Serial is a podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. It focuses on a man named Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. The podcast follows Koenig’s investigation of the case. Image by Bernard Fok
The murder of Hae Min Lee is a case full of holes and facts that don’t match up, making it a very frustrating investigation for those who are involved. The question of whether or not Adnan is guilty, is very debatable, even today. Koenig herself spent years trying to draw a conclusion through her podcast. She constantly interviewed the people involved and constantly looked through various samples of evidence and notes to try and put all the pieces together. While Koenig tried to come up with a conclusion in her podcast, I have also tried to come up with my own conclusion, through my analysis of the first and final episodes of the podcast, as well as secondary sources. My conclusion is that Adnan was innocent and he definitely did not deserve a life sentence.
Here are the following reasons that helped support my verdict:
1) Jay’s Inaccurate Testimony
Images from Serial (Left: Jay’s Drawing of Best Buy, Right: Architectural Plan)
Firstly, there was no actual, reliable evidence that linked Adnan to Hae’s murder. The police did not have any scientific evidence such as DNA that showed Adnan was the murderer. There was also not enough evidence that went against him, because the evidence that did stack the deck against him, was not clear and had a lot of holes through it. The State heavily based their arrest on Jay’s claims but an investigation cannot be heavily based on one person’s claims. Jay claimed to have buried Hae’s body with Adnan but his testimony had many inaccuracies. The first time Jay was interviewed, he did not mention that Adnan called him at Best Buy, but then later on, Jay said that Adnan called him to pick him up from Best Buy (see link for details).
In addition, when Jay drew a map of the Best Buy, he included a payphone in the drawing, but it turned out that there wasn’t actually a payphone in the parking lot for Adnan to call Jay. There was one in the Best Buy hall, but none outside like how Jay drew it, so Jay might have been lying about certain parts of the situation, or maybe even the entire situation. Jay seemed to holding back a lot of information and seemed to only give some of the truth. His story seemed to have a lot of lies, and many people even indicated that Jay was known to be a liar, claiming that he made up stories. It was also strange for Jay to openly say that he helped to bury the body and according to Josh, Jay almost seemed proud of it. His stories also clashed with other individuals involved in the case. For example, Jenn and Jay had conflicting stories. Jenn claimed that she picked up Jay at Westview mall, while Jay claimed that he was picked up at his house. Jay also claimed that he dumped his clothes that same night on January 13, but the first time he told the story, he said that he threw his clothes out in the trash at his own house. The clashing and inconsistent stories made Jay look a lot more suspicious. Thus, his claims about Adnan threatening him and of Adnan’s plans to get in the car with Hae and then kill her, might just be lies to set up Adnan. Jay seemed to be hiding a lot of information and was overall suspicious throughout the entire investigation.
2) Inaccurate Cellphone Records
Images from Serial (Top: Cellphone Record, Bottom: Cell Tower Map)
Another reason for my belief in Adnan’s innocence was that the cellphone evidence used against Adnan was not concrete. The cellphone “pings” should not have been used as evidence at all because they were so unreliable. Syed’s phone provider warned police that only outgoing calls were reliable and from analysis of the cellphone records, Adnan had only incoming calls to his phone at the time he supposedly killed Hae. The police still used the location of the phone from these incoming calls, which provided an unreliable location. They could not use the accurate outgoing calls because they did not support the investigation. The overall cellphone evidence played a big part in ruling that Adnan was guilty and since it was deemed unreliable, that means there is no evidence that actually supports that Adnan was in the vicinity of Leakin Park, which was the site of the murder. In addition, the Nisha call could have been a butt dial, as those kind of events can happen, and it makes sense because Adnan did not have his phone and Jay did not know Nisha. Even though Nisha claimed that she talked to both of them, it is possible that she was lying, as many people manipulate investigations by lying or only telling half the truth. In general, there wasn’t any physical and unwavering evidence that linked Adnan to Hae’s murder and thus, I believe that Adnan may be innocent due to this reason.
3) Existence of An Alibi
Image from Serial (Asia’s Letter to Adnan)
The final reason that made me believe Adnan was innocent, was the existence of an alibi. Asia McClain indicated that Adnan was at the library at the time when Hae was supposedly murdered, and Adnan himself even claimed that he was at the library at some point. Asia and her letters should have been a key part of the investigation because they showed that somebody witnessed Adnan at the library, at the time he supposedly killed Hae. Asia should have been contacted for further information to prove Adnan’s innocence by acting as a potential alibi. However, Gutierrez failed to do so and this unreasonable act led to Adnan’s life sentence. There was also another reason that Asia did not testify, which was quite shocking. Asia’s notes showed that when she was on a phone call with Kevin Urick, who actually manipulated the defence’s case and made Adnan look guilty before Asia could testify. Adnan was not as Kevin Urick described him to be, and just like Kevin Urick, many people misinterpreted Adnan. The State had an unfavorable perspective of Adnan, which prompted them to try and make Adnan seem guilty. However, Jay’s inconsistent claims, the lack of reliable corroboration for their timeline and the existence of an alibi all lead to the conclusion that Adnan is innocent. There isn’t any evidence that makes Adnan seem guilty either and thus, Adnan Syed did not deserve to be sentenced for life.
Message From the Author…
I have chosen to communicate my verdict through my blog because it allows the use of an informal, interactive and engaging tone with the audience, which helps to establish that relationship between reader and writer. Through a blog, I can spark discussion because people can comment on my blog and provide insight. This insight can help further my knowledge and fuel critical thinking as well. A blog can create a community and develop a following of people who regularly read the blog posts, and these kinds of connections are something that I value. Blogs can also be easily shared through a variety of social media platforms so that more people can share their ideas on the blog. This media form is also unlike other media because blog posts are more visually appealing. There can be use of colour and images, the layout can be easily configured and there are themes, which allow the addition of a personal touch. In addition, blog posts are very versatile because they can incorporate a variety of different media forms into one. Blog posts can have text, images, video, music, audio and multimedia. This allows communication through all three basic types: verbal, written and non-verbal, which can engage all kinds of audiences who may have different learning styles. Both visual and auditory learners can process the information provided in a blog, unlike a podcast which is only targeted towards auditory learners.
Jolly , Nathan. “Key to ‘Serial’ podcast mystery fears for her safety.” NewsComAu. News Corp Australia, 18 June 2016. Web. 11 May 2017.
McDonell-Parry, Amelia. “‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed: 4 Key Pieces of Evidence.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 01 July 2016. Web. 11 May 2017.
Merriman, Rebecca. “Serial’s Adnan Syed in court to argue for new trial: What you need to remember.” The Daily Mirror. Mirror, 03 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 May 2017.
Sali, Kevin. “Why Adnan Syed Is Getting A New Trial.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 01 July 2016. Web. 11 May 2017.
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