EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Legal Companion to the Serial Podcast

Over the past couple of months, I've posted 32 entries about the about Sarah Koenig's Serial Podcast, which deals with the 1999 prosecution of 17 year-old Adnan Syed for murdering his ex-girlfriend, 18 year-old Hae Min Lee, on January 13, 1999. The purpose of these posts was to create a legal companion to the podcast so that listeners interested in the legal issues raised by the podcast would have some answers. This post collects and categorizes each of those posts.

Before getting to my compendium of posts, I would like to restate the limitations of this project. Each of my posts is reliant on publicly available sources: the Serial Podcast itself, the Brief of Appellee (the government's appellate brief), the Brief of Appellant (Adnan's appellate brief), the timeline of Adnan's case and appeals from a Maryland Judiciary Case search, and interviews, transcripts, and notes posted on Split The Moon (the blog maintained by Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and the sister of Adnan's best friend).

This creates a few issues. First, there could be errors in some of these documents. For instance, many have claimed that there are errors in the appellate briefs. Second, I only have access to certain interviews, transcripts, and notes presented on the Serial Podcast and Split The Moon. Moreover, I sometimes only have snippets of these interviews, transcripts, and notes. If and when the full trial transcripts become available, certain statements might be put in different contexts/lights, and other evidence might emerge that changes my opinions regarding guilt and innocence. Third, because of some gaps in evidence, I sometimes have to make certain assumptions, such as the assumptions about what happened when Jay questioned his plea deal and went before Judge McCurdy. These opinions are, of course, simply opinions and not statements of fact.

So, having laid out those caveats, here is my legal companion to the Serial Podcast.

Legal Companion to the Serial Podcast


Episode 1: "The Albi" 

The Serial Podcast, Episode 1: Did Adnan Receive the Ineffective Assistance of Counsel? 


Episode 2: "The Breakup"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 2: Did the Prosecution Properly Admit Evidence of Adnan's Religion & EMT Training?

The Serial Podcast & the Admission of Hae Min Lee's 62 Page Diary at Adnan Syed's Murder Trial (written before listening to the podcasts, but deals with the diary mentioned in episode 2)

The Serial Podcast, Take 2: The Erroneous Admission of Hae Min Lee's Letter About Adnan Syed's State of Mind (written before listening to the podcasts, but deals with the letter mentioned in episode 2)


Episode 3: "Leakin Park"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 3: Evidentiary Issues Related to Mr. S's Indecent Exposure(s) & Failed Polygraph


Episode 4: "Inconsistencies"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 4: How the Defense Could Have Used Jay's Police Statements at Trial


Episode 5: "Route Talk"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 5: The Admissibility & Discoverability of the Cell Tower Evidence


Episode 6: "The Case Against Adnan Syed"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 6: What Defense Counsel Could Have & Should Have Done With The Nisha Call

The Serial Podcast, Take 3: The Notes on the Back of Hae Min Lee's Letter (written before listening to the podcasts, but deals with the notes mentioned in episode 6)


Episode 7: "The Opposite of Prosecution"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 7: Analyzing Maryland's DNA Law & Its Application to Adnan's Case


Episode 8: "The Deal With Jay"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 8: Bad Interrogations & Bad Evidence


Episode 9: "To Be Suspected"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 9: How the Defense Could Have & Should Have Destroyed the Prosecution During Closing


Episode 10: "The Best Defense is a Good Defense"

The Serial Podcast, Take 4: Did the Prosecution Violate the Brady Doctrine in Connection With Jay's Plea Deal? (written before listening to the podcasts)

The Serial Podcast, Episode 10: The Supreme Court's Framework for Prosecution Witness Plea Bargains 

The Serial Podcast, Episode 10: Was There Prosecutorial Misconduct With Jay's Plea Deal?


Episode 11: "Rumors"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 11: Premeditation & Manual Strangulation in Maryland


Episode 12: "What We Know"

The Serial Podcast, Episode 12 Preview: I Know Exactly What the Jury Found Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The Serial Podcast, Episode 12: My Most Logical Scenarios for the Death of Hae Min Lee



The Serial Podcast: A Timeline of Adnan's Trials and Appeals & My Best Guess at the Current Status of His Case

The Serial Podcast: My Interview With Vox.Com & More on Adnan's Chances of Success on Appeal

The Serial Podcast, Followup: Todd Berger on Adnan's Chance of Success on Appeal

The Serial Podcast, Followup: The Nisha Call -- The Most Important Evidence of Adnan's...Innocence?

The Serial Podcast, Coda: The Death of the Prosecution's Case

The Serial Podcast: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in the Aggregate vs. Single Issue IAC 

The Serial Podcast, Transcripts: The 2:36 Best Buy Call Was in the Opening Statement at the 1st Trial!

The Serial Podcast: The Possible Legal Implications of Jay's Interview for Jay & Adnan

 •The Serial Podcast: What If Neither of Them Did It? Maryland's New DNA Standard

The Serial Podcast, Transcripts: The Judge's Denial of a Motion for Jurors to Visit the Best Buy

The Serial Podcast: The Possible Legal Implications of Kevin Urick's Interview for Adnan

The Serial Podcast: What I Think Adnan's Attorney Told Him About Asia & How it Could Lead to a New Trial

The Serial Podcast, Final Post: Why I'm Now Convinced That Adnan Will Get a New Trial

The Serial Podcast, One Last Thing: Reassessing Adnan's Shot at a New Trial Based on Asia McClain 



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Rabia recently stated that an amendment to the appeal will be filed soon. She seemed pretty excited about it. Any thoughts on what that may address?

Posted by: ISpankEm | Dec 22, 2014 9:57:51 PM

In the 12th episode, Sarah Koenig noted how Adnan's attorney is still trying to get the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to hear the argument about failing to contact Asia. And then there's the DNA testing by the UVA Innocence Project. I don't know if there's anything else.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Dec 23, 2014 5:24:55 AM

Sorry - I should have been more specific. She starts talking about it around 34:25 on that video. Apparently, it's somewhat new, & she says she thinks it will be "really interesting to people." Her mood turned decidedly upbeat, so I'm assuming she must be pretty hopeful.

Posted by: ISpankEm | Dec 23, 2014 5:56:23 PM

I just listened to it. I think she's referring to what was mentioned in the 12th episode: Adnan's counsel trying to get the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland to consider whether failure to contact Asia McClain was IAC. At this point, I don't see how Adnan could anything new to his motion for leave to appeal. But, of course, I don't have any intimate knowledge of what's going on.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Dec 24, 2014 4:51:28 AM

Thank you so much for this insightful read. Like a lot of Serial listeners I went searching for supplemental information, but I've found most blogs, articles, and podcasts to be lacking in further or insightful info. And Reddit is nearly unreadable for all its trolls and want-to-be "super sleuths". I just wanted to let you know that I read every word from this blog about Serial and I would love anything more. I've even ventured into other posts here regarding other cases. Just wanted to, again, give you a hearty thank you.

Posted by: BeOhBe | Dec 24, 2014 1:53:30 PM

I totally agree with BeOhBe, keep it coming.

Posted by: Bethany Tully | Jan 11, 2015 8:47:45 PM

In which article did you include information about overturned convictions involving cases investigated by officers working Hae's case?

Posted by: Kim | Aug 2, 2015 2:19:39 PM

What is the normal timeframe for this request from the court f special appeals? Since I am not an attorney, I don't really know how long these things can take.....
Thanks for a fascinating blog!

Posted by: Laurie Rosenthal | Sep 30, 2015 6:26:28 PM

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