Artificially Controversial Adnan Syed Case Adds To Tilt Against Victims Worldwide
Posted by The Machine
1. The Media Overview
Doug Preston, John Douglas, Steve Moore and Bruce Fischer are by no means the only crackpots in America perpetrating innocence fraud.
Their main distinction was to perpetuate it in English against a victim and a police and court system of other countries, using ignorance and smears and a largely complicit American media to trample hard truths in the case.
But innocence fraud is still a tiny industry in Italy as compared with the godzilla it is becoming in America - often with politically vulnerable judges and usually with naive do-gooders in compliance.
2. The Adnan Syed/Hae Min Lee serial podcast
Much of the public seems to have developed an insatiable appetite for documentaries about people who have been convicted of murders they allegedly didn’t commit. Faux TV documentaries title American Girl, Italian Nightmare, Paradise Lost, West of Memphis, and Making of a Murderer, have all been watched by millions of people.
Podcasts are another way of reaching them. Wikipedia defines a podcast as “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.”
High school student Hae Min Lee was the victim in this 1999 Baltimore murder case and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted in 2000 of her murder and is serving a life sentence plus 30 years.
The serial podcast about the Adnan Syed/Hae Min Lee case has been downloaded over 80 million times now. According to Apple, it’s the fastest podcast to reach five million downloads and streams in the history of iTunes.
In the light of public sentiment inflamed by it a retrial has been ordered, a ruling which Maryland’s attorney general will now seek to overturn.
Why was this serial podcast so popular?
Natasha Vargas-Cooper and Ken Silverstein made the following observation about the success of Serial in an article about the case for The Intercept:
“The reality is that ‘Serial’ only worked if it could demonstrate that there were serious doubts about the fairness of Syed’s trial and conviction. If he were guilty, there was no story. The storytelling device was to amplify claims that favored Syed’s defense and contrast that with a watered-down version of the state’s case”
TV producers and podcast makers know full well that an innocent person being railroaded by corrupt or incompetent cops is a far more melodramatic story than a run-of-the-mill domestic violence murder.
Paul Ciolino admitted in a question and answer session about the Meredith Kercher case at Seattle University that CBS News didn’t care whether someone was innocent. The only thing they care about is the story.
“I work for CBS News. I want to tell you one thing about CBS. We don’t care if you did it. We don’t care if you’re innocent. We like a story. We want to do a story. That’s all we care about.”
CBS News produced one of the most biased and factually inaccurate documentaries about the Meredith Kercher case “American Girl, Italian Nightmare”.
The CBS documentary is an archetypal example of innocence fraud. The story is told primarily from the defence point of view, incriminating pieces of evidence are ignored and the programme contains a number of significant factual errors.
3. Faults by podcast creator Sarah Koenig
The Serial is another example of innocence fraud. Sarah Koenig, the executive producer and host of Serial, tries to be partial and objective, but fails miserably.
Instead of maintaining a professional distance from Adnan Syed, she becomes emotionally attached to him, and it’s clear she desperately wants to believe he’s innocent.
She can barely hide her disappointment when she finds out things that show Syed in a bad light. Her comments that Syed doesn’t seem like a killer are just crass. She comes across as an unwordly academic who has been sheltered from the real world in her ivory tower.
She says she doesn’t buy the motive put forward by the prosecution i.e. Adnan Syed couldn’t deal with being dumped by Hae Min Lee and it erupted in violence.
In reality, people kill other people for the most banal and trivial reasons. She doesn’t seem to understand that there are seven billion on the planet and not everyone shares her logic and morals. There have been a number of high-profile murder cases where seemingly normal people have committed horrific and senseless murders with little or no motive.
And motive is not a required element in any common law jurisdiction.
She adopts a piecemeal cherrypicking approach to the evidence and analyses each piece of evidence in isolation from the other pieces of evidence. If there’s an alternative innocent explanation not matter how far-fetched it is, she wrongly assumes it nullifies that particular piece of evidence.
It’s no surprise she concludes there isn’t enough evidence to convict Adnan Syed of murder: “It’s not enough, to me, to send anyone to prison for life.”
