Eight years after Sarah Koenig’s “Serial” changed the podcasting and true crime scenes, and 23 years after his 1999 sentencing, Adnan Syed has been released from prison.
Hae Min Lee was a 17-year-old high school senior in Baltimore, Md. In December 1998, she had broken up, but remained friends with Adnan, a so-called “bad boy” who portrayed himself as a perfect Muslim at home. On Jan. 13, 1999, she was reported missing. Hae’s whereabouts were unknown for four weeks before her body was discovered, oddly from a tip by Adnan’s best friend Jay who also informed the police that Adnan had confessed to the murder.
Court proceedings moved quickly, with eye-witness testimony and cell phone pings being some of the most damning evidence resulting in Adnan’s sentencing on Feb. 25, 2000. He has staunchly maintained his innocence throughout, even refusing to plead guilty in exchange for early release. It’s believed that one reason Adnan may have been identified as a subject so quickly, and sentenced by evidence that was weak at best, is because of rampant Islamophobia in the community.
I highly encourage you to do a deep dive into this case, or at least read a few articles, because I could talk (or write) your ear off for days without getting close to addressing all the nuances and facts going on here. There are also a multitude of documentaries, with Netflix’s “The Case Against Adnan Syed” being one of the most popular. Unfortunately though, biases and misinformation run rampant throughout the majority of these sources, meaning I am truly looking forward to whatever future court processes occur in Hae’s case to find some clarity.
“Serial”, out of lack of information or purposeful omission, failed to illuminate many of the facts of the case that cast heavy doubt onto Adnan’s guilt. What the podcast far succeeded in however, was getting conversation, and wild speculation and heated arguments, flowing about a fairly unknown case. For all of its flaws and for better or worse, out of “Serial” came the birth and explosion of true crime podcasting.
What’s so significant and fascinating about this news is that the motion to retry him was brought forth by the prosecution, aka the people who believed he was guilty. For a team of prosecutors to admit they may have made an egregious mistake and publicly try to fix it, especially after such a long period since “Serial” and the case blew up, certainly implies some sort of admission of guilt. I mean, try and think of the last time you heard a lawyer apologize and say they were wrong. This is a BIG DEAL.
I feel deeply for Hae’s family as the horrific details of her death are once again brought to life for scrutiny. Her case should have been laid to rest with her 23 years ago, but the system’s incompetence continually forces them back into the spotlight. I can’t imagine the pain of believing your loved one’s killer was brought to justice, only to find out they may have been running free for all of these years and led to another family’s lives being destroyed by a wrongful conviction.
The courts will now have 30 days from his release date (Sept. 19) to determine if Adnan will be brought to trial again. If he is, there is little to no doubt that the new trial will be much more fair and legitimate than his first, which, despite what may prove to be blatant Brady violations, sent an 18-year-old high school senior to a life sentence. For those unfamiliar, a Brady violation is when the prosecution fails to provide opposing counsel with information that would be vital in proving the innocence of their client (withholding evidence).
Whether you believe Syed is innocent or not, his release should serve as a comforting sign of a criminal justice system that is finally beginning to take accountability and pursue proper justice.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Torch.