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'The Case Against Adnan Syed': There Has Been an Egregious Miscarriage of Justice

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 3, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 3, 2019 |


Over the course of the HBO documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed, I have basically gone from, “Adnan Syed might have been guilty, but he never should have been convicted based on the evidence,” to, “What the hell, Maryland?” Seriously, what the hell? I don’t know if Adnan Syed is guilty or not, but I do know that the evidence against him sucks, that there is not only considerable “reasonable doubt,” but that there may not even be enough to meet the “preponderance of the evidence” standard in civil suits.

Let’s just take a look again at the long list of evidence against Adnan Syed:

Jay Wilds’ testimony.

Cell phone records.

That’s it. I mean, yes: There is hearsay testimony from Jen Pusateri backing up one of Wilds’ accounts. There is also testimony from Kristi Vinson, which she even doubts herself now, and which only “proves” that Kristi Vinson spent time with Jay and Adnan on the night that Hae was murdered and that Adnan — WHO WAS HIGH — made a phone call that sounded shady.

But, Jay Wilds’ testimony is insanely inconsistent, and not just by a few minutes, but by hours, and in the fourth episode of The Case Against Adnan Syed, he offers another account — the fifth, I believe —, saying that he didn’t see Hae Min’s body at Best Buy, that the cops told him to say that. And if they told him that, why wouldn’t they have also told Jay where the car was? Jay’s testimony has been proven unreliable over and over again, and it’s been demonstrated that the cops helped him to shape it, and a number of people — including Jen Pusateri — have called his truthfulness into question.

Meanwhile, the cell phone records have been torn apart to the point that they are practically meaningless. There’s also the alibi evidence of Asia McClain, which admittedly is dubious. Still, there’s not really anything tying Adnan Syed to the murder of Hae Min aside from testimony from Jay Wilds, who admits that he was coached by the police. Jay also reportedly said in the fourth episode that he only helped Adnan because Adnan told him to go get 10 pounds of marijuana, and then when he did, Adnan blackmailed Jay into helping him dispose of the body, lest Adnan call the cops. WHAT? Where did that come from, and why would a conviction over 10 pounds of marijuana be more daunting than a conviction for an after-the-fact accomplice to murder? That makes no sense, and why wasn’t it mentioned at trial?

Meanwhile, in the fourth episode of The Case Against Adnan Syed, DNA evidence is tested for the first time, and there is zero DNA evidence linking Adnan (or Jay) to Hae Min or her car (there is one piece of DNA evidence linked to an unknown third person who is not in the system). If Adan killed her during a struggle, why isn’t there any of his DNA under her fingernails? There is also some suggestion that cannot be proven or disproven suggesting that Hae Min’s car was moved, again poking holes in Jay Wilds’ testimony. The lividity, meanwhile, of Hae Min’s body further suggests that Jay was lying — that her body was buried much later than his testimony suggests. The motive, meanwhile, was always kind of murky. I mean, come on: A good kid who smoked a little dope killed his girlfriend because she dumped him. Get real.

Nothing in this case holds up, and on top of that, Adnan had a terrible attorney in Cristina Gutierrez, so terrible in fact that two courts have tossed the conviction on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel plus the shadiness surrounding the cell phone records. Why did the state supreme court overturn the lower courts by a 4-3 ruling, meaning there’s one judge — one — who basically decided Adnan Syed’s fate, over what is now an overwhelming amount of evidence calling into question the evidence used against Adnan Syed.

Look: I still don’t know whether Adnan Syed killed Hae Min Lee, and The Case Against Adnan Syed is wickedly one-sided, and yet it is an absolute travesty, a miscarriage of justice that Adnan Syed is still in prison 19 years later based on evidence with holes big enough to drive a semi through. And you know what? Yes. I am reversing course. I think Adnan is innocent. I don’t think he did it. Adnan is no longer than Occam’s razor of this case, and Hae Min Lee’s family deserves to know the truth about who did kill their daughter.

Even if he’s not innocent, Adnan Syed deserves a new trial. He deserves to have Jay Wilds put on the stand again to explain all the inconsistencies in his testimony, the way police coached him, and the leverage that Adnan allegedly used against him. Adnan deserves a better attorney, to have Asia’s alibi evidence put into the record, to have the cell phone records impeached, and to have other suspects investigated, including Alonzo Sellers, the guy with multiple convictions for indecent exposure who lived five minutes away from Woodlawn High School, and who discovered the body, which also had double diamond impressions on her back, consistent with a concrete shoe, with which Alonzo Sellers had worked for years. They dismissed Sellers as a suspect after he took a polygraph test. Did anyone bother to give Jay Wilds’ a polygraph test? No! Because they knew he was lying, but they needed his lies to convict Adnan.

It is insane that Adan Syed was convicted. It is insane that he is still in prison. It is insane that the Maryland Supreme Court denied him a new trial after two other courts saw fit to, and it is insane that no governor in Maryland has pardoned Adnan because of what is a clear screw up at every level of the criminal justice system. The conviction should not stand. Adnan should be freed. Guilty or not, he served his time, and an 18-year-old should never have been sentenced to life in prison, especially in a case where the evidence is this flimsy. At a certain point, trying to hang Adnan’s guilt on Jay Wilds’ testimony is a fool’s mission. At a certain point, you have to ask yourself, “Who do I trust more? Adnan Syed, or Jay Wilds and the Baltimore cops?”

I mean … Let this man go.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: HBO