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Is Adnan Syed Guilty of Hae Min Lee's Murder? Let's Talk About the Fourth Episode of 'Serial'

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 20, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | October 20, 2014 |

Last week, I wrote about the best new show of the fall, Serial, which isn’t a television show but a podcast. In fact, it is a spin-off of This American Life hosted by Sarah Koenig. However, instead of an hour-long episode with a few great stories, it is a 12-part series about one amazingly compelling true-crime story.

The first story that the show is taking up is the murder of 17-year-old Hae Min Lee in 1999, and the conviction of Hae Min’s ex- boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was sentenced to life. If you aren’t listening to the series, please don’t read any further. Instead, track down the first four episodes, get caught up, and check back here to join the discussion.

And that’s what I want to try and have here, although we may learn that a spin-off podcast — as gripping and addictive as Serial is — may not ultimately be big enough to sustain regular posts, but I am dying to talk to someone about what’s going on, so I’m going to attempt a weekly (or at least, periodic) discussion of the show.

First I want to start with a poll, just to see where those of you who are listening to the podcast currently stand. I will go on record as saying that I don’t think Adnan Syed is guilty of the murder.

We can cover the opposing evidence in subsequent posts, but for today, I just want to list out some of the evidence that seems to suggest Syed is innocent. Please offer your rebuttal evidence, as you’d like. I’d also prefer that no outside sources are used, because I don’t want to be spoiled should you be able to marshall exculpatory or incriminating evidence that may be presented in future episodes.

Here’s what we have in Syed’s favor:

1. Lack of motive. Adnan and Hae seemed to be friendly after their break-up. At least according to Adnan’s testimony, there was no animosity between the two. They continued to treat each other as friends. Adnan was sad about the break-up, but not devastated. In fact, when Hae had car troubles, she was quick to call Adnan (and her current boyfriend) for assistance.

2. Not the type. There is nothing, at least so far as we know, that suggests that Adnan is a dangerous, violent, or criminal person. He was popular in school. He was on the honor roll. And if he did commit the murder, I have to believe that he’d be smarter about the way in which he committed it than what we have been led to believe about a very sloppy crime.

3. The Alibi — Asia, a classmate of Adnan, provided an alibi that was basically ignored by Adnan’s lawyer during the trial, but that Asia — 15 years later — continues to insist upon. She was with Adnan in the library when he supposedly murdered Hae, and there are enough details about that day that she can remember it with ease. Her story seems to check out.

4. The Discovery — There was definitely some mysterious circumstances surrounding the discovery of Hae’s body in Leakin Park, enough to at least suggest that the guy who discovered Hae’s body might have had some knowledge of the murder beforehand.

5. Jay — Jay is the main witness for the prosecution, and his story is wildly inconsistent. He told two versions of his story that had some very telling differences, including where Jay first saw the body of Hae in the trunk (something you’d think a guy would remember). Plus, is it really possible that Adnan would be dumb enough to kill his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of a Best Buy?

Moreover, Jay was a very casual friend of Adnan’s and not seemingly someone Adnan would seek out to help with disposing a body, despite his minor, non-violent criminal past. Why Jay would do all of what he did to help Adnan dispose of the body makes no sense whatsoever, either.

Additionally, though thin, Jay potentially had a motive to kill Hae, too, which was that he was jealous of Adnan, who was close with Jay’s girlfriend, Stephanie.

There doesn’t seem to be any doubt whatsoever in the minds of the police officers — who are not really speaking to Sarah Koenig about the case — but they sure didn’t push Jay very hard on the inconsistencies in his story. A good attorney could’ve exploited those inconsistencies enough to easily create doubt, and there is some question as to whether Adnan’s attorney sold him out in order to make more money on the appeal. At the very least, Adnan’s attorney was incompetent. I’m not saying it’s just, but even if Adnan has committed the murder, a better attorney could’ve gotten a not guilty verdict based on the evidence we have heard so far.

What do you guys think? Did he do it? Or do you think he’s innocent? Why do you think what you think? I’m sure future episodes will make me question my own beliefs, but right now, it just doesn’t add up.

This week’s episode, by the way, will further explore the route that Jay and Adnan apparently took. It will air on Thursday.

(image of Adnan via Baltimore Magazine)