Monday, April 20, 2015
Today, we released the Addendum to the first episode of the Undisclosed Podcast. The Addendum deals with a pretty essential part of the prosecution's narrative presented at the trial of Adnan Syed for murdering Hae Min Lee on January 13, 1999. You can tell just how essential this part was by looking at this portion of the prosecution's closing argument:
This portion of the closing argument deals with the trip by Adnan and Jay to Cathy's* apartment, and you can see how it was an integral part of the prosecution's case. The prosecution used the trip to Cathy's apartment to prove that: (1) Adnan was apprehensive about talking to the cops on the day that Hae disappeared in a way that concerned Cathy; (2) after talking to Officer Adcock, Adnan jumped up and left Cathy's apartment in a hurry with Jay; and (3) Adnan expedited his plan to "get rid of the body," explaining a burial in the 7:00 P.M. hour that otherwise made little sense.
The purpose of this post is to go into further detail about two parts of the Addendum:
Was Cathy's Conference the Conference on January 22, 1999?
Let's start with what we know about Cathy. First, in January 1999, she had an internship at a residential group home for adolescent boys.
Second, Cathy remembers that, on the night that Jay and Adnan came over to her apartment, she had been at a conference at the University of Maryland at Baltimore from around 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Third, Cathy remembers this conference being a mandatory part of her internship, and she recalls it taking place at the School of Social Work.
Let's now look at the School of Social Work calendar for the University of Maryland at Baltimore for December 1998/January 1999
We've posited the January 22, 1999 workshop as a good candidate for the conference that Cathy had to attend. The times line up pretty well. The subject matter of the workshop aligns with the subject matter of her internship. The whole thing makes a lot of sense. It would be like a pre-law college student interning at an employment law firm and being told to attend a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) on employment law at a local law school.
Now, could Cathy have been attending another conference at the School of Social Work on January 13th that wasn't listed in the above calendar? It's always a possibility, but an all day conference is a pretty significant thing, and nobody has been able to find documentation for such a conference. Moreover, in my role as Associate Dean, I deal a lot with planning conferences, and a one day conference in the middle of the week (January 13th was a Wednesday) is pretty rare.
Alternately, could Cathy be right about seeing Adnan and Jay on January 13th but wrong about the conference occurring on January 13th? Again, it's a possibility, but Cathy remembers Adnan and Jay coming over shortly after she got back from the conference. The two events seem pretty inextricably intertwined.
The bottom line for me is that I'm open to the possibility that Cathy attended some conference on January 13, 1999, but I feel fairly convinced at this point that she's referring to the conference on January, 22, 1999. We'll see what new information comes in, which is the benefit of this new podcast: It's already leading to new information.
What Could Defense Counsel Have Done With This Information at Trial?
I discussed this a bit on the Addendum. In its opening statement (pages 108-109), the prosecution includes the trip to Cathy's apartment as a pretty essential part of its narrative. Then, Jay, who has given many inconsistent statements, testifies about the trip to Cathy's apartment as part of his "honest" testimony at trial. Finally, Cathy gives corroborative testimony about that trip.
If we're right about the conference actually taking place on January 22nd, defense counsel could have sat back at trial and allowed all of this unfold. Then, after Cathy testified about the trip to her apartment, defense counsel could have asked asked her on cross-examination whether the conference she attended was "Social Interventions With Traumatized Children." If Cathy answered in the affirmative, defense counsel could have introduced the calendar (and possibly other evidence) showing that the conference was on January 22nd, not January 13th. And with that, Cathy's testimony would have gone up in smoke.
Defense counsel could then have re-called Jay and presented him with the same information. Jay would then either (1) stick by his prior testimony, which now conflicts with Cathy's testimony; (2) admit that he was lying or mistaken and offer some alternate explanation of what Adnan and he were doing in the 6:00 hour; or (3) admit that he was lying or mistaken and have no alternate explanation about what Adnan and he were doing in the 6:00 hour.
As I noted on the Addendum, this would have been a fairly effective form of impeachment called contradiction by other evidence. It involves calling into question the credibility of witnesses and their narrative based upon producing evidence that renders their testimony impossible. As I also noted on the Addendum, I doubt that such impeachment alone would have led to a "not guilty" verdict, but, if combined with other evidence, such as the lividity evidence, it easily could have been been part of the basis for establishing reasonable doubt.
[Update: By the way, for those wondering, Judge Judy aired every weekday at 6:00 P.M. and 7:00 P.M. in 1999.].
*Not her real name.