Adnan Sayed of the Serial podcast wins right to a new trial


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/29/adnan-sayed-of-the-serial-podc.html


#2

Goes to show you how powerful good investigative journalism can be, and why it’s dangerous for a society to go without it.

I hope in the process they’ll also take a closer look at how the sketchy “witness”, Jay Wilds, may have been involved in the crime.


#4

Hooray! This has been a long time coming.


#5

Took forever (10 months) but COSA is not playing — they don’t write 138 page decisions because they’re bored.

Thing is: this was one case with so many legal but sketchy issues, and some violations of law and process. (Hearing/reading the transcripts of the two trials is such an obvious example of cognitive decline that it’s getting used as a teaching tool for identifying some of the speech patterns of MS.) How often do we have to exonerate people because cops used Reid technique or relied on polygraph or just took their cognitive biases as truth before we realize that we are training bad cops?

One case at a time. Glad this one is getting a better trial.


#6

I was fascinated by this when it came out, and inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, almost entirely because of Jay’s suspicious story. However, there were a lot of things left out, misrepresented, and/or glossed over in Serial. Adnan being railroaded because of his heritage is overblown, he was the single most obvious suspect from the beginning. Inexplicably, despite the fact that he is in jail for the rest of his life, he has no story at all to contradict Jay’s wild tale. He also contradicted his own admission to the police that he had asked Hae for a ride, to just name one fishy thing that was actually in the podcast. Any story that makes Adnan innocent is a much more convoluted and strange than the story of his guilt.

It seems possible that the evidence that got a jury to convict him is not true, as Jay shaped his story around these certain phone calls at a certain time that were in a general area that includes the park, but also in the same area of the residence of mutual friends of Adnan and Jay(that dealt drugs, and also Adnan was involved with their sister). Jay testified that the burial happened at this time, but in a more recent interview said the burial was closer to midnight, which throws the whole crux of the conviction out.

There does not seem to be enough solid, admissible evidence to convict him without Jay’s testimony, and maybe he shouldn’t have been convicted based on that evidence in the first place, but I would wager that he’s guilty.


#7

I think you need an ‘/s’…


#8

I take it you haven’t followed the additional media that Serial spawned? It’s not that Serial did a poor job, but they were primarily telling a story. The level of detail to actually break this case is sometimes stultifying, wonky, and not necessarily good narrative, but is interesting and at the intersection of technology, law and failure of law. Some of it is iffy, some is just heart-breaking, and some is a misuse of technology.

When you take actual innocence narratives as a whole, you find some serious similarities, but the big one is how often the wrongfully convicted have absolutely no story. For them, it was a normal day and they have no reason to remember it as anything special, because for them, nothing happened. And the actual, alternative narrative usually does have a bit of shaggy dog story to it, because so many systems - law enforcement, investigation, jury trial - all failed. Disasters are never because one system failed; it’s because they all failed in sequence, and a wrongful conviction is a disaster.

The best alternative suspect - Hae’s then current boyfriend - was dismissed early on, on exceptionally flimsy evidence. If B’more PD had spent 1/10th their time checking that alibi as they spent with Jay… completely different case. But white boy from a wealthy neighborhood, far out of jurisdiction, before anyone was talking about white privilege.

Then the mistrial gave the prosecution a means of testing their side, and the defense attorney’s rapidly advancing cognitive decline gave the prosecution more points.


#9

Oh, boy. What’s with the hate, pal?


#10

You’re right, but this one isn’t so simple. He did have a story, he went to track, went to the mosque, went home. Except he called Nisha at 3:30 pm and was with Jay(this was not a butt dial, Nisha’s first statement to police states clearly that she received this phone call around the time he first got his phone, this is a fake mystery). Adnan just shrugs this off. He did get to track, where he had a long conversation with the track coach, something the coach said had never happened before. Stephanie told a PI that she called Adnan at 4:30 that day and he was with Jay. After track he showed up at someone’s house with Jay. He was with Jay when the police called him. He tells the detective at that time he had asked Hae for a ride, but she blew him off. Later, he says that he never asked her for a ride, despite their being multiple witnesses that say he did. At 7, he says he is at the mosque with his phone, but his phone is somewhere else making and receiving calls. Adnan shrugs this off as well. Adnan’s father is the only person that places him at the mosque for the time period of 7-10.

