Today I do my first public appearance to speak about Adnan’s case and Serial. I’ll be at Stanford Law School, a great pleasure for me, but it’s not the only reason I’m in California right now.
For the past few years I’ve worked in the field of CVE (“Countering Violent Extremism”), which is less sexy, cool or controversial as it may sound (but plenty has to be said about it, which merits future articles and posts). To that end, on Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a unique summit hosted by YouTube that brought together Muslim leaders from around the country, CVE experts, YouTube celebrities, and technical experts to explore creative ways being used by some amazing young Muslim Americans to tell their stories. Its in that telling, if done well enough, that we’ll be able to elevate authentic narratives about the lives everyday Muslims lead, and the kinds of good work they do, to counter the ugly that is online (and IRL). That ugly comes from two major sources: violent extremists who are Muslims, and anti-Muslim bigots.
Both groups are excellent at declaring, and reinforcing, that the most violent, misogynistic, anti-egalitarian interpretation of Islam is actually Islam. Which, for about 98% of Muslims, is not today nor was in the past. More on this another time, but suffice it to say the summit was a breath of fresh air, and (the dinosaur that I am) I was incredibly impressed with the creativity, boldness, and unapologetic approach that many of the young Muslims there were taking in expressing and defining themselves.
Tazzy Phe is one of the very cool, young Muslim YouTube stars I got to meet in LA. Her series is hilarious 🙂
Adnan is often on my mind, but that day was particularly so, because in the early hours before dawn I had a dream about him. I’ve only dreamt about Adnan, or anything related to him, three times in 15 years. So, when a few hours later I arrived at the YouTube space, it was both an unusual occurrence and fresh in my head. And as people approached me and asked me about him, I found myself telling them about the dream, and a few times breaking into inadvertent tears, which was not at all awkward and weird for the person who made the mistake of saying “hey, how are things going with the case?” (sorry about that, well meaning folks).
In the dream, I was sitting in a room, not sure where, but around the corner was the bathroom. I saw that the light was on in the bathroom and heard a noise. I went to explore and found a 7 or 8 year old boy in a tub full of water. The water had chilled, the boy had been put in the bath and left there, forgotten. The boy was Adnan.
He sat there, shivering and just looking at me, not sure what to do, unable to move without permission of some grownup who would come get him out of the tub. I grabbed a towel, pulled him out, wrapped him up, and led him out. And that’s where my dream ended.
I was mostly struck by the sense of him being left there, forgotten. The day before I had read the moving piece written by Ryan Ferguson, who had also been wrongfully convicted, about how it felt to hear Adnan’s story. This passage was particularly painful:
“Even more surreal, so much of how Adnan responds to his circumstances mirrors how I responded to mine. Listening to the podcast with my friend showed me just how differently we interpreted the words Adnan spoke. To me, what he said made sense. I understood the fears, the pressure, and the fact that you are told to simply sit quietly and do or say nothing. You are a pawn and your sole purpose is to try to survive while others battle for their careers, respect, and status over what amounts to little in their eyes: your life. By the time you understand that the truth, facts, and innocence or guilt don’t matter in this fight, it’s too late. You’ve faded from the world and your life is all but over.”
After that piece, and my dream, I sat through the YouTube summit realizing how much had changed since the time Adnan had faded from the world. 9/11, wars, new generations of Muslims and the new challenges facing them. He has, so far, missed all of that.
Yesterday I drove with hubby up the incredibly beautiful coast from LA to the Bay area. And again, it kept hitting me, how much Adnan has missed. I thought about my own daughter, 17 years old, and what it would mean if she was locked away for the next 16 years, or maybe the rest of her life, and how much she would miss. I couldn’t help but wonder, fearful, if Adnan would ever get to see the West coast, or anything outside of his prison, ever.
And I thought about Hae, who was also the same age as my daughter when she was killed. Tomorrow will mark 16 years since the day her family last saw her, her friends last talked toher, the last time she ever walked out of Woodlawn High School. I thought about all she was never allowed to be and see, and all that Adnan also had never experienced. I carry with me always the fear that, as we move from Serial, and post-Serial interviews with the lovely writers at the Intercept, to the case itself, we may not get another shot at this. And if we don’t succeed, Adnan may permanently fade away.
