I never intended a tour, but it looks like it’s turning into one. Starting with Stanford Law School a few weeks ago, American Law last week, and Columbia Journalism on Friday, the next few months will take me to about a dozen other venues to speak about Adnan’s case and, naturally, Serial. In at least half of these places, a good friend is the organizer and invited me, and heck I can’t say no to a friend. That, and the fact that the venues are packed, often sold out quickly, means people really have been impacted by Adnan’s story. I keep thinking at some point the public will tire and move on, but am so grateful that it’s not happened. I also worry that I’ll keep saying the same things over and over, and there is certainly some repetition, but even so every event so far has drawn out different information and discussions. Makes sense of course, a conversation with law students will certainly sound different than one with journalism students.
Interest in the case and show comes from such a diverse range of people, it truly helps keep me engaged and driven, energized by the tens of thousands that are still paying attention. It’s a good thing they are too because so far not a week has gone by without some new information, new analysis, new development in the case.
On the legal front, the State of Maryland last week filed the saddest motion ever, two pages with no case cites, asking that the court “strike” (disregard) the latest filing by Adnan’s lawyer that includes Asia’s new affidavit. Essentially the State argues a few things: that Adnan’s new supplement is outside a 30 day time limit, it’s not specifically allowed for under statute or by Court order, and was filed after the State’s response. Nevermind that the 30 day deadline does not seem to apply to supplements, or that if they’re going to argue it’s not even authorized under statute, how can they argue it should have been filed before the State’s response?
My read of the motion is that they were like “meh, gotta file something”, and realized they wouldn’t probably win on it anyway (and the Evidence Professor thinks so too at the end of this post). So now we wait to see how the Court rules on the motion. If they grant the State’s motion to strike, we lose Asia’s new affidavit, but still have the underlying petition. If the Court denies it, Asia’s new affidavit and other information in the supplement gets in – in other words the Court gets to actually consider it. I get asked a lot about how long the Court will take to make a decision: there is no deadline. They can take as long as they want, weeks, months, over a year. But we hope sooner rather than later.
On a more interesting front (at least if you are trying to figure out what actually happened on January 13, 1999), Susan Simpson has some more great analytical work. Her posts are long and detailed, as they need to be considering the subject matter. But I’ll summarize a few things she’s mentioned in her latest blogs, and other things you may have missed this past week.
- In this post, Susan explains that Adnan was deprived of a fair trial because 1) the Prosecution did everything it could to block access to evidence from Adnan’s attorney and 2) Gutierrez did not do enough to get that evidence, and then when she had a chance between the first and second trial, review and use it optimally. If you read through her post, you may be a little shocked at how hard the prosecution worked to keep evidence from Adnan. It was not until the actual first trial that Adnan’s team knew what the State’s timeline of the murder was. Imagine then that he had to try and account for his entire day, not knowing when the crime allegedly took place. Not only that, but the State refused to release the name of the witness and his statements to Gutierrez. The list of ways in which Urick did his best to cripple Adnan’s defense is lengthy, and given in great detail by Susan, but suffice it to say I feel pretty comfortable about where I stand on him.
- In this blog post, Susan details how the prosecution’s use of the cell phone tower evidence was misleading, inaccurate, and flawed – essentially they played the jury into believing what the evidence did not actually show. It was the first use of such evidence in Maryland, and the judge had serious doubts about admitting it and questioned the prosecution as to what they were purporting to show with it. The State argued that they were using the technology not to show where the phone was, but where the phone could possibly have been. Beyond this, the State used only 2 of the 13 sites they tested to support their case – and neither of those two were even from the burial site. Susan also argues that there would not have even been reception at the actual burial site, which was an important part of the State’s case, placing Adnan there around 7pm when Jay said they were burying the body.
FIXED LIVIDITY AND WHY HAE WASN’T BURIED FOR AT LEAST 8 HOURS. AND MAYBE WAS NEVER IN THE TRUNK OF ANY CAR
- A third important thing Susan was first to note, and then Colin Miller has written about, was the results of the autopsy report. According to the report, Hae’s body showed something called “fixed lividity” in the “anterior”. When a person dies, the blood pools to the lowest parts of the body. If the body is shifted, that blood can move around and result in “mixed lividity”. But if a body has been in the same position for at least 8 hours, the blood pooling becomes permanent, resulting in fixed lividity. In Hae, this happened on the front of her body, indicating she had been positioned face down for at least 8 hours after death. However, she was found on her side in the grave. And in Jay’s statements, before he changed it up again in the Intercept and said he wasn’t at the burial, he describes her being buried on the side.
If Hae’s body had to have been face down, on her stomach, for 8 hours it is unlikely that it was in the trunk of her car. She had a relatively small car, and was 5’8″ tall. A very unnatural position to imagine her being in, near impossible. Jay repeatedly describes her as “pretzeled up”, but it doesn’t sound like a description of being flat on the face.
