Sunday, May 31, 2015
Adding Context to the Allegation That Gutierrez Wouldn't Talk to 5 Witnesses for the Adnan Syed Trial
On the last two days, I've posted entries about (1) the judge at Adnan Syed's trial being disturbed by the "accusations that Ms. Gutierrez [Adnan's attorney] wouldn't talk to people;" and (2) the accusation that Gutierrez wouldn't talk to five witnesses subpoenaed by both the prosecution and defense. After digging through the defense files, I feel pretty certain that I've found one of these witnesses, and the correspondence about her gives some useful context to the allegations against Gutierrez.
Hae Min Lee served as a teacher's aide for Hope Schab, who also served as a bit of an emissary between the police and the students at Woodlawn High School. She was initially interviewed by the police on February 1, 1999 and was later called as a prosecution witness at Adnan's first and second trials. In addition to being subpoenaed by the prosecution, she was also subpoenaed by the defense. Here is a defense memo about Ms. Schab's subsequent attempt to get in contact with Gutierrez:
So, here we have a witness who is described to Gutierrez as "really pleasant," supporting the proposition that Adnan and Hae were still friends, and simply wanting to know more information so that she can make teaching arrangements. As a simple matter of human and civic decency, you would expect that Gutierrez would want to have the relevant information* provided to this person; as someone who was going to interrogate this seemingly neutral witness, Gutierrez also wouldn't have wanted to make Ms. Schab angry at her and her client.
And yet, it seems clear that no one on Gutierrez's team ever gave this information to Ms. Schab. Moreover, it seems clear that nobody on Gutierrez's team had talked with Ms. Schab about what she knew as late as a week before Adnan's first trial, which commenced on December 9, 1999. Instead, the only information that the defense team seems to have consists of the statements contained in Ms. Schab's police interview.
I've had some readers shocked at the allegation that Gutierrez refused to talk to five witnesses while other readers have speculated that the failure to talk to them could have been a trial tactic used against witnesses clearly hostile to Adnan's cause. At least in the case of Ms. Schab, Gutierrez's failure seems to be an error of omission rather than an error of commission.
*This likely would have consisted of a two minute phone call explaining that the defense would only be calling her if the prosecution didn't call her. Of course, given that the defense clearly wanted her to testify, there might have been a longer conversation going over what Ms. Schab knew. Instead, it seems as if the defense relied upon the State's investigation.