Monday, November 28, 2022

A Serial Victory: Another True Crime Podcast Makes History

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There’s big news in true crime world today – the Serial podcast, which looked at the murder of a high school student and the young man who was currently behind bars for the crime has had a major new development.

Hot off the heels of the guilty verdict against Chris Dawson – who was charged with murdering his wife some 40 years ago, just after a podcast, ‘The Teacher’s Pet’ examined the case, another podcast has had a major victory today.

The true crime podcast that started them all – Serial – say Sarah Koenig and a team of journalists pore over the case of Hae Min Lee, a young woman who was murdered in 1999. Her former boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was behind bars for the crime – but his involvement in her murder were bought into serious question.

And rightly so – because Adnan Syed was released from prison last month and today, all charges against him have been dropped, making him a free man.

For the team at the Serial podcast, it comes after more than a decade spent researching the case – and for Adnan, it comes after nearly 23 years spend behind bars.

Back in 2014, Serial was the first of its kind (with many of us having to ask a friend or Google, how to actually listen to a podcast!) and over 12 episodes it left its listeners enthralled, puzzled and enraged.

Over the course of the podcast, a number of major problems with the case were highlighted – for a start, Adnan’s defense lawyer failed to pursue important leads (including a student who said she was with Adnan at the school library at the exact time he was said to be across town, committing the murder), the timeline put forward by the prosecution was completely implausible, if not impossible. Then there was a piece of evidence that was key in finding him guilty – cellphone records that supposedly tracked Adnan’s location – which were later found to be inaccurate.

But finally, the courts took another look at his case last month, after Baltimore prosecutors said they no longer had confidence in his conviction. The judge, Melissa Phinn, overturned his conviction, saying, “At the time, we will remove the shackles from Mr Syed”.

However, the ruling didn’t mean he was quite in the clear – local prosecutors then had the opportunity to decide whether they would seek a new trial, or completely drop the charges. Today, that decision was made to grant Adnan freedom at last.

While we’ve waited for this day for a good month now, following the announcement in September, the initial news that the courts would be reviewing the case came entirely out the blue – even for the Serial team, Adnan’s family, and even Adnan himself.

The day after the news, Serial podcast host Sarah Koenig said, “I was shocked. I did not see this coming at all. One of the first things I did was call Adnan’s brother and then his mother — they told me they didn’t know either. The prosecutors who filed the motion to release him kept it pretty tight, it seems.

“But the shocking part was that this was coming from the state’s side. I felt almost disoriented for about a day. Like the city prosecutor’s office suddenly pulled off a rubber mask and underneath was a scowling defense attorney.”

As we mentioned earlier, this turn of events comes just after the Australian podcast The Teacher’s Pet had a major victory in late August.

That podcast (which is also a must-listen!) followed the case of Lynette Dawson, a young mother of two who mysteriously went missing in 1982. Her husband was well-known in the community as a football player and local high school teacher (curiously, he had a twin brother who also played on the same team and taught at a local school). Chris claimed Lynette got in touch with him and told him he was safe and well and simply taking time out.

As The Teacher’s Pet pointed out though, this seemed unlikely given how devoted Lynette was to her children, and that she would leave the house with no money, no clothes – not even her contact lenses. And curiouser still, it seemed all the more unlikely she had left under her own will, when Chris’ teenage girlfriend (a pupil at his school) moved into the marital bed just days after Lyn “left”.

On August 30, after a long court case, Chris Dawson was found guilty of her murder during a judge-only trial, served by Justice Ian Harrison.

However, while in the case of The Teacher’s Pet, many cheers went up that justice had finally been served for Lynette’s family – the same can’t quite ring true for the family of Hae Min Lee, who is at the centre of Serial’s story.

While today’s news is a major win for Adnan and his family – it leaves another family still desperately searching for answers and no dobut grappling with a number of emotions.

But, there is some good news.

Part of the reason why Adnan was released, was the revelation the state had not handed over information about a possible alternate suspect in the crime.

As Sarah Koenig tells,

“There are two of them[possible suspects] actually. The state isn’t naming these people right now, but detectives definitely knew who they were at the time. The state is saying these suspects (either one or both) have criminal histories that are relevant to the crime. And that one of them has a family connection to the location where Hae Min Lee’s car was found.

“But the most damning thing is that a couple of people had told the prosecutor’s office at the time that one of the suspects had a motive to kill Hae, and even had threatened to do so. And that information was never told to the defense. That alone — not handing over important evidence — could be grounds to overturn a murder conviction.”

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