The murder case of Hae Min Lee is a very intriguing incident, as it is a tale full of many holes and facts that don’t match up. For both the observers and the investigators, this is a difficult case to consider, as there is evidence that can support any number of claims. The main fact of this case is that on January 13th, 1999, 17-year-old Hae Min Lee was killed and buried in a forest called Leakin Park. In the trial, the prosecutors focused on Adnan Syed, Hae’s ex-boyfriend and the jury was quick to call him guilty.
Serial is a podcast narrated by Sarah Koenig that makes entertainment in the form of investigative journalism. The podcast focused on this particular case in order to discover the truth behind the events that led to Hae Min Lee’s death, but the facts that were unearthed led to the development of many debates, with one major side thinking that Adnan is guilty, and the other side believing that he’s innocent.
Personally, this podcast has led me to change my opinion on the case multiple times. Hearing the testimonies of those who had known Adnan in the first episode and the way Koenig presented the evidence throughout the podcast had me convinced that Adnan was innocent. However, hearing the last episode, where Koenig began to doubt Adnan’s innocence, made me change my opinion to think that Adnan is guilty.
From the first episode, Adnan has always insisted that his relationship and eventual breakup with Hae Min Lee was amicable. Other people also supported this claim. However, Hae’s diary portrays a different story. Hae’s diary entries had valuable information suggesting that Adnan was not taking the break up too well, and she felt threatened by his behavior, with one entry even stating that Hae asked teachers to keep her away from Syed. This does not seem like the usual behaviur of someone who has “moved on”, as Adnan would like everyone to believe. There was also a handwritten breakup letter that Hae had sent to Adnan in November of 1998, two months before her murder. The contents of the note were rather similar to what most breakup notes would contain, however, the most significant aspect about the letter is what Syed scribbles on the top of the letter, saying “I’m going to kill”. This shows that Adnan’s level of anger was not normal, although he said that he was over her. This level of anger is quite strange even for a teenager, especially one who has been claiming that he wasn’t unusually upset over the breakup; the aggressive tone is in stark contrast to the person Koenig had initially presented in the first episode. The phrase “I’m going to kill” has strong verb usage to suggest that the action will happen, making Hae’s case more suspicious as she was murdered two months later. Although it may not be biological evidence, the letter that Syed receives and the diary entries of Hae are pieces of physical evidence that cast suspicions on Syed and his involvement with the murder.
The next piece of damning evidence is Jay’s testimony. Jay was one of Adnan’s best friends and they knew each other really well. During the police testimony, when Jay was interviewed, he was very reluctant in giving information. Due to his uncooperative behavior, the police had to put a lot of pressure on Jay so that he would give his testimony. And when Jay began, he didn’t stop; all of a sudden, Jay started to spew out information with great quality of detail. The podcast made Jay seem like he was lying because he was initially unsure about giving out information and then somehow managed to recite an entire story. I also thought that Jay was lying, and considered it ridiculous that the police based the whole case off of Jay’s testimony. However, if Jay was lying on the spot, it would be very difficult for him unless he had rehearsed everything beforehand. It is not every day that a teenager would be able to come up with such an elaborate and detailed scheme so easily. The other question in my mind when hearing Jay’s testimony was motive: why would Jay lie about the murder and “frame” his friend if Syed was actually innocent? Jay’s reluctance initially can be attributed to his fear that he could get in trouble for being an accomplice. When he realized he wouldn’t be charged, he was able to tell the truth.
What I found most baffling about the case is that Adnan had no memory of the day when Hae was found missing. I would have thought that his previous relationship with her would have meant that details of that day would be clearer to him. However, this was not the case. While I can understand that people forget uneventful details, it has been shown that when a significant event occurs, people are able to have better recall. What could have been more significant than the disappearance of the girl Adnan claimed to have once loved? There wasn’t even any evidence of him having tried to contact her when he discovered that she was missing. This lack of concern on his part and the convenience of his absence of memory increased the doubts in my mind over his innocence.
The “Nisha call” is a very important factor to consider with this investigation. The “Nisha call” references call logs that show someone called a girl named Nisha with Adnan’s phone an hour after Hae Min Lee was murdered. While it may be the obvious conclusion that the caller was Adnan, he claims that he had left his phone in Jay’s car during this time. The call lasted two minutes and Adnan suggested that Jay might have pocket dialed Nisha. Jay, who did not know Nisha, countered this by saying that Adnan had called Nisha while in his car. Koenig, the narrator, admits that “The Nisha call is the one that’s always stuck out to me and I think to most people who’ve looked at Adnan’s case closely because it happens on the afternoon that Hae disappeared at a time when Adnan has said, insisted even, that he was not with his phone, that Jay had his phone while he was in school”. Adnan’s pocket dial explanation is a possibility but in my opinion, it sounds more like a ridiculous excuse. It would seem counterintuitive that Jay would put Adnan’s phone in his pocket for any reason. It is more likely that Adnan dialed Nisha’s phone number himself and is trying to come up with an excuse to cover up for it.
The podcast Serial skillfully presented evidence that supported or refuted Adnan’s claim of innocence. While there was convincing proof for both sides, I feel that the arguments for Adnan’s guilt were stronger and more in line with my own beliefs. This may be in direct opposition to what Koenig, the narrator, wanted listeners to think, but at the end of the day, it is important to mention that this podcast was focused on entertaining the audience and presenting information in an unbiased way to allow listeners to make their own conclusions.