The podcast Serial by Sarah Koenig investigates the mysteries behind Hae Min Lee’s murder and why Adnan Syed may have been innocent. When analyzing this podcast alone, Sarah does a masterful job in influencing the listener to support Adnan’s innocence and it can obstruct neutrality in this case. As a precaution, I did some research of my own and came to the conclusion that the evidence does indeed support Adnan’s innocence. A lot of the evidence used in this trial is inconsistent and unreliable, but the greatest factor in my decision comes from recent DNA tests that suggests Adnan may have been falsely convicted (Considine 2019).
Upon listening to the podcast, the biggest thing that stood out to me was how unfair Adnan’s trail was. Adnan’s attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to investigate an alibi Asia McClain, but she was the only countering evidence to Jay Wilds’ claims. Cristina never contacted Asia, but strangely enough she told Adnan that she did (Woolf 2015). Apart from lying to her client, she also failed to cross-examine the prosecution’s cell tower evidence which was deemed as unreliable to many other lawyers (Geiger 2019). It would be quick to assume his lawyer was unjust, but one thing is for sure, she failed to do a good job in defending Adnan. Cristina is later disbarred due to her poor performance in which some suggest her multiple sclerosis may have caused this (Geiger 2019). Although the reasoning behind Cristina’s poor performance is unclear, one thing remains. Adnan did not get a fair trial. Legally, the trial can be seen as fair and just, but both morally and ethically, it is clear that with a different defense attorney, the outcome could’ve been drastically different.
Another source of unreliable evidence in this case is Jay Wilds. Throughout three interviews and a trial, Jay’s story is always changing. Some significant changes can include the location where Jay was shown the body, the location they get shovels from, and most importantly the times of this event. In Jay’s first interview, one important piece of evidence he mentions is that Adnan called him to meet at a “strip” off Edmondson Ave (Koerber 2015). In Jay’s second interview he claims that Adnan called him to pick him up at Best Buy. From there on, Jay’s description of the next few events do not align with the calls he made and cell tower locations. While the prosecution team used Adnan’s call from Best Buy as evidence of location, it is known that the location of the cell tower covers a general area rather than just Best Buy (Chivvis 2014). In Jay’s description, he claims that Adnan called a friend, Nisha, on the way to Forest Park at 3:32PM. However, the cell tower in that location, “L651C“, doesn’t cover the location Jay mentioned in both his second interview and testimony (Koerber 2015). Along with these subtle differences, the most significant flaw in Jay’s story is in a recent interview where he claims he and Adnan buried the body around midnight. In both interviews and testimony, he made it clear he and Adnan buried the bodies between 6:30PM-7:30PM, but his recent interview with “The Intercept” there is a 4-5 hour difference in time compared to his original claims (Cooper 2014). If I were the witness of a murder committed by my friend, I along with many others in the same scenario would remember the events clearly. The fact that Jay Wilds’ stories are so inconsistent in both time and location suggests that he never helped Adnan hide Hae’s deceased body. I personally believe Jay was a bigger suspect regarding Hae’s death. (A timeline of events)
All these previous facts are mentioned in the podcast, but with recent investigations, the greatest factor that leads me to believe Adnan Syed did not murder Hae Min Lee is the lack of his DNA in the crime scene. I find it hard to believe that Adnan Syed has the mentality of a criminal mastermind and wore gloves and a hairnet when killing Hae Min Lee. A recent DNA test done on Hae Min Lee’s fingernail clippings, clothing, and necklace all deny the fact that Adnan strangled her (Considine 2019). Along with her body and clothing, a DNA test was done on samples taken from Hae Min Lee’s vehicle. This leads me to believe that Adnan has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit. However, on the odd chance that someone argues that Adnan planned a perfect crime, there are some facts that don’t line up. Firstly, in Jay Wilds’ second interview, he claims that he and Adnan wiped their fingerprints off of the shovels used to bury Hae, but later in is more recent interview, he claims that after Adnan drove off with Hae’s car and came back wearing gloves (Koerber 2015). The fact that Adnan had gloves strongly suggests that he would’ve used them throughout the whole operation which removes the need of wiping fingerprints. In further investigations regarding Hae Min Lee’s vehicle, there were fingerprints found on the rearview mirror, but they did not belong to Adnan. Upon conducting a system scan, the fingerprints were not in the criminal database (Considine 2019).
In addition to DNA tests, the autopsy reports of Hae Min Lee also differ from the evidence the prosecution team provided. A proper autopsy reported signs of a “phenomenon called lividity” (Considine 2019). Lividity is described as blood settling after a person dies, which means her body must have been still for 12 hours somewhere other than her burial grounds (Considine 2019).
Lastly, Jay Wilds makes his return with yet another claim. In Jay’s new statement he claims that the police coached his second interview (Considine 2019). This interview holds the key point the prosecutor used to prove Adnan guilty. According to Jay, the police told him to say that their meeting point was in a Best Buy parking lot, not the strip of Edmondson Avenue. Thus, if this is true, all of the evidence used against Adnan’s innocence was forged, but if this is false, it proves that Jay Wilds has a tendency to lie.
After a days worth of investigating, I came to a conclusion that Adnan Syed is most likely innocent. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a phrase often used in law, but in the murder of Hae Min Lee, nobody was truly proven guilty. Jay Wilds’ inconsistent locations, times, and accusations of police forgery all lead me to believe that there truly wasn’t enough evidence to convict Adnan. One of the reasons Adnan was convicted with this weak evidence is due to his defense attorney Cristina Gutierrez. With all of these unfortunate events combined, Adnan Syed is to this day in Baltimore prison while most of society believes he is innocent. Adnan was recently denied a retrial, but is still holding on to this hope Serial has brought him. I believe that Adnan deserves a fair trial as soon as possible, but with current circumstances another retrial is in works (Adnan Syed Updates 2019).
“Adnan Syed Updates.” Brown Law, 1 July 2019, cjbrownlaw.com/adnan-syed-updates/.
Chivvis, Dana. “The Best Buy Maps.” Serial, serialpodcast.org/posts/2014/11/the-best-buy-maps.
Considine, Austin. “’The Case Against Adnan Syed’: Finale Reveals New DNA Test Results.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Apr. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/31/arts/television/case-against-adnan-syed-dna-hbo-finale.html.
Cooper, Natasha Vargas. “Exclusive: Jay, Key Witness from ‘Serial’ Tells His Story for First Time, Part 1.” The Intercept, 29 Dec. 2014, theintercept.com/2014/12/29/exclusive-interview-jay-wilds-star-witness-adnan-syed-serial-case-pt-1/.
Engel, Pamela. “Law Students Identified Another Possible Suspect In The ‘Serial’ Murder Case.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 22 Dec. 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/another-suspect-identified-in-serial-murder-case-of-hae-min-lee-2014-12.
Geiger, Dorian. “What Happened To Adnan Syed’s First Attorney, Cristina Gutierrez?” Oxygen Official Site, 15 Mar. 2019, http://www.oxygen.com/martinis-murder/crime-time/what-happened-adnan-syed-attorney-cristina-gutierrez-ineffective-counsel.
Koerber, Brian. “Beyond ‘Serial’: Unraveling Jay’s Stories.” Mashable, Mashable, 1 Jan. 2015, mashable.com/2015/01/01/jay-serial-stories/.
Woolf, Nicky. “Key Witness in Serial Case Asia McClain Says Prosecutor Suppressed Testimony.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Jan. 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2015/jan/20/key-witness-adnan-syed-serial-asia-mcclain.