New Trial for Adnan Syed
June 30, 2016 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Adnan Syed, who was convicted in 2000 for the death of Hae Min Lee, and who was the subject of the podcast Serial [previously and originally], has today been granted a new trial.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does anyone with more insight than me know if this would've happened without the podcast? If not, this is absolutely astonishing.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Good. I don't know if I believe he's innocent but the original trial was all kinds of flawed.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:59 PM on June 30, 2016 [17 favorites]


Does anyone with more insight than me know if this would've happened without the podcast? If not, this is absolutely astonishing.

I'd say it's less that the new trial is a result of the podcast and more that both the new trial and the podcast were the result of Rabia.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2016 [32 favorites]


Does anyone with more insight than me know if this would've happened without the podcast? If not, this is absolutely astonishing.

Rabia Chaudry credits the View From LL2 blog, which only turned to Syed's case in response to Serial, so....probably not?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2016


Either way, Rabia Chaudry is a goddamned superhero.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 2:05 PM on June 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


Great news.
posted by zutalors! at 2:07 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Both Serial and Making a Murderer underlined just how hard it is to get a fair trial in the U.S. justice system. Whether Adnan Syed or Steven Avery committed the crimes for which they are accused, they both had (and have) a right to a fair trial. Neither was granted that.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:07 PM on June 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


I'm confused. There's no info about when the new episodes of Serial start
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


See also: Brendan Dassey.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:18 PM on June 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


We can only hope that Sarah or some other reporter gives us this lots of pillow-filled-closet reports
posted by timdiggerm at 2:21 PM on June 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wasn't she in the bathroom?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:22 PM on June 30, 2016


Both Serial and Making a Murderer underlined just how hard it is to get a fair trial in the U.S. justice system. Whether Adnan Syed or Steven Avery committed the crimes for which they are accused, they both had (and have) a right to a fair trial. Neither was granted that.

I 100% agree with this statement. Both the first season of Serial and Netflix's Making of a Murderer remind of this quote from an article from the New Yorker. The article is more focused on Making of a Murderer, but it is still relevant to this conversation.
The series presents Avery’s case as a one-off—a preposterous crusade by a grudge-bearing county sheriff’s department to discredit and imprison a nemesis. (Hence the ad-hominem attacks the show has inspired.) But you don’t need to have filed a thirty-six-million-dollar suit against law enforcement to be detained, denied basic rights, and have evidence planted on your person or property. Among other things, simply being black can suffice. While Avery’s story is dramatic, every component of it is sadly common. Seventy-two per cent of wrongful convictions involve a mistaken eyewitness. Twenty-seven per cent involve false confessions. Nearly half involve scientific fraud or junk science. More than a third involve suppression of evidence by police. Those statistics reflect systemic problems. Eyewitness testimony is dangerously persuasive to juries, yet it remains admissible in courts almost without caveat. Some interrogation methods are more likely than others to produce false confessions, yet there are no national standards; fewer than half of states require interrogations to be videotaped, and all of them allow interrogators to lie to suspects. With the exception of DNA evidence (which emerged from biology, not criminology), forensic tests are laughably unscientific; no independent entity exists to establish that such tests are reliable before their results are admissible as evidence.

It is largely because of these systemic weaknesses in our judicial system that we find ourselves with a court of last resort. While that court cannot directly operate the levers of the law, it has drawn attention to cases that need review, and innocent people have been freed as a result. Yet in the decades since Erle Stanley Gardner launched his column, none of the forces that put those people in prison in the first place have changed for the better. Nor have we evolved a set of standards around extrajudicial investigations of criminal cases. However broken the rules that govern our real courts, the court of last resort is bound by no rules at all.
posted by Fizz at 2:36 PM on June 30, 2016 [24 favorites]


I wonder if the state will offer credit time served to save money/risk. I wonder if they did, whether he would take it.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:36 PM on June 30, 2016


I wonder if the state will offer credit time served to save money/risk. I wonder if they did, whether he would take it.

Given how badly the state's case has been undermined, the unethical conduct of the original prosecutor, and the fact that the new prosecutor is going to be under a magnifying glass for this case, no, he shouldn't take any deal other than "the State chooses to not retry the matter".
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:41 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is remarkable. I never would've thought.
posted by rtha at 2:50 PM on June 30, 2016


Between this and Nancy Grace's resignation, today has been a good day for justice.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2016 [18 favorites]


Everything about this is fascinating...IS IT NOT?
posted by ikahime at 3:29 PM on June 30, 2016 [9 favorites]


Nancy Grace's resignation

Ooh I didn't know about this. Hopefully this will put an end to moral panics on the mainstream news.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 3:44 PM on June 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am that Nancy Grace appears to have retired for mundane reasons and not because she an elaborate decades-old corpse diorama of murder victims was found in her basement
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:58 PM on June 30, 2016 [43 favorites]


See also: Brendan Dassey.