Hae had an hour after school before she had to pick up her cousin, and would often have sex with Adnan at the Best Buy during this time period(this is right from Adnan’s mouth, from attorney’s notes, I think). If you recall, in the podcast, Adnan makes a big deal about how she didn’t have time for anything else but to pick up her cousin after school. This was a bald lie.

This isn’t definitive proof of his guilt, of course, but it raises the eyebrows. His lack of memory seems to completely revolve around all of the things that make his original alibi inconsistent.

As for the other kid, there are some super weird circumstances as well, but he seems to have no connection at all to Jay, didn’t even know who he was during the trial, and Hae’s car was found in a part of town he certainly wouldn’t frequent. All evidence suggest that Hae was crazy about him, and having sex with him, and I can’t see any motive he would have to murder her unless he was a psychopath. He doesn’t seem to have any connection with anyone in this story besides Hae.

I went to Reddit after this came out, and there were (more) obsessed people obtaining official documents, trial transcripts, attorney’s notes, PI notes, police notes. One has to go through some serious mental gymnastics and crazy theories to spin this story away from Adnan once you read all of this stuff. I started off thinking he was innocent.

My opinion on his guilt doesn’t mean that I approve of how the justice system works and the circumstances of his conviction. They threatened Jay with the death penalty, he was highly motivated to tell a story that they wanted.


#11

Its called sarcasm. Apparently my comment was too believable, which is sad.


#12

The only thing that tipped me to the sarcasm to me was the fact that you are an active community member instead of someone who just registered. =)


#13

Gosh, there’s just no way to indicate sarcasm /s


#14

Got a link to a definitive thread, in the interest of time? I’d love a spot I can catch up on all the various evidence people have gathered.

Indeed, we can have it both ways. He can be guilty and set up by law enforcement.


#15

This is particular reddit is comprised of mostly people that were convinced that Adnan was guilty from the beginning, I don’t care much for most of these people, but they were obsessed with getting a hold of every last detail that they could, and every piece of information that could be obtained is probably linked to here on the right. It is not easy to sift through this stuff. :slight_smile:
https://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcastorigins/


#16

I think it was probably too believable, because there have been people popping up here, post very similar shit on the pretty regular at this point.


#17

I would have agreed with you in terms of legal innocence versus actual innocence until the lividity evidence became clear. After that, there’s just no logical way that either Sayed or Wilds could have intercepted Hae in that very small timespan (which is much shorter than one hour). They simply didn’t have the means — 8-12 hours of secure storage — at hand. The police and prosecution built a motivated narrative that discounted actual witness evidence (Asia, Debbie and the track coach have sequential sightings of Adnan in the critical hour that don’t admit a 4 mile round trip offsite) in favor of their own theory. Which continued for years.

The subreddit became a pit of cognitive bias. The worst ones were unexamined racism and Islamophobia, but in a photo-finish with the assumption that being arrested means guilt. Which is just not true. When that bias is removed, the early witness statements and documentation provide a perfectly sufficient alibi, probably far better than most high school kids in 1999 could provide. The phone evidence is flexible specifically because the investigators and prosecution used it as flexibly as possible, which says it’s their convenience, not functional evidence. It’s like using a victim’s dream to accuse someone, while tossing the DNA evidence in the trash. (Yes, that is a local case for me.) Of course Adnan’s memory only supports his innocence, and he can’t remember anything that harms his case. That’s exactly what should be expected if he’s uninvolved. It’s not sinister. It’s how innocence works.

It’s worth remembering that the high school witnesses are both legally naïve and had very little incentive to lie or fabricate, while the cops, who are under administrative pressure to up clearance rates, and the prosecution, who have to be re-elected by being seen as tough on crime, have significant incentives to influence witnesses. And given the birth year mistake on the bail documents, which propagated throughout the rest of the judicial process, there’s a nasty civil case in waiting, too. Which is more moral hazard on the state’s side.