WHAT’S UP WITH NATASHA, KEN, AND THE INTERCEPT?
A whole lot of crazy, that’s what. At this point, part II of the Urick interview has yet to be published. In the interim Natasha and Ken have been clearly expressing their displeasure with their fearless, adversarial bosses, as well as people who think they did a terrible job and are not very good journalists because they don’t believe in fact checking and making corrections. They get very upset at being called out on it.
I am dedicating a post later this week to the entire fiasco, as well as a couple of new kick-ass blog posts by Colin Miller and Susan Simpson, but await Urick part II before dropping it. Stay tuned for that.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE CASE
There seems to be a lot of confusion about where we are in the actual case and what to expect. I’ve talked about it before, but another briefer here since there is a court deadline this week.
Last year Adnan lost a post-conviction appeal. His attorney filed a petition requesting that he be able to get another shot at post-conviction appeal. That petition, with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, is now awaiting a response by the State. The Court gave the DA’s office until January 14th (yes two days from now) to respond to one particular issue raised in the petition. Once the State gives it’s response, there can be further filings by Adnan or the State (amendments, briefs, etc), and at some point the court will make a decision. That could take months. Or not. Impossible to say.
On the Innocence Project end, Deirdre et all seem poised to file a petition to get the physical evidence that exists tested for DNA matches. When they decide to file is up to them, but it seems that they are getting/have gotten new information and are waiting for that to suss out a bit. This is a second legal track, not connected to the post-conviction proceedings, but also a hopeful avenue to get Adnan to a new trial or exoneration.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE FUND AND PETITION
We’ve hit a new benchmark with over $60,000 raised. Thank you so much to the people, from around the world, who have contributed to this. If you haven’t, please consider a small gift to help us get justice for him: www.launchgood.com/freeadnan .
The petition has reached nearly 20,000 signatories. If you haven’t signed, please do and share with others.
Two things I want to clarify with regard to the fund itself:
1) Not a dime goes to me or any of the Trustees. Not a dime, not a penny. We are fully and completely volunteers (and I have to say a special thanks to attorney Dennis Robinson, who stays up half the night to help with a hundred different things from fundraising to figuring out how to split up a PDF). The money never comes to me, and I have no access to it. It’s being collected for a variety of things connected to the defense of Adnan – from fees for private investigators, to attorney fees. I am an attorney, but I am not HIS attorney. So again, I do not and will not ever get a penny from the fund.
2) I’ve said in the past that I’ll be releasing trial transcripts for every $10,000 we raise. Some people want to characterize this as “selling” the documents and have had their panties in a bunch for weeks over it. Those people are idiots. I am not selling the documents, and I can guarantee no one is giving to the fund in order to get the documents. They are donating because they feel strongly that there has been a miscarriage of justice against Adnan. I can also virtually guarantee none of the people who are pissy about having to wait for the docs have ever contributed anything at all. Lastly, I guarantee that a very small fraction of Redditors have given to the fund, and most of the supporters are people who have never been on Reddit, and don’t give a hoot about it. So if you think the fund has raised this much money thanks to Reddit, you are dazed and confused.
The money would have been raised regardless of how I timed the release of documents, and will continue to come even if I stop posting any more docs, that much I know. The people who’ve already donated don’t need to see the trial transcripts, they already decided to give. Right? right. But I’m fully cognizant of two things: the time it takes to get documents redacted versus the time I actually have, and the fact that public interest wanes with time.
We need the public interest, there is no question about it. And to keep it alive, it’s necessary to release documents over time, not in one big dump. Its called strategy.
So here you go, January 28th, 1999 trial transcripts. More to be posted later this week, once the eagle has landed back home.
January 28, 1999 Part I (um, no correction: the year was 2000)
January 28, 1999 Part II (ditto above)