I normally listen to each new episode of Serial the minute the kids and hubby walk out the door after the morning insanity of getting everyone dressed, fed, and out of the house with lunches and schoolbags. I usually have another hour before I have to leave for work, and on Thursdays, this is becomes the Serial I have with my chai.
Yesterday I was going to have a very busy Thursday and I got a number of messages in the morning saying this episode was sad, like really really sad. I was afraid I’d spend all day at work, and at an event after work, getting sporadically weepy so I decided that I’d wait until the end of the day to listen to it.
That decision lasted about 20 minutes.
I expected it to be a tremendously difficult episode to get through, but I only cried once (believe me, that’s an all-time low) when Sarah read Hae’s mom’s statement. I had heard it before because I was at the sentencing. But all these years later, as the mother of a daughter who is now a senior in high school, my heart crumbled in a way it didn’t originally – probably because the stress of Adnan’s conviction and sentencing were paramount at the time. I have spent many hours since thinking about Hae, about the potential of her life, about her being left alone for six weeks, in the woods, in the winter. As a mother I can imagine no greater pain, but 15 years ago we were in shock mode, watching in slow motion as Adnan was taken from his family and from his life.
The shock was perhaps greatest to Adnan, who didn’t quite see the seriousness of what was actually happening. It may have been an emotional defense mechanism, but it’s true that he really fully comprehend that he may never come home, that it wasn’t all a big mistake.
On some level, though I think us adults understood the gravity of the situation better, we still didn’t believe he would be convicted either. Not with such flimsy evidence, not with a state’s witness who lied repeatedly, and one who went from sounding not credible in the first trial to being polished and well rehearsed in the second.
Adnan’s guilt over not being more religious was apparent from his very early incarceration, and we all heard it in this last episode. Over the years his letters became more full of faith and sprituality and I saw a clear and sincere evolution to where he is today. Of course, it’s important to note that at if he was actually really religious and spiritual at 17, we’d all probably think he was a weirdo. Who he was at 17 is who many immigrant and Muslim kids often are. I can’t tell you the amount of messages I’ve gotten from Muslims saying that they hear themselves in Adnan’s story.
Krista’s description of Adnan is the only way I’ve ever known him – kind, self-reflective, concerned for others. In late 2001 I left my first husband in what be only be described as traumatic circumstances. My daughter was four at the time and he would not let her come with me. The police advised I get out of the house immediately, so I did, and I left my little girl behind, and then I had to fight like hell for eight months to get custody of her after my ex accused me of giving her drugs (mind you, I had never touched drugs or alcohol in my life – I was, and still am, a total square). And yes, he was an ass.
When Adnan heard that I was going through a divorce and child custody dispute, he said something I’ll never forget. He said, “I cannot imagine what you are going through. I can’t imagine how painful this must be for you”. I remember feeling a bit stunned that this kid who has been put away for life for a crime he didn’t commit was telling ME how sorry he felt for me. He never knew that my marriage had been abusive at times, I never told him, but the separation itself was deeply troubling to him.
His capacity for empathy, in the face of the injustice he’s been dealt, has always been extraordinary to me.
Like Yusuf, Adnan’s little brother, said in a CBS interview the other day, Adnan never really shared his own pain and rarely complained. He would often write letters of encouragement to me and others when he knew we were going through difficult times.
Its not to say that his letters have always been full of wisdom and profundity. They’ve also been full of mundane details of prison life, about other inmates (and for a short time a number of other Muslim inmates sent me their pics and bios through him, hoping I could help find them wives – yeah that didn’t happen), research on cases, jokes, drawings, silliness and seriousness.
One thing I find both fascinating and disturbing is the idea floated by Sarah and around the web that maybe Adnan is a brilliant, smooth talking sociopath. It’s the kind of allegation that plants the most sinister seed of suspicion about another person and is nearly impossible to counter. After all, if a sociopath is someone who can be really nice, then how can you tell if any nice person is not a sociopath? Can a sociopath keep up appearances for decades? Can he keep that appearance up to every single person who knows him?
I take people at face value. Until and unless you show me otherwise, I’ll assume you’re a good person. I believe Adnan is innocent not only because the state’s case doesn’t add up, but because he’s maintained it for 15 years, and because there not a single incident in his life that would point to him being an angry, violent, vengeful person. In 15 years, even as someone who has lost half his life to prison, he’s only ever remained kind and thoughtful. So either I have to trust that I can tell the difference between a genuinely good person (Adnan) and a manipulative nutjob (I’ve known my share), or I can’t trust anyone in my life. And neither can you.
And kids at Woodlawn High were on the same page – it could not have been Adnan.
ADNAN AND HAE
There is a lot of speculation about what their relationship was like, why Adnan didn’t get worried immediately after she disappeared, and how he acted afterwards. Here are some documents to help sort through these questions.
Sarah’s three things at the beginning of the episode should be jarring.
So there was never a payphone at Best Buy. Neither the cops or Adnan’s lawyer and her legal team ever found that out. If you didn’t yet realize what a travesty this case was, this would be the time to come to that conclusion. Not only did police never bother to corroborate anything Jay told them, whether it was his discussion with Chris, or seeing Will at track, or locating this phone booth, Adnan’s lawyer didn’t bother either.
There are probably a few dozen other oversights by both the police/prosecution and defense, and the official timeline has long been shot to hell.
Somewhere in the thousands of documents I have is a statement by a classmate who saw Adnan close to 3pm on January 13th, dressed for track practice, with his gym bag, going to the counselor’s office to pick up his recommendation.
I’ve spent the past two hours looking for the document with that specific statement, which I believe was made by Becky (I’m 85% sure about that) but haven’t found it yet. At the risk of my head just exploding from sleep deprivation and eye strain, I’m giving up for now but will revisit and post it later because dammit I just saw it last week.
The point being this: if Adnan was seen right before track practice, dressed for practice, close to 3pm and Hae was seen after 3 by Debbie, it doesn’t seem likely they ever even crossed paths after school. Hae left school and never made it to her next destination. How did she get sidetracked, and how much time did that leave for the crime to actually take place?
I’m just going to speculate this: Jay was never at Jenn’s house during the day. I mentioned that in an earlier post because two calls were actually made to Jenn’s house during the time frame Jay said he was there.
From this log, it’s clear to me that Jay had the cell phone and car from noon to about 5:14pm. The 19 second incoming call at 4:58 was probably Adnan asking Jay to come pick him up. I say that because the very next call is to voicemail – Adnan checking his voicemail. And then the next call is to Krista, Adnan’s friend.
So if Jay had the phone and car, and a call was made to Jenn at 3:21pm and then again at 4:12pm, we can assume he wasn’t at her house at that time. It’s also the time frame in which Hae apparently left the school.