EvidenceProf Blog

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

Thursday, July 9, 2015

There is No Documentation for 2+ Witnesses Interviewed at the Precinct in the Adnan Syed Case

While searching through the MPIA files today in preparation for next Monday's episode of Undisclosed, I came across the following document:

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 2.43.14 PM

This seems like a pretty benign document...until you realize that there are no records of any interviews conducted at the precinct on April 1, 1999.

This is huge. Most of the interviews conducted by the State were done at Woodlawn High School, houses, and restaurants. For these interviews, officers took handwritten notes that were then converted into typewritten notes. For instance, these are the typewritten notes taken in connection with the interview of Becky at Woodlawn High School on April 9, 1999.

Conversely, when a witness was deemed especially important to the events of January 13, 1999, (s)he was taken to the precinct and interviewed. These interviews were recored, and we have word-for-word transcriptions of these interviews. I count four people who had such interviews: (1) Jenn; (2) Jay (first statementsecond statement); (3) Debbie (not so important at trial, but thought to be the last person to see Hae alive at the time); and (4) Not Her Real Name Cathy.*

Now, assuming that the above Progress Report can be trusted,** we have at least two additional witnesses who were interviewed at the precinct. Ostensibly, the State believed that these witnesses had important information about the events of January 13, 1999, recorded their statements, and created word-for-word transcriptions of those recordings. And yet, we have no documentation whatsoever showing what these witnesses said.

[Update: Susan Simpson notes that: (1) Debbie was interviewed at the precinct on March 26th, which is pretty close to April 1st, and (2) the Progress Report references "section F of this file," which lists interviews with three classmates/friends of Adnan and Hae: Debbie, Aisha, and "Ann." We know that these three witnesses were initially interviewed at school on March 2nd, with the notes from those interviews being lost. Like Debbie, were Aisha and "Ann" both re-interviewed by police? Did these interviews concern that final period A.P. Psychology class on January 13th? Or is the Progress Report referring to other unknown witnesses?]


*It's also possible that Jeff J. and Patrice were interviewed at the precinct. As we noted on the podcast, we just have the cover sheets from their March 11th interviews and nothing else.

**As with many documents in this case, this one is posdated (4/20/99 vs. 4/1/99).



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Is he saying that Vicki Walsh was present at the interviews?

It's pretty clear there were interviews because he talks about the information being contained in section F of the document.

The detective specifically talks about friends/classmates being interviewed at the precinct rather than people like Patrice.

Posted by: Pdxkat | Jul 9, 2015 12:23:28 PM

That would make sense because Vicki Wash was apparently present for several other interviews. And you're right. Jeff J. and Patrice weren't friend and classmates of Adnan or Hae.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 9, 2015 12:29:33 PM

What could this mean for the case?

Posted by: Corey | Jul 9, 2015 12:46:31 PM

If we find these witnesses and learn that they said exculpatory things, it could form the basis for a Brady violation/new trial.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 9, 2015 12:50:02 PM

From my reading, the progress report was written on 2/9/1999 @ 1400 hrs and states that interviews were conducted on 2/1/99 while at Baltimore County Woodlawn precinct (by phone or in-person?). The file copy of the report appears to have been printed on 4/20/99.

The report references section F of the file for the list of persons interviewed and copies of the Witness Statements.

Are you alleging that the prosecution failed to turn over these witness statements to the defense?

Posted by: Nine9fifty50 | Jul 9, 2015 1:32:13 PM

Which precinct was Jay, Jen, Debbie, and NHRNCathy interviewed at? Was it at Baltimore City police facilities? It looks like these April 1 interviews were done at a Baltimore County police location.

Posted by: Pdxkat | Jul 9, 2015 1:32:56 PM

I can only imagine that more questionable items found or examined will be in favor of Adnan. Which makes me wonder how much evidence was "lost" "misplaced" "disappeared" on purpose. Do you know if any untested evidence is sitting in a box somewhere waiting to be tested, or is that gone also?

Posted by: call me curious George | Jul 9, 2015 1:34:37 PM

Nine9Fifty50: 2/9/1999 @ 1400 hours is when Hae’s body was found in Leakin Park. The date of the progress report is in the bottom right corner: 4/20/99. The date of the interviews is listed in the body of the progress report: “On Thursday, 1 April 1999, this investigator….” I am alleging that this is either a terrible mistake by the State or that they failed to turn over multiple witness interviews from April 1, 1999.

