn’t sound even slightly frightened or as if anything out of the ordinary was going on. I would think that most people wouldn’t be able to sound that calm when confessing to helping bury a body (and again, who does that and then is proud of it?!?!).
Jay’s story is also not necessarily believable either. According to one of his coworkers, Jay frequently made up stories about things that he never actually did to make himself look thug or gangster (he lived in Baltimore). According to said coworker, however, “he was actually kind of the opposite”.
There are two other major points about this case to consider. The first is that religious discrimination and emotional ‘evidence’ were used in Adnan’s prosecution by State officials. The second is that Adnan’s lawyer was negligent during his trials to provide a signed affidavit from Asia McLain stating that she was with him at the time of the murder.
According to an interview with the Huffington Post Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Adnan’s and “a lawyer and Security Fellow for the New America Foundation” (Kuruvilla), religious discrimination played a huge role in the outcome of the trial against Adnan. Prosecutors for the State of Maryland used statements of his religion as a way to explain that he wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with his actions.
“In a report written by a cultural consultant for the detectives in charge of the case [o]ne of its conclusions stated that “it is acceptable for a Muslim man to control the actions of a woman by completely eliminating her.” Another part of the report claimed that “within this harsh culture, he has not violated any code, he has defended his honor.” (Kuruvilla)
The prosecutors used examples of what other people of the same religion as Adnan might do to convict Adnan, who was known to be a kind and non-violent person. How could this be considered valid evidence? ‘This other person who has this one trait in common with you mistreated a woman to the extreme, which means you would do the same’. This is essentially the viewpoint that the State officials took against Adnan, and ‘evidence’ that was used to sentence him to life imprisonment.
The second major issue with the case of the murder of Hae Min Lee concerning Adnan is his lawyer. Cristina Gutierrez was disbarred shortly after Adnan’s sentencing for legal and financial misconduct. When Asia McLain produced a signed affidavit in the form of letters to Adnan stating that she and her boyfriend saw and were with Adnan at the time of the murder, Gutierrez never pursued this potential defense point.
Testifying for the defense, attorney David B. Irwin told the court that Syed’s trial lawyer… “to meet a minimum standard of defense care, [Gutierrez] had to talk to Asia McClain — she had to investigate what Asia McClain was saying.” (Winny)
While there are statements and witnesses who point to Adnan Syed’s guilt, and to his innocence, concerning the murder of Hae Min Lee, there is too much information missing and testimonies that don’t align to be certain either way. However, there is solid evidence, such as an affidavit and a lack of DNA linking Adnan to the murder, to support his plea of non-guilty. There is no founded evidence to prove his guilt, along with many things such as religious discrimination in court and an unfit lawyer, which make one question the fairness of the trial which took place in 1999.
“Episode 12: What We Know.” Serial, serialpodcast.org/season-one/12/what-we-know. Accessed 10 June 2017.
Jonah Engel Bromwich and Liam Stack. “Adnan Syed, of ‘Serial’ Podcast, Gets a Retrial in Murder Case.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 June 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/us/serial-adnan-syed-new-trial.html?_r=0. Accessed 9 June 2017.
Kuruvilla, Carol. “Did Religious Discrimination Against Islam Help To Convict Serial’s Adnan Syed?” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Dec. 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/17/serial-adnan-muslim_n_6338172.html. Accessed 9 June 2017.
“Maps, Documents, etc.” Serial, serialpodcast.org/season-one/maps. Accessed 9 June 2017.
Winny, Annalies. “This Is the Evidence the Jury in Adnan Syed’s ‘Serial’ Murder Case Never Heard.” VICE News, 7 Feb. 2016, news.vice.com/article/evidence-jury-adnan-syed-serial-murder-case-new-trial. Accessed 9 June 2017.