She doesn’t understand the concept and application of the “beyond a reasonable doubt standard” and that all the pieces of evidence have to be considered wholly, not separately - by a jury actually present to size up all witnesses.
According to the Supreme Court of the United States in Victor. Nebraska (92-8894), 511 U.S. 1 (1994):
“…absolute or mathematical certainty is not required.”
“You may be convinced of the truth of a fact beyond a reasonable doubt and yet be fully aware that possibly you may be mistaken.”
You put all the pieces of evidence together to see whether a picture of guilt emerges.
According to the Supreme Court of Canada in Stewart v. The Queen,  2 SCR 748:
“It may be, and such is often the case, that the facts proven by the Crown, examined separately have not a very strong probative value; but all the facts put in evidence have to be considered each one in relation to the whole, and it is all of them taken together, that may constitute a proper basis for a conviction.”
4. Main facts of the case against Adnan Syed
The key pieces of evidence in the case were the testimony of his friend Jay Wilds and the mobile phone records which destroyed Adnan Syed’s initial alibi that he was at the mosque on the evening of 13 January 1999 - the day Hae Min Lee disappeared- and corroborated Wilds’ claims that he and Adnan were in Leakin Park that evening.
This is significant because Hae Min Lee’s body was found in Leakin Park. There’s no question that Jay Wilds had inside knowledge about the murder - he led the police to Hae Min Lee’s car. He confessed to being an accessory to murder after the fact.
On 13 January 1999, Hae Min Lee was supposed to pick up her cousin from the Campfield Early Learning Center after school and take her home. She must have been abducted by her killer whilst on the way to the kindergarten.
This means the window of opportunity for her killer to abduct her was extremely narrow. It takes approximately 11 minutes to drive the 3.8 miles from Woodlawn High School to the kindergarten.
Jay Wilds told the police that Adnan Syed’s plan was to get a lift with Hae Min Lee. Becky and Krista, who were friends with Hae and Syed, claim they heard him asking Hae for a lift on 13 January 1999. Scott Adcock, a police officer, testified that Syed had told him he had asked Hae for a lift that day.
Syed would later deny that he had asked Hae for a lift. Adnan Syed had lent Wilds his mobile phone and car that day. However, it should be pointed out that it wasn’t the first time that Syed had done this.
Kevin Urick, one of the prosecutors, acknowledged in his interview with The Intercept that the two key pieces of evidence - the mobile records and Jay Wilds’ testimony - are of weaker probative value when considered separately, but pointed out that when you put them together, they are strong pieces of evidence.
“Jay’s testimony by itself, would that have been proof beyond a reasonable doubt?” Urick asked rhetorically. “Probably not. Cellphone evidence by itself? Probably not.”
But, he said, when you put together cellphone records and Jay’s testimony, “they corroborate and feed off each other–it’s a very strong evidentiary case.”
He also pointed out that the mobile phone records destroyed Adnan Syed’s alibi that he was at the mosque on the evening of 13 January 1999. From The Intercept:
“Yes. Early on in the Syed case, the defense sent us a disclosure of about eighty names stating that these were witnesses that were going to testify that Syed was at the mosque because it was Ramadan. He was praying all evening and that’s where he was [Intercept ed’s. note: We have corrected this in the introduction].
If they called those eighty witnesses, they would’ve obviously been testifying falsely, because the cellphone records in conjunction with all the evidence we gathered about the cellphone towers, who made the calls, who received them, place him everywhere but at the mosque.
The best defense an attorney can put on is the defense the client is telling them. But attorneys still are not supposed to put on fabricated evidence. And that would’ve been fabricated evidence. And I think once Gutierrez recognized that fact, she did not put it on.”
Adnan Syed chose not to testify at both his trials. If he had, Kevin Urick would have asked him a pertinent question.
“And my very last question would be, what is your explanation for why you either received or made a call from Leakin Park the evening that Hae Min Lee disappeared, the very park that her body was found in five weeks later?”
