Serial Podcast Initial Comprehensive Essay
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”-Oscar Wilde. In a case comprised of half-baked recollections and inconclusive testimonials, the young and promising teenager Adnan Syed, was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t even have a chance to prove he didn’t commit. As a result of the verdict of this case being rushed without thorough investigation, I suspect that the true murderer worked to condemn Adnan and as such is roaming free to this day after doing so. From what’s been revealed in the podcast so for: a lack of physical evidence linking him to the murder, a lack of motive to commit said murder, and the suspicious and at times alternating confession from Jay, helps prove that Adnan Syed is not guilty as he was charged.
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Deep within the subconscious of every being that’s bound by their morality is the longing for justice system to punish those who have traverse the laws that govern us. But at what cost does this righteousness come. Can it honestly be viable to judge even if there is a sliver of doubt that would prove the innocence of the accused? This is exactly what was done to Adnan Syed as the legal system sentenced him despite the utter lack of physical evidence tying him to the murder. Sarah herself states that in terms of physical evidence, there was “nothing linking him to the crime, no DNA, no fibers, no hair, no matching soil on the bottom of his boots” (“The Alibi”, 11:43-11:50). The detectives investigating the case rushed the facts behind this case and rather than pursuing truly ineffable evidence, they instead relied on vague testimonials and convoluted confessions to charge Adnan as the murderer. Correspondingly, there was also the witness claim of Adnan’s friend Asia Mclean, who reported having seen Adnan at the library around 2:15 pm until at least 3:00 pm on January 13, stated they conversed with in the library during the time period when the murder was believed to have happened. That was disregarded or otherwise put aside as not conclusive enough, as if any of the opposing evidence was. In conjunction with that, as we listen to Sarah Koenig, it’s revealed that even the motive to commit the murder was attained from one of the confessions.
Furthermore there was no conclusive motive to be found for Adnan to have committed this deed. The story they concocted was that Adnan was devastated and heartbroken subsequent to end of the relationship of Hae Min Lee and Adnan. They contorted his actual view on the breakup to that it was a jealous and rage-filled separation that was later further enhanced by Hae’s display of interest in a new figure, named Don. Although Adnan may have reasonably showed some despair, however, Asia the witness, said that Adnan did not seem angry or obsessed (as the prosecution referred to it) from the breakup of Hae. Instead Asia claims that he was rather “chill about it and wished the best for her” (“The Alibi”, 44:50-44:55). Understandably with the way the case was presented, the jurors considered it was a crime of passion as they were as quick as lightning and convicted Adnan of first-degree murder, in less than two hours. So how does a person who seems to have overcome heartbreak and moved on from a torn relationship, later have that used against him in murder trial? One answer: Jay Wilds.
The most condemning evidence presented against Adnan during this entire ordeal was the confession made by his drug dealer Jay Wilds. Sarah keys in on this and says, “Jay’s story wasn’t just the foundation of the state’s case against Adnan, it was the state’s case against Adnan” (“The Alibi”, 18:55-19:02). How exactly is that a drug dealer whose story revolved around his involvement in being an accomplice to concealing a murder not questioned further? Never in his recital of the events that occurred on January 13th, 1999 does Jay try to prevent or intervene against the murder and following cover-up. Another thing to be considered is that Jay, who is a known drug dealer and widely considered as the criminal element of Woodlawn, presents a story about him helping to bury a body and somehow it’s believed and used in sentencing Adnan rather than in punishing Jay. This feels even more utterly preposterous considering that his story was changed and rearranged multiple times on multiple occasions with countless discrepancies with each testimonial. According to the “Inconsistencies”, initially Jay claims to the detectives that him and Adnan met at the Westview mall at 11:45am to admit that he was planning to murder Hae, not long after on the second testimonial, Jay says they met at Security Square Mall around 11:30 am to admit his plans. Also Sarah Koenig points out that “in the first taped interview, Jay says Adnan only told him that same day that he was going to kill Hae. Two weeks later, Jay says that Adnan had started talking about it before hand – four or five days before.” (“Inconsistencies”, 25:44-25:55). Most suspicious however is that according to “Inconsistencies”, Jay states after the murder of Hae, Adnan called him at 3:40 pm to pick him up off a “strip” at Edmonson’s Ave, which then eventually at the second trial converts to Adnan calling at 3:55 pm to get him at the best buy.
The closest thing to irrefutable evidence against Adnan in this case, was the cell tower records that showcased calls from Adnan’s phone from Leakin Park. The records clearly ping calls from his phone to Jen, as well as his rebound Nisha, and considering the timing of the call corresponds with Jay’s statement, it’s easy to see why the prosecution was eager to jump on the opportunity that presented itself to frame Adnan. What astonishes me about these revelations is that while Adnan’s own phone records and cell tower data were used in his incrimination, they also could’ve been used to prove the fallacies in Jay’s statements and they chose to pick and choose what it was they wished to present to the jury. Also they seem to overlook entirely the matter of who had possession of Adnan’s phone since it was clearly stated Jay had the phone during this time. Though the cell tower records from the time serve incriminating and collaborate with his “friend” Jay Wild’s elaborate story, I still believe the reality of the matter is still hidden in between the lines of this story.
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I might not be able to see all the evidence at the moment under the constraints that I have only listened to a small part of this continuing saga. Nonetheless, from the limited information I have learned so far, I would undoubtedly say that I would vote not guilty if I were on the jury. And it’s not because I’m absolutely convinced he didn’t do it, rather it’s more that there isn’t an absolute conviction that Adnan did in fact commit this crime. There’s nothing to accuse him other than a notorious drug dealer’s claims. I firmly hold that he should never have been convicted upon the realization that there is no other substantial evidence to prove that he had contact with the body of Hae Min Lee. Overall, I just find this case quite baffling, but intriguing as though the more I learn, the less I know. Of course the only thing one can do is to continue the investigation and listen to Serial until the end to find out what truly happened on January 13th, 1999.
- Koenig, Sarah. “The Alibi.” Serial, season 1, episode 1, WBEZ Chicago, 2014, https://serialpodcast.org/season-one/1/the-alibi.
- —. “Inconsistencies.” Serial, season 1, episode 4, WBEZ Chicago, 2014, https://serialpodcast.org/season-one/4/inconsistencies.
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