A thousand times this.
posted by drezdn at 4:37 PM on June 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


For the record, were I in his place (and for all you naysayers, let's assume that includes being actually innocent), I absolutely would take a credit time served offer. To spare my family, supporters, and myself the pain of a protracted 1-3 year long trial and the muckraking that comes along with it; to spare Lee's family the additional trauma of reliving her murder, this time squarely in the public eye; and because of my--and, after 16 years in prison and one guilty verdict from a jury notwithstanding the shaky evidence, I'm thinking also his--low, low, low opinion of the chances of a fair trial for an Arab american in post-911 society in a high-profile case from an obviously overly-punitive, evidently racist criminal justice system [that convicted him once before].

And if he does decide to take such a deal, I want to be on record as saying that I think it bares very little on his actual innocence in this matter. (Because I know some of society, and some of you all on this site, will point to such a deal and say AHA, WE KNEW IT, WE KNEW HE DID IT.)

And finally, I think assuming the prosecution will drop the case entirely is extremely optimistic at best.
posted by likeatoaster at 5:30 PM on June 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


Adnan would take a credit for time served. He even said on Serial that he wished he had been able to plead guilty the first time around.
posted by gentian at 6:00 PM on June 30, 2016


Does anyone with more insight than me know if this would've happened without the podcast?

Absolutely not. The appeals process is so prejudiced against convicted criminals; also, without the publicity, I doubt they even could have gotten Syed his current legal team, which actually appears to have done a good job.

Adnan would take a credit for time served.

I would hope so, out of deference to Hae Min Lee's family.

He is guilty, but his release still seems like a just outcome. He would have been out already based on good behavior, I expect, if he'd ever decided to admit his guilt.

Even if he goes forward with the trial, and even if he is found guilty again (doubtful), isn't it likely that the sentencing would shorten his term to time served? (I don't know how that works.)
posted by torticat at 6:20 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


The judge pretty much torpedoed any chance of the state winning at trial, as he shot down the original time frame, and the bogus cell tower evidence. Here's an excerpt from the ruling that I found on Twitter.

As to the case, I am shocked by how extraordinarily thin it was, and how many people were (are?) convinced of his guilt because, as far as I can tell, framing. Framing in the sense that he was first presented to them as a guilty person so decreed by the state. Because there is really nothing else except a single person's testimony who turns to have lied about every single thing that can be verified. I find it deeply troubling.
posted by djinn dandy at 7:09 PM on June 30, 2016 [14 favorites]


The ruling in full though presents some information that I don't think we were aware of before, at all.

Like the State's argument regarding Asia McClain's alibi, found at the bottom of page 16 and top of page 17:
https://www.scribd.com/doc/317172137/Syed-PCR-Opinion

(McClain's alibi is somewhat irrelevant since the judge voted down on the related claim of IAC. But the state's argument raises question about her veracity and Syed's deviousness, doesn't it?)
posted by torticat at 7:34 PM on June 30, 2016


Oh--nevermind my last comment. The judge pretty effectively shoots down the State's argument, if you keep reading.

Still, there IS a lot of interesting stuff in there.
posted by torticat at 7:43 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm so thrilled about this (but disappointed SK isn't saying anything at the moment). Good for him. I have been pretty well convinced from the getgo he didn't do it, and while I'm sorry for her family, having the wrong guy convicted in a terribly run case and having his life ruined/serving time for most of two decades isn't giving Hae justice either. Plus assuming Adnan didn't kill her, I think Hae would have been unthrilled about him going to jail. Most of the evidence has been so freaking sketchy at best, plus my own impressions that he just never seemed that highly motivated to kill her and the only testimony we had on that was Jay, who lies like a dog.

The followup podcasts have really come up with shit tons of evidence. Between Undisclosed figuring out that Jay was being prompted to give the testimony that he did and the Truth and Justice one deducing that Don's time card was totally faked ...

I do think it's sad that we'll probably never know who actually DID do it (really, who seems motivated in this case enough to?), though after that stuff about Don, now I kinda wonder. I can't figure out why he'd kill a new girlfriend unless he was a closet sicko and there's plenty of good reasons to want an alibi when your new girlfriend just got murdered even if you're innocent, but...we'll probably never know. I'm sorry for her family, but at this point it seems fairly clear to me that he didn't do it and that needs to be rectified if that's the case.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:17 PM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


Man, jenfullmoon, I feel so differently about the case. He totally DID do it; no one else had the motive and opportunity. Added to that, the cell phone evidence is persuasive (but not conclusive) that he was in Leakin Park that night--though maybe not at the time of the burial. Still damning.

I absolutely don't think his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, nor that it ever could be. Under our system of law he should have gone free. But leaving that aside, just thinking of probabilities--he's completely guilty.