Regardless of where her body was, she was not buried for at least 8 hours, unless we are to believe she was buried face down then someone went back later and put her on her side. So where was Hae for those 8-10 hours? Maybe at someone’s home? Adnan’s home and car were searched, but no one else’s was.
And let me not fail to point out that just as Gutierrez did not retain her own cell tech expert, she didn’t retain a forensic/medical expert either who could have gleaned this glaring fact Susan did from the autopsy report.
I have to say, having now visited the burial site, and seeing how visible it is from the road (especially in the winter when there is no foilage cover) I am a bit confounded on how she was buried there. First, there is a heavy police presence in the area. Being pulled over late at night would be suspicious if not done quickly. One person could not have pulled this off. While it’s possible that one person could have carried her, it is highly improbable. Hae was athletic, tall, and presumably heavy from muscle mass. Other than her weight, it would also just take longer for a single person to take her out of a vehicle and the longer it takes, the riskier it is. So if it took two people to carry her, does that mean the car stayed by the park, pulled over, until her body was taken by the log, and then one person ran back to move the car? Or was there a third person who drove the car off and swung back later to do a pick-up?
And the night of January 13, if we are to believe she was killed and buried on that date, was nearly moonless. I can’t imagine fumbling around in near dark with a body, trying to bury it, and making sure you didn’t leave anything behind. I imagine flashlights would have been necessary – but then again I imagine that flashlights would have easily been seen from the road. It is that visible.
In other words, I have no idea what happened and how it happened. It is one more in the many mysteries that abound about Hae’s murder.
URICK PISSES OFF THE WRONG LAWYER
Today, a piece by Seema Iyer, former prosecutor and host of “The Docket” on MSNBC.com, blasts Urick for backing out of a long-planned interview at the last minute. Not just backing out, but backing out permanently.
It seems once Urick realized that Seema was not going to bounce to his tune like Natasha Vargas-Cooper and had actually done her research, read transcripts, i.e. things real journalists do, ’twas too much for him. But if you’re a ready and willing outlet that will not question Urick in the least, I assume he is available for another unauthorized interview.
Anyhoo, in her piece Seema refers to the ACTUAL Nisha call, the one time ever Nisha spoke to Jay. As you may recall from Serial, in the first trial Nisha testifies that she spoke to Jay at his place of work, a porn shop. Adnan was going to the porn shop to see Jay, and put her on the phone. She recalls it lasted about ten minutes and was towards the evening.
In the second trial Urick quickly cut Nisha off, making sure she didn’t mention the porn shop being part of the conversation, because on January 13, 1999 Jay had not yet begun working at the porn shop.
In looking through the call logs, there is one call to Nisha between the time Jay starts working at the porn shop and the time Adnan gets arrested that fits the bill. This one, hunted down by Susan Simpson.
Good to have this handy, you know, in case of a new trial.
SOUTH ASIAN LAWYERS ARE ALSO PISSED AT URICK
In case you missed it, the National South Asian Bar Association, which includes both the US and Canada, published a great piece last week about the unconstitutional religious bias game played by Urick. This here is a shout out to them for taking a stand. I say that specifically because in this case so many people who should have taken a stand didn’t. So many people who should have done the right thing failed.
There has been a lot of discussion and analysis online about whether Gutierrez, Urick, and the police did the right thing, did their jobs properly. Did they perform as they were required to, did they meet their responsibilities or not. There are only two possibilities: yes they did, or no they didn’t. If any one of them did not, Adnan deserves another chance, a chance at a fair trial. But if they did, then I say our bar is too low, and we should all be troubled at what these institutions can get away with. I don’t know which answer is worse.
There is some profound misunderstanding about the documents and transcripts and what the heck has been going on with them so let me explain here. When I first got the full files, about 14 years ago, I kept all of the boxes with me and pored through them many times. Then things got hairy, I had to move around a bit for personal reasons, so I copied some the documents I wanted to keep close at hand, and stored the rest away at Adnan’s parents home. That was about ten years ago.
The files I had in my trunk was one box of my own documents, not the full boxes of transcripts and records. When I first met Sarah, I shared the copies I had, the ones that had been water damaged. Later when she wanted the rest of the documents, I met her at Aunty’s home and she took them directly from there.
A few months later the Serial team was kind enough to make us a USB with the documents saved electronically, but they still actually have the hard copies as well as the video and audio tapes. When I upload transcripts, it is directly from those electronic files. If there are pages missing, they are missing from those electronic files.
It is possible those pages are missing in the hard copies too, or that when they were scanned a few got missed here and there. But with the exception of a single page that I omitted myself (it was literally a full page of names and addresses of potential witnesses and I saw no point in a big black redacted page), I have not removed a single page. What I have is what you get. Sorry for missing pages, but I certainly don’t have them.
I also, by the way, don’t seem to have the testimony from Friday, February 4, 2000. Its just missing from the USB. I emailed Sarah to ask if they have them, but have not heard back. I anticipate getting the hard copies back soon, so if I find it there, will upload later.
Also the court did not hold session on Adnan’s case on Monday, February 7.