Keonig (VO): From This American Life and WBEZ Chicago, it’s Serial, one story told week by week. I’m Sarah Keonig. This week on Serial, I had a bit of a surprise. During one of my scheduled calls with Adnan Syed, who’s currently serving life in prison accused of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, Adnan told me he had something important to say. He said he was tired of lying, and that he wanted all of this to be over. He said that it was important he come clean, and that I be the first to know. And then, this.
Keonig (on tape): What is it you want to tell me, Adnan?
Syed (on phone, on tape): I did it. I committed the murder and I’ve been lying this whole time.
Koenig (on tape): Wait. What? What did you just say?
Syed (on phone, on tape): I did it. Me.
Koenig (VO): As you can imagine, I was taken aback. Here was Adnan, saying clearly to me that he was the one that murdered Hae. Finally, after all of this time, the answer was there in front of me. After all of my pouring over tapes and documents, after all of my investigations, here was Adnan clearly admitting that he’d been the killer all along. It looked like the case was closed.
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Koenig (VO): One thing bothered me, though. Why would Adnan say that? When a killer is caught in his lies, he admits his crimes, sure, but Adnan just didn’t seem like a killer to me. Even though he was finally admitting the thing I’d been looking for all along, something still struck me as strange. I went to talk to Rabia Chaudry, the lawyer who originally told me about the case, and she voiced some of the same things I was thinking.
Chaudry (VO): It’s strange, right? Adnan was just 18 years old, practically the quarterback of the football team, and the prom king, and now he’s in prison for life! And now you tell me he’s admitting that he committed murder? It just doesn’t make sense, does it? I mean, maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m not looking at this right, but that doesn’t make sense!
Koenig (VO): She was right. It just didn’t add up. Now, we did some fact-checking, and it turns out that Adnan’s school never actually had a football team back in 1999, and he wasn’t really the prom king at all, but otherwise, Rabia was completely right. Adnan was just 18 years old a few decades ago when he was in his late teens. And even though he was clearly telling me that he did it, I just couldn’t believe it. There had to be more. Take Josh, for example. He’s a kid that I interviewed at a high school near me, to try and get some insight into how high schoolers think. We chatted on the playground, and you can hear school letting out in the background on this tape.
Josh (on tape): I don’t know — I haven’t done much more than go to elementary school and then high school. I’m only 18. I’m going to college next year, though!
Koenig (VO): Josh is just a typical kid — he’s got a steady girlfriend, he plays lacrosse, and he works part time at a local supermarket. I asked Josh, straight out, if he would ever murder someone.
Josh (on tape): What, murder someone? No! Are you crazy? No way! No!
Koenig (VO): See? Josh is a normal high school kid, just like Adnan. And he would never murder anyone! Adnan’s got a pile of evidence and testimony against him, all put together by talented and professional cops and evaluated by dedicated prosecutors. His case has gone through multiple appeals, and he’s still locked away. Clearly, the justice system has done its job here and found and punished someone who committed a very heinous crime. Adnan even admitted as much to me. But then again — what if he hadn’t?
Josh (on tape): I mean, if I had grown up in a very repressed family, constantly lived a double life hanging with drug dealers while trying to also be a religious person, and recently been broken up with by the person I believed to be my one and only love, then yeah, maybe I might think about doing something really stupid. But even if I did, I’d probably end up telling someone and getting caught anyway, and they’d put me in jail for life, right?
Koenig (VO): Even though Adnan has now admitted to me that he’s the killer, I’m going to continue my search. Surely there’s a truth here that I need to find. I tried to talk a Mr. Jack Wilkins, who was the corrections officer that checked Adnan into prison when he first arrived. Wilkins requested that I not mention his name or share his story, so I’m going to respect his privacy. Still, while we were talking on the phone, he told me something that Adnan said when he first entered jail. Adnan claimed, as a new inmate to prison, that he was innocent and didn’t belong there. Mr. Wilkins, whose last name I am not going to mention here for reasons of propriety, said that quite a few prisoners apparently claim innocence while in jail, especially when they first get there. Wilkins, who asked not to be interviewed for this podcast, said, and I quote, that “most of them believe they’ve been wronged by the system somehow.”
Koenig (VO): Compare that Adnan from twenty years ago, then, to the Adnan that spoke to me during our call this past week.
Syed (on tape): Seriously, I did it. Why are you still doing this? Are you even listening to me?
Koenig (VO): I was listening to him, but what I heard just didn’t register, in that way that sometimes you can’t hear something you’re not interested in hearing, you know? So how do I un-reconcile a clear-cut case and try to string out a set of trumped-up doubts over twelve episodes of a podcast? Find out next week, on Serial.
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Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2014 at 2:28 am. Filed under general.