EvidenceProf Blog

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hae's Brother Comments on What Happened to Her Computer

Hae's brother Young has posted another comment:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 10.40.06 AM

As was the case with his prior comment, this comment gives us some valuable additional insight into the investigation.

Here's the discussion of Hae's computer on the Serial website. Here are the relevant portions of the two Progress Reports referenced in that post:

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Progress Report 1

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Progress Report 2

So, at some point on or before February 9, 1999, (1) Detective O'Shea (Baltimore County) seized Hae's computer "in hopes of retrieving information that may have been relative [sic] to his missing persons investigation;"* and (2) Detective Rau (Baltimore County Computer Crimes Unit) "served a subpoena for computer records of America On Line in reference to the victim's E-mail account."

Thereafter, on or before February 16, 1999, Detective Rau "was told to cease his investigation into the information related to the computer by his supervisor...as a result of the missing person investigation being upgraded into a Homicide case assigned to Baltimore City." On February 16, 1999, Lieutenant Keel of the Baltimore (City) Homicide Unit requested assistance from the Baltimore County Computer Crimes Unit, which led to "Detective Rau stat[ing] that he would obtain a Search and Seizure Warrant for the contents and information."

As noted by the folks at Serial

And that’s the last we hear of it. There are no more reports on the topic and nothing in the case file relating to the results of the search and seizure warrant. 

The Baltimore City Police Department told us they never had Hae’s computer in their possession. So we asked the Baltimore County Police Department where it ended up. After four months and some gentle reminders about public information laws, the County got back to us: "At this time, we have not found any additional items including the computer, records, or reports." 

Adding Young's comment to the mix, I think that everything makes sense: Baltimore City never got Hae's computer, and Baltimore County no longer has the computer because they returned it to Hae's family a couple of weeks (or so) after it was seized by Detective O'Shea. So, the computer likely would have been returned sometime in February or early March, 1999.

It is unclear whether Detective Rau ever obtained a warrant and, if so, whether that warrant was for a search of Hae's computer and/or her AOL account. There's no documentation in the MPIA files of such a warrant being obtained, and there's no documentation of information about Hae's computer/AOL account being passed along to Baltimore City. Of course, there's also no documentation about the computer being released to Hae's family.

Given the timing of the computer's return and the lack of documentation, the safest assumption seems to be that Baltimore City never received any information about Hae's computer or her AOL account.** It seems like Detective Rau and/or Lieutenant Keel would be in the best position to contradict that narrative. Assuming they can't, it seems clear that the Baltimore City police lost the opportunity to investigate a possible goldmine of information that could have pointed toward Adnan's innocence or guilt.  


*According to the folks at Serial, this was in part because "Hae wrote in her diary that she had copied parts of the diary into her computer."

**The other scenario would be that this information was received but never documented/disclosed.



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Amy: I wish I knew. All we have is the report posted on the Undisclosed website.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 17, 2015 10:15:57 AM

So, does that mean that there was only one diary?

Posted by: S | Jul 17, 2015 10:35:38 AM

S: Hae's brother said that Hae may have transcribed diary entries on her computer, but he doubts it. Serial did a post which stated that "Hae wrote in her diary that she had copied parts of the diary into her computer."

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 17, 2015 10:49:52 AM

Since Det. O'Shea seized Hae's physical computer as part of the missing person investigation, why would he need a warrant to search her computer? They copied and searched her diary, bank accounts and other personal items during this time. Couldn't Rau have copied the hard drive and/or been searching the computer and reporting to O'Shea while waiting for the subpoena of the AOL account to come in?

When it became a homicide, Rau said he was instructed to "cease" his investigation into the computer pending approval by commanders of each unit. Balt City gets the approval from the commanders for Rau to continue with the subpoena and the search of Hae's computer.

I don't see how you conclude that the computer was never searched before being returned to the family.

Posted by: Nine9fifty50 | Jul 17, 2015 11:10:58 AM

Nine9fifty50: I don't even know whether Rau had the physical computer in his possession. A for whether it was searched...I don't know. The possibilities are that (1) it was searched but never documented or disclosed; or (2) it was never searched. My guess is that (2) is correct, but I could easily see (1) being the truth.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 17, 2015 11:14:50 AM

I thought the diary was on the floppy disk..

