Wednesday, October 25, 2017
A reader/listener e-mailed me recently to ask about the implications of various permutations of Debbie's police statements/testimony in the Adnan Syed case. You might recall that Debbie gave three police statements and testified at both of Adnan's trials:
Police Statement to Detective O'Shea: On January 28, 1999, Debbie said that she saw Hae at school at approximately 3:00 P.M. on January 13th and that "Hae told Debbie she was going to see Donald at the mall."
Police Statement to Detectives MacGillivary and O'Shea: On March 2, 1999, Debbie went to the police station for a recorded interview. The State has only been able to locate the cover sheet for this interview.
Police Statement to Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary: On March 26, 1999, Debbie said that
(1) she saw Adnan outside the guidance counselor's office at about 2:45 P.M. on January 13th; Adnan had his "track stuff with him, his gym bag," and they talked about school and Adnan "going to practice;"
(2) she saw Hae and their classmate "Takera" between 2:45 and 3:15 P.M., with "Takera" (and no one else that Debbie can remember) asking Hae for a ride and Hae responding that "she couldn't because she had to pick up her cousins after school, and she had to meet them about 3 O'CLOCK, so she didn't have time;"
Trial #1 Testimony: At Adnan's first trial, Debbie testified on December 13, 1999 that she remembered telling the detectives that she saw Adnan outside the guidance counselor's office on January 13th. She was not asked about seeing Hae after school on January 13th.
Trial #2 Testimony: At Adnan's second trial, Debbie testified on February 16-17, 2000 that she saw Hae at about 3:00 P.M. on January 13th, with Hae telling her that she was going to see Don at the mall. Debbie was not asked about "Takera" and testified that she did not recall telling detectives that she saw Adnan outside the guidance counselor's office on January 13th.
The reader/listener's question was about the implications of various permutations of these statements. So, let's look at the four likeliest permutations and their implications.
1. Debbie was right about seeing Adnan and wrong about seeing Hae on January 13th
This is essentially what you would have heard if you were a juror at trial #1 where, again, Debbie testified about saying she saw Adnan at the guidance counselor's office but didn't testify about seeing Hae. This permutation pretty clearly helps Adnan. In both her police statement and at trial, Becky consistently says that she saw Hae soon after the end of school, with Hae saying that she had to leave right away because something came up and/or she had somewhere else to be.* Inez Butler also says she saw Hae leaving school in a hurry both in her police statement(s) and at trial, although we have some reason to question whether she's remembering the right day.
Simply put, if Hae left school between, say, 2:20 and 2:30 P.M., Adnan being outside the guidance counselor's office at 2:45 P.M. is a pretty rock solid alibi. Further, if you believe Asia, Adnan could have headed to the guidance counselor's office right after seeing Asia from 2:20ish-2:40ish, and, if you don't believe Asia, this could have been Adnan's true alibi.
2. Debbie was right about seeing Hae and wrong about seeing Adnan on January 13th
This is essentially what you would have heard if you were a juror at trial #2, but with one missing detail: Defense counsel never asked Debbie about "Takera." This is pretty surprising because it is the "Takera" portion of the statement that seems the most exculpatory. It shows that another student asked Hae for a ride right around the time that Hae would have needed to go directly to pick up her cousin at Campfield, with Hae accordingly saying she didn't have time to give her a ride.
This statement makes it pretty unlikely that after this conversation, Hae would have agreed to give Adnan a ride; after all, as she told "Takera," she didn't have time to give a ride. So, to believe Adnan is guilty, you have to think that he somehow convinced a time-pressed Hae to give him a ride or otherwise forced his way into her car. Unfortunately, the jury never heard this part of the story at trial.
3. Debbie was right about seeing both Adnan and Hae on January 13th
For all of the reasons given in permutation #2, the portion about Debbie seeing Hae and "Takera" at 3:00ish is still pretty helpful for Adnan because it makes it seem like Hae had no time to give anyone a ride. Of course, unlike in permutation #1, Debbie is no longer an alibi for Adnan because Hae is no longer leaving school before 2:45 P.M.
But I would still say that Debbie's testimony about seeing Adnan outside the guidance counselor's office is pretty helpful for Adnan. After all, Debbie says that she saw Adnan with his gym bag and track stuff and talked with him about going to track practice. If Adnan was planning to get a ride from Hae (and kill her), why would Adnan already have his gym bag and track stuff? Under this scenario, Adnan would have to bring his track bag and gym stuff into Hae's car, take the bag and stuff out of her car when he ditches it, and then make sure that he has the bag and stuff when Jay drops him back at school.
This seems like not only a big inconvenience but also risky in the sense that the bag and stuff could easily leave physical evidence in Hae's car. I could only really see it making sense if Adnan were trying to make a quick change before track practice, but Jay never says that Adnan changed into his track clothes before he dropped Adnan off at school.
Simply put, Debbie's description with Adnan makes it seem pretty likely that he remained on campus until the start of track practice.
4. Debbie was wrong about seeing both Adnan and Hae on January 13th
This permutation is helpful for Adnan based on other evidence. Sarah Koenig questioned the State's "dead by 2:36 P.M." timeline based upon Debbie and Summer, who recalled talking to Hae on the day of the Randallstown wrestling match. Given that the Randallstown wrestling match was on January 5th, it's pretty clear that she has the wrong day. That leaves only Debbie to disrupt the narrative that Hae left Woodlawn soon after the end of school. If Debbie has the wrong day, by far the likeliest scenario is that Hae did in fact leave Woodlawn soon after school ended (2;20ish to 2:30), likely because something came up and she had somewhere else to be before picking up her cousin.
At the reopened PCR proceeding, of course, Asia McClain testified that she saw Adnan at the Woodlawn Public Library until about 2:40 P.M., and Judge Welch found her testimony to be credible. Therefore, removing Debbie from the timeline entirely doesn't help Adnan in and of itself, but it removes the main question mark about whether Hae left Woodlawn soon after the end of school and strengthens Adnan's alibi defense.
*In her police statement, Becky says that Adnan was part of this conversation, but she doesn't mention him at trial.