Until Proven Guilty…


Adnan Syed during the year of his arrest.





For the last week or so I have been looking into a complex murder case that took place 18 years ago, before I was born. On January 13, 1999 a 18 year old girl went missing in her city of Baltimore Maryland, and then on February 9th of that year her body was found buried in a park nearby. That girl; Hae Lee was found to have been killed by being strangled to death by someone’s bare hands.

I find it hard to talk about this case because, firstly, it is such a horrible and gruesome topic, and secondly it isn’t my place. However, this is very popular and public murder case now because it has been covered by many news outlets as well as the well known hit podcast Serial which was released in 2014. Because of this, everybody seems to know the details of the case and everything connected to it, and obviously they also want to weigh in on every aspect of it.

I, like many other fanatics have been looking through all the details and looking at the case and conviction from all viewpoints in order to come to a conclusion on what I think is true. I still struggle with conflicting feeling because I find it hard to understand why the case was handled so oddly by the police, or why Adnan Syed  (The one who was convicted for the murder) is still in jail when there is so little evidence against him.

That’s one of the main things for me when it comes down to the ‘who done it’… Nobody, not even Adnan has enough evidence against them to be in jail for the crime. For me, everything comes down to a phrase used so often in crime shows as well as in the  courtroom within the the declaration of human rights; innocent until proven guilty.

Sarah Koenig comes to this same conclusion in her podcast Serial and shares her thoughts with audience, saying “yes, there’s a police file full of information, circumstantial information that looks bad for Adnan. But let’s put another file next to that one, side by side. In that second file let’s put all the other evidence we have linking Adnan to the actual crime, the actual killing. What do we have? What do we know? Not what do we think we know, what do we know? What have we got for that file? All we’re left with is, Jay knew where the car was. That’s it […] It’s not enough, to me, to send anyone to prison for life, never mind a seventeen-year-old kid.”. This sums up my thoughts almost exactly.

Proving that someone is innocent is different than proving someone is not guilty. To most people, that last sentence won’t make sense at first because they will not see a difference between the two, but let me explain:

If you are proving someone innocent it means that you are using facts to prove that someone did not commit the crime, but when you are proving someone to be not guilty, you are disproving the facts that make them guilty. In the end, once someone has been proven not guilty, they are seen as innocent in the eyes of the law because they are not proven guilty.

There are so many points, perspectives and ideas to cover when it comes to this case and all it’s fine details, so I am going to try and keep it simple. I am not trying to figure out or prove who did kill Hae, I am just trying to explain that the arguments used to convict Adnan did not have enough validity, so he cannot be guilty. It is my belief that Adnan is not guilty because of this, and so therefore he is innocent.

As  Susan Simpson wrote on her blog post The view from LL2 addressing the case ” the state built its case out of three main pillars: Jay’s testimony, Adnan’s cell phone records, and evidence suggesting that Adnan is the kind of person who could have killed his ex-girlfriend in a vengeful rage.”. All three of these “pillars” can be disproven when they are looked into with more detail, and that is what leaves Adnan innocent.

So without further ado, here are the ways that the three pillars proving Adnan’s guilt can be disproven:

Jay Wilds in present day.

The first main element that contributed to Adnan’s arrest was Jay Wild’s testimony. Jay was a drug dealer and was the one that sold Adnan pot and other drugs. They were considered to be friends, but definitely not close. Right after the murder was confirmed, Jay went to the police and gave a testimony. Jay’s testimony throughout the podcast changed, but in his major overview statements he says “Adnan told Jay in advance he was going to do it. He did it. They buried her.” (Koenig). Susan Simpson also writes that “in Jay’s third police statement, he gave a completely different story than he had give in his first two statements. He also mentions a lot of specific times including the time that Adnan and him went to bury Hae in Leakin park, which does not add up (but I will go into that more when I share my thoughts of the phone records). When the cops asked why he has not told the truth before, Jay “admitted that he lied on the two previous occasions to cover up the fact that he bought and sold marijuana”.

It is very hard to believe Jay’s stories or see any of them as credible, because they don’t work together and do not add up with any other interviews or testimonies other than the phone records. Jay’s testimony changes in many aspects of the story, including the reason why Adnan killed Hae, whether he planned her murder, the number of days he asked for Jays help in advance, where he killed her, if he helped bury her, whether he is threatened by Adnan after helping him hide the body ect.