The mobile phone records also showed there was a call from his mobile phone to his friend Nisha’s landline at 3:32pm on the day Hae disappeared. This is significant because Jay Wilds didn’t know Nisha and Adnan Syed claims he didn’t have his phone at this time as Jay Wilds had it. The phone call lasted more than two minutes.
Sarah Koening speculates that the Nisha call could have been a “butt dial”.
Dana Chivvis, one of the “Serial” producers, puts the pieces of evidence together in episode 12 and seems to have serious reservations about Adnan Syed’s innocence.
“Adnan has always said it was his idea to loan Jay the car because he wanted to get Stefanie a birthday present right. So that’s pretty crappy luck that you loaned this guy who ends up pointing the finger at you for the murder that you loaned him your car and cell phone the day you ex-girlfriend goes missing. The next thing is that it seems pretty clear to me that Adnan asked Hae for a ride after school because we’ve got at least two of their friends saying they overheard him ask for a ride from Hae.
Adnan himself tells the cop that day he asked Hae for a ride. And In Jay’s first interview with the detectives, he says to them Adnan’s plan was to get in Hae’s car by telling her that his car was broken down and asking her for a ride. Then the next piece of bad luck is the Nisha call. I mean even if the Nisha call could potentially be a butt dial… in the realm of possibility maybe it was a butt dial, but what are the chances? Like that sucks for for you that your phone butt dialled the girl that only you know and would call on this day your ex-girlfriend goes missing that you happen to loan your car and phone out to the guy who ends up pointing the finger at you. That sucks.
And the last thing that I think really sucks for him if he’s innocent is that Jay’s story and the cell phone records match up from about 6 o’clock to about 8 o’clock which is when Jay is saying that you’re burying the body and that’s the time of day when you have no memory of where you were…But you Adnan you don’t really remember where you were that evening and that blank spot in your memory that’s the window of time when Jay’s story actually does seem to be corroborated by the cell phone records.”
It’s important to put the evidence that Dana Chivvis outlines into the wider context of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee’s deteriorating relationship.
In November 1998, two months before Hae Min Lee was murdered, she wrote a break-up note to Syed telling him to move on, accept her decision to end their relationship, and to “hate me if you will.” On the back of the note Adnan Syed wrote: “I’m going to kill.”
Is it a coincidence that two months later that Hae Min Lee was killed?
Is it a coincidence that Adnan Syed can remember very little about this day even though it wasn’t an ordinary day because the police called him to tell that Hae was missing and asked him if he knew where she was?
Ann Brocklehurst wrote a blog article criticising Sarah Koenig for consistently minimising the warning signs of intimate partner violence and noted that she overlooked that fact that Hae had asked a teacher, Hope Schab, to help her hide from Syed.
5. Doubts Sarah Koenig tries to raise
Sarah Koenig seems to think that Asia McClain is a credible witness - she claims she saw Adan Syed in the library that afternoon. However, Kevin Urick points out why the judge in the post-conviction trial didn’t take her claim seriously.
“I think the judge in the post-conviction trial does a very good job of pointing out that in the letters to Syed, she is very vague and indifferent about what she’s doing. The difficulty comes from Syed. In all his statements about his whereabouts the day of the case he says that he was at the school from 2:15pm to 3:30pm.
He never once, in any statement, at any time, made any reference about being in the public library. His defense was that he was at the school from 2:30 to 3:30. So [Asia McClain’s] reporting seeing him at the public library contradicts what he says he was doing.”
Kevin Urick also stated that Asia McClain told him she was being put under a lot of pressure from Adnan Syed’s family.
“Asia contacted me before the post-conviction hearing, she got my number and called me and expressed to me a great deal of concern about whether or not she would have to testify at the post-conviction hearing. She told me she was under a lot of pressure from Adnan’s family and to get them off her back she wrote him a couple letters.
The implication was she was trying to appease them and she didn’t want to have to stick by it at that time. And I testified to that when I appeared in the post-conviction hearing.”
Sarah Koenig also seems to think that Jay Wilds’ testimony shouldn’t have been used to convict Adnan Syed because he gave conflicting accounts. Kevin Urick explained why these inconsistencies don’t discredit him as a witness.
