On June 30th, 2016, Adnan Syed was granted a new trial in the murder case of Hae Min Lee. Hae was murdered in 1999, and her body was found in a park. The detectives focused early and primarily on Adnan, through the verbal evidence of one person, Jay Wilds.
The case was brought to the attention of Serial, an offshoot Podcast of This American Life, by Rabia Chaudry, a family friend of Adnan. Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig, re/un/dis-covered the case of Adnan through a 12-part Podcast. (Serial: A Podcast is basically a radio program minus the radio, available to download to your phone or other devices); Serial swept the nation, becoming the most famous Podcast yet, and led millions of us to think about, talk about, write about, and take action in a past lawsuit.
Adnan was 17-at the time of the murder, though this slipped by the courts and he was tried as an adult. He is the son of devout Muslims, parents that aren't familiar with American culture or too well versed in the English language. They didn't have a lot of money, don't know the courts or the law, and through this, their son is one of thousands (or maybe even millions) of kids that have records and convictions that change the course of their lives*.
Many of us that live on the 'right' side of the law feel that the law works; for the most part, it does. But most of us that think this also have a network that will fight, know how to fight, are able to procure means to fight, and are willing do everything in our power to make sure justice is served within our families and networks. Many of us in the middle/upper middle/upper class know lawyers, judges, policeman, politicians, business owners - or at least know someone that knows them. This is a huge leg up from people like Adnan that do not have these means or network.**
The bottom line, when it comes to Adnan's case, is that he never should have been convicted based upon the evidence The State presented at trial. They had two things: the story of Jay Wilds and the cell phone evidence. Jay's story changed at least four times***. The cell phone evidence was shady at best, scandalous at worst****. A jury convicted Adnan based upon false information*****, and he's been there since.
This should never happen. There are several reasons I've been obsessed by this story since first stumbling upon it in October/November of 2014. Among them are the fact that Adnan and I are basically the same age, we both come from devout religious families, both have friends of many cultures and religions, and both are obedient and involved by nature. I could see myself in Adnan's shoes, had a few things gone differently in my own life. Hearing a story, beautifully told and reported on, of a man similar to me in many ways pulled at the strings of my heart.
It is my hope, and belief, that good is going to come from this. I hope the majority - white, middle class America - can see what happens to Americans that are new to the country, of lower education, and a different religion. I hope we see that not all people get the same treatment we do. For so long, before the age of social media and video recordings, similar cases have been going on, and many people sit, wrongfully convicted, in jail cells. I hope we no longer stand for this. I hope we demand justice.
My hope is that this story makes the American majority more sympathetic to those not quite like us. I hope we are willing to be open-minded when we hear information, not assuming the worst right away, especially of those not like us. I hope we rethink 'justice' and begin to systematically admit errors when they occur. That we allow ourselves to then fix these errors, and thereby better the lives of all of us.
I hope the affect of Serial is that we help when we can.
Good luck, Adnan. May the truth be presented, justice served, and your story avoid similar atrocities in the future.
*In thinking about Serial A LOT, it's almost the opposite of the Duke Lacrosse scandal. Those kids, eventually freed, were able to fight because their families had means: money and knowledge, to fight back. Those boys acted debaucherously, but their actions do not warrant jail and/or loss of future jobs and reputation. The parents of the boys, able to see this, took action and fought - and won - in court, clearing their boy's name. Had those players not had money or means, their kids would screwed right now, like Adnan is.
**Luckily in this case, Adnan has Rabia, a force of a person that will not stop. She sort of shows the power of action.
***I'm not going to go into it, because there are so many great resources on this. The Truth & Justice Podcast (http://www.serialdynasty.com/) and Undisclosed (http://undisclosed-podcast.com/) to name two.
****This is what ultimately granted Adnan the new trial, the fact that The State did not disclose a cover sheet that read "incoming calls are not reliable for location data" (or close to that). It was two incoming calls that were 'the dagger' in Adnan's case.
*****His second trial - the first ended in mistrial - came down mostly to the fact that the jury chose Jay over Adnan. Jay spoke, he claimed to help bury the body of Hae. Adnan, at the advice of his lawyer, didn't speak. The jury assumed no one would claim to bury a body unless they were guilty. They also wondered why, if Adnan was innocent, he didn't get on the stand. They assumed Jay was admitting to guilt and going to jail. He never did. Adnan has been in a cell ever since.