He's also arguably served his time. I just feel terrible for Hae Min Lee's family, who are reliving the horror whether there is a new trial or not.
posted by torticat at 12:49 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


The two calls that supposedly are from a cell tower that covers the burial area are incoming calls which do not give location information. This is why Syed's trial was vacated, because the evidence that was central to the state's case was wrong and his attorney did not point it out to the jury. There is now no evidence that places Syed at the burial site. The judge also mentions that the state's timeline of the actual murder that was used to convict Syed does not match up with Jay's testimony and now has an alibi witness. I don't see how the state can retry.
posted by djinn dandy at 3:43 AM on July 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


At what point do Baltimore have to re-open the investigation in Hae's death?

I mean, I dunno whether Adnan is guilty or not - but either way she's still dead, and it feels like there's more digging to be done if he is exonerated.
posted by citands at 4:25 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


He totally DID do it; no one else had the motive and opportunity.

I absolutely don't think his guilt was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, nor that it ever could be. Under our system of law he should have gone free. But leaving that aside, just thinking of probabilities--he's completely guilty.

If you're comfortable with the idea that probabilities and lack of other known motives & opportunity means someone is surely guilty then why would you support releasing him? Or anyone in that circumstance, for that matter? That seems like you're supporting the way the system is set up just because it exists, not because there's some more than vague reason for it being set up this way.

He's also arguably served his time.

Really? This seems sufficient to you, for a violent deliberate killing followed by hiding the body and no admission of guilt? I strongly disagree. It seems to me that if one believes that AS did this then he deserves to be in jail for easily twice this amount of time, if not the rest of his life.
posted by phearlez at 7:18 AM on July 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you're comfortable with the idea that probabilities and lack of other known motives & opportunity means someone is surely guilty then why would you support releasing him? Or anyone in that circumstance, for that matter? That seems like you're supporting the way the system is set up just because it exists, not because there's some more than vague reason for it being set up this way.

You see the irony of using the word "probabilities" next to "completely guilty" right?


These seem like incredibly uncharitable readings of what torticat wrote.

Our personal conclusions about a case are very different from a formal determination of guilt, and obviously don't carry the threat of imprisonment or, in extreme cases, death. You as a person can be convinced of someone's guilt, but also believe that a court sentence of guilty is such a serious matter that the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" is a proper one.

Surely you've encountered cases where you felt strongly the person was guilty but didn't think it was proved sufficiently in court?
posted by Sangermaine at 9:41 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


These seem like incredibly uncharitable readings of what torticat wrote.

Uncharitable why? Torticat has stated that fact - and it is being stated as a fact, not as an opinion - in two separate comments in this thread alone, never mind significant participation in the fanfare threads.

Surely you've encountered cases where you felt strongly the person was guilty but didn't think it was proved sufficiently in court?

I, personally, would not in that circumstance make a blanket statement of "X is a murderer." But more completely, I can't think of a case I'd consider parallel. There are certainly cases where damning evidence has been held back from the jury and I believe they made the right choice given what they were presented. I am inclined to think the trial of OJ Simpson is a case where the decision, in light of shenanigans and perception of the investigation, was correct even if I think Simpson is almost certainly the killer. But I am not sanguine about that result and think the outcome is a serious failure to get justice for Brown and Goldman.

So no, I cannot think of a case where I believed (a) this person is guilty such that I would be comfortable stating it as fact (b) but that it was not presented convincingly in court (c) but the jury convicted anyway. I found the case presented against Simpson sufficient, but tainted. The AS case as presented empirically fails on the facts as far as I can tell. I could not personally simultaneously reach a conclusion that I could state incontrovertibly that someone is guilty and that they should be found not guilty, given that disparity.
posted by phearlez at 10:24 AM on July 1, 2016 [3 favorites]


I didn't follow the thing particularly closely, but as I recall, he could be said to have the means (in the sense of having at least a theoretical window of ability to do it in the window of potential death times) and the motive (in the sense that any one in a present or past romantic relationship can be said to have motive.) However, given that many people will fit that description for any given person (not to mention the fact that people aren't always killed by people with established motives), we generally require at least some actual evidence connecting someone to a crime. Which the state tried to provide via a witness... who it has been established was certainly lying in some degree... and technological evidence... which it has been established was not reliable. Thus the new trial.