“Like I said, people who are engaged in criminal activity, it’s like peeling an onion. The initial thing they say is, ‘I don’t know a thing about this.’ And then ‘Well, I sort of saw this.’ You get different stories as you go along. This is the real world. We don’t pick our witnesses, we have to put them on as they are. There were a lot of inconsistencies throughout Jay’s prior statements. Almost all of them involve what we would call collateral facts.
“A material fact is something directly related to the question of guilt or innocence. A material fact would have been, ‘I was with Adnan,’ and then you’ve got the cellphone corroborating that material fact. A collateral fact would be, We were at Joe’s Sub Shop,’ but then you find out actually they were at the auto repair store. That’s a collateral fact. It’s not necessarily material to the question of guilt or innocence. So, many of the material facts were corroborated through the cellphone records including being in Leakin Park.”
Sarah Koenig is not the only person who thinks Jay Wilds’ testimony shouldn’t have been used to convict Adnan Syed.
Civil lawyer Richard Dwyer says doesn’t believe Adnan Syed and thinks he might be guilty, but he states he shouldn’t have been convicted because Jay Wilds gave conflicting statements and the timeline wasn’t proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
There seems to be a widespread misconception that the prosecution must be able to prove with absolute certainty each and every element of a second-by-second comprehensive timeline and that witness testimony must be discounted if there are any contradictions.
The bottom line is the jury found Jay Wilds to be a credible witness and found Adnan Syed guilty of murder.
6. Some Conclusions
A biased and one-sided 12-part documentary presented by a partisan journalist doesn’t supercede a criminal trial where the jurors get to hear the defence and prosecution present their cases and watch witnesses being cross-examined in court.
Justice shouldn’t be a like a reality TV show where the public gets to decide whether someone convicted of murder should be allowed leave the big house. However, there’s no doubt that these types of documentaries do influence legal proceedings. A judge has recently ruled that Adnan Syed will be given another trial.
We can expect Adnan Syed’s supporters and a number of media organisations will try to influence the legal proceedings before and during the new trial. This couldn’t happen in the UK because of the sub judice rules which prevents the media from commenting on a case until a verdict is reached in order to prevent the jury from being swayed.
The Guardian recently published an article entitled “Adnan Syed is innocent. Now find Hae Min Lee’s real killer”, which was written by Adnan Syed’s chief advocate Rabia Chaudry. I hope the mainstream media provide balanced and factually accurate reports on the case - something they didn’t do when covering the Meredith Kercher case.
Journalists and the public should remember that a miscarriage of justices are not just cases where innocent people have been convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. They include cases where people have literally got away with murder. I can’t think of one documentary about such a case.
7. The reactions of Hae Min Lee’s family
Hae Min Lee’s family sat through the trials along with the juries and have no doubts that Adnan Syed killed her.
“It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae.”
Unlike Sarah Koenig or any of the 80 million people who downloaded the Serial podcasts, they actually attended every day of both trials, heard the arguments put forward from the defence and prosecution and saw the witnesses being cross-examined on the stand.
“unlike those who learn about this case on the internet, we sat and watched every day of both trials – so many witnesses, so much evidence”.
Some Of The Main Sources
One: Serial Season One
Two: EXCLUSIVE: PROSECUTOR IN ‘SERIAL’ CASE GOES ON THE RECORD
Three: EXCLUSIVE: SERIAL PROSECUTOR DEFENDS GUILTY VERDICT IN ADNAN SYED CASE, PART II.
Four:Serial podcast rehabilitated a schoolgirl’s murderer, so where’s the feminist outrage?
Five: Serial case: victim’s family offers rare statement before hearing resumes
Six: Adnan Syed is innocent. Now find Hae Min Lee’s real killer
Seven: Syed Of ‘Serial’ Podcast Given Retrial
Eight: Serial Podcast Locations
Nine: ‘Serial’ takes the stand: How a podcast became a character in its own narrative
Ten: Serial Finale—Why I Don’t Believe Adnan Syed