#18

Just in case, always throw up the s/.

tips hat in your direction


#19

I was not convinced by the nasty rhetoric from the “Adnan is guilty” chorus. Like many people that listened to Serial, I was mostly inclined to believe him because Jay is obviously lying about most everything. I linked to this subreddit because they have links to all of the available documents, from complete trial transcripts to minutiae.

The lividity indicates that things didn’t happen the way it was characterized at trial, and Jay himself changed the time of the burial in an interview before Susan Simpson brought this up, if my memory is correct.

I disagree with your assessment of the logistics. The single most difficult thing is intercepting Hae. Hae did not arrive to pick up her cousin, so in broad daylight, in her own vehicle, something happened to her in this time period, evidently at the hands of someone who was in her vehicle. Coincidentally, there was a human being that not only had spent a lot of time in her vehicle, in secluded places, he was very specifically trying to get in her vehicle that day. And other people remember it. The police called him because another kid told them Adnan asked her for a ride, and when asked, Adnan said that he had, but had never actually received it. This was just a few hours after school on the same day. Adnan later denied this, not because he specifically remembers that he didn’t, but because, I paraphrase: “I had my own car, why would I need a ride?”. It was known by anyone who cared that Hae gave Adnan “rides” all the time when they were a couple, and they were not practical in nature. His explanation seems like gaslighting to me, at best it’s egregiously disingenuous.

I dug into this deep, starting from an agnostic/leaning towards innocence position, and if my life hinged on being correct, I would say he was guilty now.


#20

When? Bell rings at 1415, it takes 5-10 minutes to navigate the halls and reach the library. Asia’s got eyes on Adnan from ~1425 to about 1440; Debbie sees him between ~1445-1500 near guidance; his track coach has him at 1530 to 1700. There’s no reason to doubt any of their accounts. There’s really no time to crack someone’s skull, strangle, and hide a body and a car, and Hae’s likely gone from campus by 1500. (I think she’s gone by 1435 at latest but perhaps she’s still on campus as late as 1500.) Even for the coolest, most able, most practiced, professional hit, that murder and initial concealment takes around 10 minutes plus planning to maximize opportunity and access. (And none of these teenagers are competent wetworks agents.) Give me a time of opportunity that doesn’t require a superpower. Adnan has no car.

Hae probably hurried off campus that day; she seems to have had something else she wanted to do before 3:15. She was subject to the bus loop traffic jam, too, so at best, got off campus at 2:25. It’s unconfirmed since her pager records weren’t subpoenaed, but at least two people mentioned they thought she got a page around lunch and made a call, then was quiet afterwards. If she was running up to Owings Mills (exceptionally tight timing, but possible) before going to the pre-school, she may have turned left out of Woodlawn to get to the freeway, or turned right to take Essex up to Liberty to pop on the freeway there, since that likely has less congestion. (If she’s going to the preschool, the Essex route always makes the most ergonomic sense - no major left turns and even slow speed movement always feels like more progress than waiting at a light.) But the Essex route has a number of places where she could be waylaid, and since it’s a middle income commuter suburb, waylaid without much observation. But Adnan couldn’t be the person who waylaid her in that neighborhood, because he doesn’t have a means to get there and back.

Hae had a physical paycheck that was issued but never deposited into her account, and never found. Maybe the call was from her bank, reminding her she was down to $8 in her account. Perhaps that was her goal and she was killed during a robbery, intercepted at or near an ATM/bank. (She used Bank of America; there was one up on Liberty and yes, BoA did have robo calls of that nature. I had BoA in the early 90s and that’s how I learned my parent was stealing from my bank account.) Or perhaps she cashed that check at the issuing bank or a grocery store, which was still an option then (no idea which bank, or when; could have been the 11th or 12th) and was robbed of a couple hundred bucks. We don’t know how much money she had on her. She had a new, not base model car that has consistently been one of the most stolen cars for its entire life-cycle. Because nobody did the victimology, nobody knows.