Posted by: Danielle | Jul 17, 2015 11:16:35 AM

Danielle: I'm not going to post the entry from Hae's diary, but I think that the post on the Serial website combined with the comments we made on Undisclosed give you a pretty good sense of what it says.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 17, 2015 11:18:08 AM

My guess is the computer files did not further their narrative, and maybe even hurt it, and so they didn't disclose.

Posted by: Greta | Jul 17, 2015 11:33:18 AM

It's hard to believe that Balt. City homcide would go through the trouble of getting approval by commanders of both units; Rau says he will continue with the investigation and get the necessary warrants; and then Rau does nothing else; and Balt. City and Balt. County simply return the computer without searching it and are not interested in reviewing Hae's emails, especially given how prominent a role Hae's diary entries played in the investigation and prosecution.

Posted by: Nine9fifty50 | Jul 17, 2015 11:39:22 AM

Nine9fifty50: That could quite possibly be true. If it is, it's much worse for the State. If the computer was not searched, there was no need for documentation. If the computer was searched, there was an obligation for the State to report its findings.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 17, 2015 11:43:09 AM

Again, where is Guitterez on this? She knows everyone has a computer. Used more than cell phones at that time.

Posted by: PC | Jul 17, 2015 11:45:42 AM

I agree with Greta. Maybe some evidence to this theory will turn up.

Posted by: Sassy | Jul 17, 2015 11:54:06 AM

What about the AOL subpoena? Did they ever produce anything? Would they still be retaining records going back that far (I'm sure not for every user account, but if they responded to a subpoena their legal department probably has its own record)?

Posted by: ccatx | Jul 17, 2015 12:26:18 PM

Thanks. The note in her paper diary does still say that all diary entries from the computer should probably be in her paper diary. But I am surprised that the computer was not searched. All sorts of information could possibly have been there.

Posted by: S | Jul 17, 2015 12:45:07 PM

What we do know thanks to Hae's brother is that the computer was returned to the family.

Otherwise, we're no further than where we started: The possibilities remain (1) the computer and email account were searched but the reports are not in your file (2) the searches were never documented or disclosed; or (3) they were never searched.

Posted by: Nine9fifty50 | Jul 17, 2015 12:50:33 PM

Unrelated to this specific post, but if we think the number that the State said was Jenn's pager wasn't actually hers, has anyone asked Adnan who it might have been? Maybe I'm weird, but I'd still recognize some numberd from high school and I graduated the same year. Back then, you had to have numbers memorized because you didn't have a phone to store it in. I probably couldn't still tell off the top of my head, but might recognize a number if you showed me.

Posted by: gc | Jul 17, 2015 8:39:13 PM

Another thought... Does this number show up on the call records any other day? You'd think if it was Jenn's pager, it would only show up on this day (or perhaps another time he was with Jay later, but not very often).

Posted by: gc | Jul 17, 2015 8:54:59 PM

Or maybe if it is one of his friends, Krista might recognize it? She seems willing to help and also seems to have a pretty good memory.

Posted by: gc | Jul 17, 2015 9:34:42 PM

I agree with GC. I still remember some phone numbers from high school and even elementary school. One assumes that Jay and Jenn told the police it was her pager number so if it does not belong to her it could be that they are trying to protect a significant third party. I guess the difficulty becomes who to ask?

Posted by: Anonynon | Jul 18, 2015 5:25:32 PM

Oh, Ask Adnan. Missed that. Sorry

Posted by: Anonynon | Jul 18, 2015 5:26:27 PM

Another interesting question for Hae's brother: Where is the computer now?

Posted by: Silverlock | Jul 20, 2015 10:58:13 AM

Is Adnan's original phone/sim in existence/evidence? Are his commonly used numbers not saved on that?

Posted by: Cupcake | Jul 20, 2015 12:35:20 PM

It seems CG has already covered this territory - she cross-examined Det. McGilveary heavily on this issue on 2-18-2000 at pages 17-24. On two occasions, CG makes the point I raised that since the diary was so prominent it would make sense that missing persons and homicide would have wanted to search the computer and emails (p. 18, 21). McGilveary's response that he was not made aware of the information on the computer (p. 18) and that searching the computer and reviewing her emails was not important to him is definitely fishy (p. 21-23). He says the approvals were obtained for Det. Rowe to obtain the search warrant but they actually never did anything with the computer (p. 19).

Posted by: Nine9fifty50 | Jul 21, 2015 6:00:28 AM

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