I don’t deny I am relieved that Serial is over. Not that it wasn’t a tremendous expose on Adnan’s case, and the result of so much time and effort by Sarah and her team which I’ll always appreciate, and its literally breathed new life into future prospects of exoneration. But because as difficult as it was for the general public to swing back and forth between sides, guided effortlessly by Sarah, it was even harder on those who know and love Adnan.
We never knew what parts of the story Sarah would chose to tell, and how she would chose to tell it. And I promise you, the parts you tell and how you tell it make all the difference in what the world hears. So we would wait to see which way the wind blew each week, and often wonder why Sarah left out certain things. In a way, as Sarah wondered if Adnan was manipulating her, we all wondered if Sarah was doing the same thing to us.
I suppose the reality is that she was, and so were we. We all needed things from each other, and we all worried about what we said, how we said it, where to draw the line, how to respond to what’s been said and done. It sucks in a big way, and I heard that frustration in Adnan’s letter last week – to be continuously guarded because you know when another person doesn’t fully trust you, everything you say and how you say it can seem suspicious or be misconstrued.
The Islamic ethos is to trust someone until they give you reason not to. I prefer to work like that, it makes life and dealing with people so much easier. After Serial, it will be easier for everyone to do.
Now, into the episode.
Ok, I’ll just be up front here. I don’t know what to do about Don. The note to him really weirded me out.
In case you’re having trouble reading that, it says, “Hey Cutie, sorry I couldn’t stay. I have to go to a wrestling match at Randallstown High. But I promise to page you as soon as I get home, k? ’till then, take care + drive safely. Always, Hae. PS The interview went well + I promise to tape it so you can see me as many + as often as you want :)”
Hae is referring to a tv interview she gave that day, which will run later that night, and she’ll tape for Don. Here are my issues with this note:
1) The body of the note is something you would not write in advance, it’s the kind of language you jot down on the spot, to leave for someone somewhere, which makes it seem like she had actually seen Don that day. But the PS sounds like something you’d write to someone you haven’t actually seen yet. So let’s assume she hadn’t seen Don when she wrote it, but she anticipated seeing Don or dropping the note off where he would see it.
2) Which brings me to the question of where? Where would she have seen him or anticipated he would be for her to give him the note? Below, Don says that the 13th was his day off. Hae was with him until late on the 12th. Certainly she knew the 13th was his day off. And Don says they didn’t connect all day on the 13th. So the only way Hae would have known where and when to leave this note was if they had already planned, on the 12th, to meet somewhere on the 13th.
3) Which brings me to when? Clearly, from the note, its before the wrestling match, but what’s not clear is if this was before she picks up her cousin or after. There is no way that Hae would have written this note if they did not have a plan to meet. But Don never says they do.
4) Nothing was ever tested against Don. Not the hair that was found, not the blood on the shirt in the car. Apparently the police thought getting clocked in for work, when your mom is the store manager, was a rock solid alibi.
It appears that Don’s father is a police officer, which may explain why Don immediately began tracing his steps and making sure he had an alibi as soon as he heard Hae was missing, and total departure from how Adnan reacted.
While its definitely unclear what happened in those two days between them, it could easily be remedied if Don was also tested against the forensics. As the Innocence Project moves forward to get DNA testing done on the evidence that exists, it would be great if Don would volunteer his samples and clear up any doubts about him.
HEY WHAT’S A CAR AND PHONE BETWEEN FRIENDS?
The question of why Adnan would lend his car and phone to someone like Jay keeps coming up. So let’s get one thing straight. Adnan lent Jay his car, the cell phone just happened to get left in it.
Once in a while, and despite his natural inclination against it, an actual truth manages to escape Jay. Here, in his own words, Jay destroys the entire basis of the State’s case – that Adnan deliberately gave Jay the phone to help him after the murder, not that Adnan just happened to leave the phone in the car.
THE GOSPEL OF THE CELL PHONE
Its fascinating that Sarah says the only “hard evidence” in this case are the cell phone records. I get what she means, there is no actual physical evidence tying Adnan to the crime, and if we’re to try and corroborate any version of Jay’s story, this would be the only way to do it. What’s fascinating is the way she and her team interpret the records and how much weight they give to the cell tower pings. I’ve discussed before but let’s do this again.
There are three potential utilities to the cell phone information:
1) What times calls were made and received
2) Who was being called and who was calling
3) What cell phone tower was being “pinged”
The first and second tell a story, the story of WHO had the phone. Not where the phone is, but who had it. So let’s start there.