There is a very impressive list of inconsistencies which do not validate any of Jay’s story and disprove the entire argument that made Adnan guilty in the first place. You cannot base a conviction on evidence and a story that is so shaky.


The phone records used to place Adnan at the burial site.

Secondly, another main element used to convict Adnan was his phone records, and they are one of the main reasons that Adnan got a retrial because the major calls that places him at the burial site have been completely dismissed.


An article by Amelia McDonell-Parry stated “The two calls used to place Syed in Leakin Park at the time when star witness Jay Wilds said they were burying Lee’s body were both incoming calls.” and in conjunction with a statement from Jon Swaine in another article says that “the cover sheet on the records faxed to Baltimore police by AT&T contained an important warning in small type. ‘Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status,’ it said. ‘Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.’ “. These statements together make the locations found by the cell towers during the time Adnan was supposedly in Leakin park unreliable in being able to pinpoint his location.

Jon Swaine says that “The state argued the cell records could be used to track Adnan’s movements and back up Wilds’ story, pointing in particular to two incoming phone calls to Adnan’s phone around 7pm that night, both of which pinged a cell tower that covered the area where the victim’s body was found.”, but other evidence shows that even if Adnan was at Leakin park at this time, it is not the time that Hae was buried.

A friend of Adnans, Rabia Chaundry who is a lawyer who has been advocating for his release for years explains in an article by the guardian that “According to the medical examiner and other forensic pathologists who have reviewed the crime scene pictures and autopsy reports, Lee’s body showed fixed frontal lividity, the phenomenon in which, after death, all the blood pools to the part of the body closest to the ground. Such lividity could only be present if, after being killed, Lee was left in a face down position, stretched out, for between eight and 10 hours. When Lee’s body was found in Leakin Park, Baltimore, it was twisted and resting mostly on her right side.”. These details prove that the body had to sit somewhere face down for eight to ten hours to create this phenomenon before it was found. Adnan could not having been burying the body at 7:00 at night and have this effect happen the way it did. I think it is safe to say that the phone records have been proven to be unreliable and therefore not a piece of evidence that can be used to prove Adnan is guilty.

The third “pillar of this case is a judgment call on Adnan’s character, which I think can easily be dismissed as proper evidence. This type of evidence is to biased and unreliable to be used in a case like this because “This category include evidence based on witness’s perceptions of an individual’s behavior or character, when that perception had been informed by the perceiver’s knowledge of that individual’s possible involvement in a crime.” (Susan Simpson). All the people asked about Adnan’s character already knew about the crime and his possible involvement or knew he had been arrested. They did not have a straight forward or unbiased opinion and view of Adnan because they had the knowledge that he was possibly involved in the crime. The only thing that the state should be worrying about in regards to Adnan’s motive or character is whether he had committed any crimes like this before; killing someone he has romantic interest in, because that is all that is relevant or backs the points up clearly. This is obviously an unreliable source that cannot be used to convict someone.

Overall, I do not thing that Adnan can be proven guilty because none of the sources used to accuse him are solid and they are all able to be disproven. For such a detailed and complex case, it is an injustice that Adnan was able to be arrested and convicted based on so little. I cannot take these few pieces of evidence that are so unreliable and ever-changing and  accept that they can be use them to convict a man to life plus another thirty years. Adnan is innocent until someone can come up with reliable strong evidence to prove that he killed Hae Lee. Adnan is innocent Until Proven Guilty.

Sarah Koenig (centre) and the rest of the podcast crew.

Works Cited

Chaudry, Rabia. “Adnan Syed is innocent. Now find Hae Min Lee’s real killer | Rabia Chaudry.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 July 2016. Web. 28 July 2017.

Koenig, Sarah. “Season One.” Serial. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 July 2017

McDonell-Parry, Amelia. “‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed: 4 Key Pieces of Evidence.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 01 July 2016. Web. 28 July 2017.

Simpson, Susan. “Serial: An Examination of the Prosecution’s Evidence Against Adnan Syed.” The View From LL2. N.p., 04 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 July 2017.

Swaine, Jon. “Serial’s Adnan Syed: doubts over cellphone evidence central to retrial.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 01 July 2016. Web. 28 July 2017.




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