What I’m saying is there’s a lot of potential motive that got ignored because the weather turned terrible immediately after she disappeared, the initial NCIC batch data had typos so her car wasn’t linked to her for several weeks, and because she was a legal adult, Baltimore County didn’t take it seriously enough. And while there’s a small statistical advantage to assuming most perpetrators are the intimate partner — not the ex, the current — it’s small. The statistical advantage might get a new SSRI approved, but probably not a new blood thinner or antibiotic. It’s that small.

When you look at actual statistics for murdered women (see links below), we know that intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most likely factor in adult women’s murders, but it’s not actually the majority. (That’s what the headline says for this paper, but

Blockquote
Circumstance information was known for all 4,442 IPV-related homicides and 3,586 (64.3%) non-IPV-related homicides and was examined further.

which is critical; 20% of the sample just don’t have enough information to make the IPV determination. † )

When we pursue IPV as the most likely cause of a woman’s murder, we’re choosing to ignore that half are non-IPV. When we look at Asian/Pacific Islander women specifically, the numbers get even more concerning. Statistically, in this sample, murdered A/PI women are under-represented as a percentage of the population, but they’re over-represented in stranger murders: A/PI women are twice as likely to be murdered by a stranger than white or black women. They’re more likely to be stabbed or strangled, and less likely to be shot, which to me points to a perception that A/PI women are easy targets for crimes of opportunity. Oh, and let’s not forget that in all IPV murders, the current partner is at least 4 times more likely to be the perpetrator than a former partner (and 9 times more likely for A/PI women.)

All of these statistics make Hae’s victimology even more of an outlier. We can assume that Baltimore County had the basic training of the time, which stated that women were more likely to be harmed by intimate partners and less likely to be harmed by family/friends or strangers. Which is true of white women, but gets sketchier in other categories.

We also know that the intimate partners of women who are murdered by strangers have a higher chance of a wrongful conviction, because the prosecutors are playing the odds, but the odds aren’t strong. There’s a good chance that’s exactly what happened here.


† This statistical study is generally very, very good, and it’s desperately important information. But population statistics are too important to use irresponsibly. My feminist side says yes, use the eye-catching number because even that’s likely too low and doesn’t take into account the people murdered for existing while female. The stats person in me disagrees, says the MRAs will use manipulated numbers to pretend it’s not real, so be exceptionally precise. Thus, why I pointed out that 44% of studied murders were known IPV, 35% were known Non-IPV, and 20% are unknown.


#21

I have never heard an argument that it simply wasn’t possible for Adnan to do it. There are reasons to doubt the veracity of Asia’s alibi(number one reason being that she mentioned a snowstorm that happened a week before), and the student’s reports about who was where at what time can’t really be used as hard facts to rule out or confirm anything. The call to Nisha puts Adnan with Jay and not at track at 3:30, and I believe that the start of track practice is also up to debate. That Adnan asked for a ride is one thing that is not up for dispute(except, rather weakly, by Adnan himself after having already admitted it). I think it is most probable that Adnan did get that ride.

When considering any alternate theory of what happened, one has to deal with Jay, a poor young black man whom almost nobody gave a shit about, and the fact that he implicated himself(and his friend Jenn) in a capital murder case. And he knew where the car was. It is very difficult to get around that fact.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure this thing out, and fought with the racist, anti-muslim trolls on Adnan’s behalf more than once. I read Susan Simpson’s and Colin Miller’s blog, listened to undisclosed, gobbled up every document, and eventually found that I couldn’t convince myself of his innocence any longer. I don’t believe, without Jay, that there is enough evidence to convict him in court. I believe that his brown skin and cultural heritage worked against him(especially with regards to the bail hearing). I believe the detectives and prosecutor were positive that he did it(another area of possible anti-muslim sentiment), and were not particularly concerned with what they had to do to get a conviction. I also suspect that he did it. We’ll have to agree to disagree here.