Serial: Guilty or Not?

serial-2The hit podcast series Serial, by crime reporter Sarah Koenig, has become quite popular again, not because of its interesting plot and the fact that it is a true story, but because Syed Adnan, the subject of the Serial podcast, has been granted a retrial. Over 80 million viewers have been drawn to this podcast “prob[ing] the details of Lee’s murder, the investigation, evidence, witness statements and the trial in a quest to see if, in fact, justice was done”(Finn). And the question still remains: Is Adnan guilty or not?

Eighteen years ago, Syed Adnan, just a teen, was found guilty for the murder of his ex-girl friend, Hae Min Lee, but after listening to the Serial podcast and hearing all the information gathered by Koenig, along with more of my own research, I along with millions of others believe Adnan is innocent.

The most compelling argument for Syed’s retrial that leads me to believe he is innocent comes down to his former lawyer not doing her job to defend her client. “His new defense team argued again that he’d been a victim of faulty counsel the first time around, Gutierrez not only having failed to call a possibly key alibi witness but also failing to properly question the prosecution’s expert about data gleaned from cell phone towers that claimed to pinpoint where Adnan was when Hae was killed” (Finn).

Adnan’s Lawyer Cristina Gutierrez

Baltimore Judge Martin Welch explained that the court found Gutierrez’s trial performance “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment” (Staff THR) because she failed to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert. How is it that a defense lawyer in a criminal trial is that inept at cross-examination? Surely Gutierrez believed her client deserved a fair trial as the old saying goes, innocent until proven guilty, otherwise why bother taking the case? Money? Fame? Both reasons fall short for at the time the case was going on, there was no local press coverage. It was, however, brought to the court’s attention by Syed’s new attorney, Justin Brown that Gutierrez was having all sorts of personal problems: “her health was failing, her family was in turmoil. What was happening at her business, it was becoming unwound” (Harrison). Obviously, Gutierrez was so pre-occupied, she couldn’t possibly give 100% to Syed and the trial. This leaves reasonable doubt in my mind.

 A different angle that I have taken when viewing Syed’s innocence stems from my tendency to look for the best in people. In the Serial podcast, Syed is charming, believable – in fact he is so believable it is impossible to see him as cold-blooded murderer: “He was an honor roll student, volunteer EMT. He was on the football team. He was a star runner on the track team. He was the homecoming king. He led prayers at the mosque. Everybody knew Adnan to be somebody who was going to do something really big” (Rabia Chaudry).

Adnan in his football uniform

I am not naïve in thinking that good people can’t do bad things, but after hearing what Adnan’s family and friends had to say about him, it is hard for me to label Adnan as a murderer. A person’s character says a lot about that person as a human being and Syed, in my eyes, is a role model for all. He is the type of person who thinks about others first like when he says, “he wished he had committed the crime because it would be easier for his parents to cope with having lost him for a reason” (Haynes). The pathos I feel for Syed is real, and I truly believe he got screwed.

Lastly, there is Adan’s friend Jay, who was very involved in the case. Jay said that Adnan had shown Jay the body and had taken Jay with him when he went to bury it. But as told by the narrator of Serial, “Koenig would raise the question of why Adnan, who at the end of the day didn’t seem that close to Jay, would have enlisted him to help bury a body. She also spent a lot of time talking about the inconsistencies in Jay’s story between various interviews with detectives and his grand jury testimony” (Finn).

Adnan’s friend Jay

Jay’s story was never the same, which raises the question, was Jay lying? The suspicious stories from Jay lead me to believe he is lying, and Adnan once again is NOT guilty.

After listening to Serial and reading the statements from Adnan’s current lawyers, his family, friends (some of whom I feel threw him under the bus for no reason), and Adnan himself, there is ample evidence showing a reasonable doubt. I along with others are happy that Syed Adnan is getting a new and hopefully fair trial in hopes of celebrating in the future his new found freedom.

Works Cited

 Finn, Natalie. “Everything You Need to Know About the Adnan Syed Murder Case.” E!                  Online. E! News, 07 June 2017. Web. 27 July 2017.                                                                           <                    know-about-the-adnan-syed-murder-case>.

 Harrison, Lily. “Serial’s Adnan Syed Granted New Trial.” E! News. E! News, 30 June 2016.             Web. 27 July 2017. <                granted-new-trial>.

            Haynes, Natalie. “My highlight: Serial.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 05 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 July 2017. <;.

“Serial Podcast – Episode 1: The Alibi.” Genius. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 July 2017.                                      <;.

Staff, THR. “How ‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed Received a New Trial.” The Hollywood                    Reporter. N.p., 01 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2017.                                                                             <                  sarah-koenig-907974>.


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