So I think anyone who is announcing that Syed is guilty as a fact is working on emotional certainty rather than any rational conclusion. He's certainly still in the most likely pool, but unless they bring some non-tainted evidence to the new trial, it's hard to see how you can get beyond reasonable doubt.
posted by tavella at 12:03 PM on July 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, tavella, pretty much. Sure, anyone who's an ex-boyfriend is going to be suspected by default, but hell, their post-dating relationship sounded incredibly amicable, as said by other people observing them. You could also argue that Don did it by virtue of being the one dating her, though if he's a reasonable person that's less of a motive.
Unfortunately, nobody involved seems to have obvious anger issues towards Hae. Adnan seemed over it, Jay doesn't even seem close to her and Don was dating her. Unless one or all of them are secret closet psychos that have been hiding that super well for lots of years....we'll probably never know who or why.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:55 PM on July 1, 2016


So I think anyone who is announcing that Syed is guilty as a fact is working on emotional certainty rather than any rational conclusion. He's certainly still in the most likely pool, but unless they bring some non-tainted evidence to the new trial, it's hard to see how you can get beyond reasonable doubt.

Yeah I pretty much agree with that. I mean I think my conclusion is rational, not JUST emotional, given Adnan's contact throughout the day with Jay and Jay's knowledge of the crime. The alternatives are that Jay did it himself, or that someone else did it and Jay came by the details somehow and then decided to get himself embroiled in the whole thing by coming forward with a fabricated story that endangered himself.

But I don't think you can convict a person based on process of elimination--can you? And the first (second, really) trial was a travesty, and no, they did not get beyond reasonable doubt.

phearlez:
never mind significant participation in the fanfare threads.

You mean the threads when the first season of Serial was ongoing? Man, you have a better memory of my opinions back then than I do myself! I kinda thought I leaned toward innocent back then. Could be wrong though.

I am surprised that you think that most people released because of the reasonable doubt threshold are innocent. Being able to hold two ideas in your head at once--that a person is almost certainly guilty, and that such has not been proven at trial--is pretty much baked into our system of law. Part of the whole "better that 10 guilty men go free than that one innocent man suffer" or whatever the quote is.

Thanks Sangermaine for reading my earlier comments as they were intended! It is of course possible that Syed is innocent; I just don't believe it. Maybe could have been more moderate in my comments though.
posted by torticat at 3:04 PM on July 1, 2016


Torticat has stated that fact - and it is being stated as a fact, not as an opinion

Oh and this--goodness, it's just a manner of speaking. Like "he totes did it." It's still an opinion, and I assumed readers would take it that way.
posted by torticat at 3:07 PM on July 1, 2016


Readers did not.
posted by Etrigan at 3:10 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you're comfortable with the idea that probabilities and lack of other known motives & opportunity means someone is surely guilty then why would you support releasing him?

Because he has served a lot of time. Had he admitted guilt, he would have been out by now, either on parole based on his good behavior, or on the basis of a plea deal.

I am not comfortable with a crime of passion (that's an assumption, granted) by a minor resulting in a life sentence.

I support our system because I think it probably yields the most just results in the aggregate. I'm not 100% on that, though.
posted by torticat at 4:46 PM on July 1, 2016


Mod note: A couple of comments deleted. Let's please move past the specific personal opinion stated as fact thing now, and carry on with the wider discussion. Thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:05 AM on July 2, 2016


Sarah K responds.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:14 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Rabia Chaudry responds.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:30 AM on July 7, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow, that "Rabia responds" link really cuts to the heart of the case, doesn't it? After listening to all of Serial and reading many different links from the Farfare threads (including a lot of Susan Simpson's blog and the Intercept interviews) I guess I had become pretty confused and bogged down in details. So many details!

But Rabia pulls a pretty strong signal out of the noise there. Not only is there room for "reasonable doubt" about both the Jay Wilds testimony and the cell tower data (which I think almost everyone acknowledges by now) leaving no really solid evidence against Adnan, but he has alibis for almost the entire relevant time window.

I had a professor once who told me that "fascinating" is just a way of saying "I don't understand." I have up until now found Adnan's case fascinating. But that Rabia article makes it seem much less fascinating and more straightforwardly unjust.
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:02 AM on July 7, 2016


It is Rabia's doggedness and Susan Simpson's diligence in taking apart the presented "evidence" that truly makes the case for not just the poor defense that Adnan received at trial but his actual innocence. I listened to the whole of Serial, I started reading Simpson's excellent blog during that time and kept reading it, I listened to the whole of the "Undisclosed" podcast that Simpson, Chaudry and Colin Miller put together. Jay is an unreliable narrator on every count. I don't think he did it. I don't think he is a "bad" guy but he absolutely became a puppet for the cops and prosecution. If there was any shred of truth to his tale, the cops tainted it beyond recognition. This episode of "Undisclosed" has a particularly interesting theory about how the officers may have been coaching Jay in his testimony/confession. It's a sensational episode, it's a crazy theory, it will either make you a believer or make you want to throw the whole thing out but it's also the Occam's razor to this whole sequence of events. Jay's narrative is just too good for an average person. How did it get so good?*

*It's not good. It's full of holes from beginning to end. But we are wired to accept a tale as told. One of the many blind spots in our system of justice – our belief in the words of witnesses and the stories we are told.
posted by amanda at 9:58 AM on July 7, 2016


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