I’ll explain in detail but let’s start with the call log itself, above.
The first call, on the bottom, is to Jay. This is presumably Adnan asking Jay if he should come by with the car. And so he goes over there. Now every call made with the exception of the “Nisha call”, from line 31 to line 22, is made to a friend of Jay’s. At 5:14pm, the voicemail on the phone is checked. It can assumed that by that time Adnan has the phone. I will also assume that the incoming call right before it, at 4:58pm, is Adnan asking Jay to come get him.
So between 12:07-4:58pm, the only reasonable explanation for the call patterns is that Jay is the only person who had the phone at that time. The Nisha call, one that Nisha has no recollection of, was almost certainly a butt-dial, as explained earlier here.
But Julie suggests, in a very tantalizing way, that something nefarious was going on even earlier in the day. As early as the 12:07 and 12:41 calls. She says that attorney notes indicate Adnan was still with Jay at that time, and the phone was moving all over the place with them.
Here are some documents referencing that time frame:
Not sure why Julie was so deliciously suspicious about these calls, since there is little to indicate that Adnan was with Jay at the time they were made. So the entire premise of that part of episode 12 is wrong.
But what I cannot get over is how the Serial team continues to use the cell towers “pinged” as gospel, a map showing exactly where the phone was at any given time.
Julie says “I can see where the phone was moving” at 30:05 of the episode. No Julie, no you can’t. Because cell phone pings are NOT a reliable indicator of where a phone is, and as I’ve explained in detail before, have been declared as inadmissible by courts around the country. The other issue with accepting the idea that the pings can act like a trial is that if we do that, again we’re at the place where none of Jay’s testimony makes sense (remember only 4 of 14 pings matched up to his story, and that’s according to the prosecution!). So either you throw all the pings out, or all of Jay’s testimony out. You can’t have it both ways.
I will say that if Adnan gets a new trial, I hope his counsel gets this evidence barred as it should be, which will leave the state with…just Jay.
If it’s unclear to Sarah et al whether Jay is lying, or Adnan is lying, or both are lying – let me clarify: only one person consistently lied throughout this entire case. And that person is Jay. Adnan has only ever told one story: he gave Jay the car in the morning, and then didn’t see him until after track practice.
Lastly, let me address the issue of Adnan being so very unlucky. You could only really marvel at this if you didn’t realize that we lock up thousands of innocent people, all who end up behind bars because their luck was that bad too. In this case, the only mistake Adnan really made was lending his car to Jay. After that it wasn’t his luck, it was a series of failures and manipulation by everyone, from police investigators, to the prosecutor, to his defense counsel, that condemned him. I sum it up here:
A FEW STRAGGLERS (THERE ARE PLENTY MORE):
Jen: I am at the point where I think Jen had no idea what happened on the night of January 13, 1999 – not until the police came looking for her over a month later. And then she went to Jay, who asked her to corroborate his story.
Jay: Is it possible that Jay was fed his testimony by the police? Lawyer Susan Simpson makes a compelling argument for it. And there is this of course:
ADNAN’s RIDE WITH HAE: By most accounts (that means three accounts, including when the police called him on the night of the 13th), it seems that Adnan asked Hae for a ride after school. But she declined. Much later Adnan was asked about this in front of his dad. Then he said no, he didn’t. Now, anyone with South Asian parents knows that yeah, most of us were more scared of our parents than the cops. I can imagine that 1) Adnan didn’t want his dad to know he was riding around with Hae and 2) he didn’t want his dad to know his car was with someone else (my parents would have kicked my butt for loaning my car back then too).
I’m ok assuming Adnan did ask Hae for a ride in the presence of other students, and told the police he did on the night of the 13th. I’m not ok assuming that meant his plan was to kill her in the car, because no one planning on carrying out a murder by doing so would ask for a ride from the victim in front of witnesses, and then admit it to the police.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
There is more I wanted to say about this episode, more I wanted to say about Serial and the last year, but between the virus I’m fighting right now and lack of sleep, I’m going to have to call it a blogpost (though yesterday I did a brief piece for Time about the end of the podcast). There will be more posts, more documents, more updates in the future, don’t worry about that.
The end of Serial means getting back into the weeds of the case. And lately the case itself, and its prospects in court, are looking better than they have in a long time. Over the past three months thousands have reached out to ask how to help, and now is the time to do just that.
I really do feel that the end of Adnan’s ordeal is coming close. Serial was the door that opened up the path to his exoneration. Stay will us till we get there.