I have recently discovered, and have begun listening to, the podcasts at the sites linked below.
Apparently Serial was something of a podcast phenomena a few years ago (see red label on the book cover), but I only came across it about two months ago.
Serial came about when Rabia Chaudry suggested that journalist Sarah Koenig look into a murder case.
Chaudry was a family friend of Adnan Syed, a man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend when he was 17 years old and a student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore. Hae Min Lee went missing after school on 13 January 1999. Her body was discovered on February 9th. Syed was arrested and charged with her murder at the end of the month.
In Serial Sarah Koenig takes a look at the case in a very listenable presentation. Later Chaudry created her own podcast Undisclosed, in which she views the case in even greater depth, aided by two associates who had no personal link to Syed or his family. All three presenters in Undisclosed have a legal background.
Chaudry has also written, Adnan’s Story: The Truth, to present the story in book form.
The two podcasts and the book give very convincing arguments that justice has not been done in this case, that Syed was convicted of a crime he did not commit, based on false testimony, no valid evidence and very shoddy police work (at best inept, at worst ???).
The murder of Hae Min Lee was investigated by Detectives William Ritz and Gregory MacGillivary. To date,
three four* defendants who were convicted of murder pursuant to investigations by either Ritz or MacGillivary have been found to have been wrongfully convicted and released from prison. (see here)
Syed also was not helped by his defence attorney’s performance. At the time she was suffering health issues that led to her disbarment (by consent) a year after Syed’s conviction.
While it’s clear that podcasts and books can limit the evidence they share to sway the conclusions drawn in a particular direction, three of those involved in the above mentioned projects had no reason to favour any particular findings.
The podcasts require an ongoing, lengthy commitment of listening time. I downloaded them all to a USB stick and have been listening to them while driving to and from work each day. Despite the sometimes technical nature of some of the legal arguments, I’ve found each episode easy to follow and understand.
There is so much about this case, in which Syed was found guilty and has so far served about 18 years in jail, that had me shaking my head in disbelief. But one particular episode of Undisclosed – episode 9 – “Charm City” – convinced me that something was clearly wrong. (See my earlier comment about “shoddy police work).
The same police department, including some of the very same investigating detectives, were involved with other cases where convictions were eventually overturned due to legal “discrepancies”.
It seems to me that their primary goal was to obtain a conviction (any conviction) and wrap a case up, and NOT necessarily to see justice served by having the actual perpetrator convicted and jailed.
At times they withheld vital evidence that weakened their case. In one example (not the Syed case) an eye witness account was used to identify a murderer. However they declined to share the fact that the witness had been diagnosed as legally blind. In another case an eyewitness testified to seeing a crime from their bathroom window, but the fact that the window didn’t overlook the crime scene was covered up.
Undisclosed also gives evidence that witnesses (including the main witness in the Syed case) were coached by police and were helped to get their stories “straight” prior to having their testimony recorded for the official records. At times in the recorded interview the witness can be heard stumbling over the “facts” he was presenting, followed by an apology to his interviewers before “correcting” his testimony. Preceding the apology, distinct tapping can be heard as if his attention was being drawn to notes on the table.
Only a few days ago, (March 30) The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled in Syed’s favour and granted him a new trial, however it seems he will remain in custody until (and during) that trial.