Pdxkat: The Baltimore County PD was letting the Baltimore City PD use its facilities for some of the interviews.

callmecuriousGeorge: We're not sure of the status of the untested evidence at this point.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 9, 2015 1:37:52 PM

Is the prosecution required to turn over all witness interviews even if they aren't exculpatory?

Posted by: Gregbis | Jul 9, 2015 1:47:42 PM

Gregbis: They have to turn them over if they are exculpatory and/or if the witness testifies at trial. Regardless, they should be in the State's files turned over in response to the MPIA request.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 9, 2015 1:50:29 PM

Good to know. Thank you.

Posted by: Gregbis | Jul 9, 2015 1:56:53 PM

I can’t help but think this is heading down a similar path as the West Memphis 3.

The Attorney General of Arkansas even said he still believes they are guilty and committed the crimes even though no physical evidence linked them to the case, and finding DNA evidence of 2 potential suspects. He basically said it provides closure to the families if someone is paying for the crime. Although I’m not sure how keeping innocent people in jail provides any closure to anyone.

In that case it all centers around being a Satanic ritual killing because they liked heavy metal and had long hair, similar to trying to center Adnan’s case around an honor killing of some sort because of his religion and ethnic background.

If the State of Arkansas couldn’t admit any wrong doing in the case, why would it be any different for any other State? It seems like there’s so many stories and theories that it’s almost easier to keep him in jail rather than trying to make sense of it 15 years later. And after all, someone would still be paying for the crime.

Posted by: RudyTuesday | Jul 9, 2015 2:06:47 PM

Thanks for clarifying the dates. I'm having trouble following the argument in the post, though. If I understand correctly, you actually have all the interview notes for the persons identified in Section F of the index to the police file but the problem is that none of the interview notes contained in Section F mention or refer to an interview taking place on 4/1/99.

Posted by: Nine9fifty50 | Jul 9, 2015 2:10:22 PM

Will you be submitting an MPIA request for these documents? As you know, you were missing several pages from the transcripts, and SSR was able to obtain them without too much trouble. Perhaps this is a similar situation?

Posted by: Seamus Duncan | Jul 9, 2015 3:46:47 PM

Maybe it is worth trying to make another request for these documents. They might turn up just like the missing pages from the transcripts turned the other day.

Posted by: S | Jul 9, 2015 4:19:58 PM

Were these files obtained from an MPIA request that you personally made?

Posted by: theghostoftomlandery | Jul 9, 2015 4:25:32 PM

Hi Professor, Just following up a point raised by Cupcake in an earlier blog. Only 25 Comments are ever available to be read on any of your postings even when there are clearly many more. Is there any chance you can look into this as I think I might be missing some very good questions, and more importantly, some very astute answers.

Posted by: FarFarAway | Jul 9, 2015 6:39:09 PM

Who determines if information given is exculpatory?

Posted by: JTS | Jul 9, 2015 8:03:21 PM

Mr S was also interviewed at the B City headquarters.

Posted by: Louise | Jul 9, 2015 10:57:15 PM

RudyTuesday: There is a good chance that this ends up like the WM3 case, Alford plea and all.

Nine9fifty50: From Section F., we have interviews of Jenn, Jay, and Cathy. For Debbie, we have a cover sheet listing a school interview on 3/2 and the transcription of a precinct interview on 3/26. We have cover sheets for interviews with “Ann” (3/2), Aisha (3/2), Jeff J. (3/11), and Patrice (3/11), but nothing else from those interviews. We have nothing besides the Progress Report connected to interviews on 4/1.

Seamus and S: Additional MPIA requests have been made.

theghostoftomlandery: I have the files from the MPIA request made by Adnan’s attorney.

FarFarAway: It’s being looked into.

JTS: The court. Imagine that Adnan’s legal team talks to “Ann,” and she says (hypothetically), “I told the police that I walked with Hae to the parking lot because I was parked next to her and that Adnan was nowhere in site.” Adnan would file a Brady claim, and the court would determine whether this statement was sufficiently exculpatory to merit a new trial.

Louise: Good catch.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 10, 2015 3:05:53 AM

Let me ask you this question here because it's currently a topic of debate. You said last month that "everyone [Drew Davis] talked to was a potential character witness." However, we know from documents you and Simpson have released that Davis also contacted LensCrafters, the police, Jay's manager, and attempted to contact Jay himself. These people could not possibly be character witnesses for Adnan. These facts seem to contradict your assertion. Could you clarify exactly what Davis' task was?

Posted by: Seamus Duncan | Jul 10, 2015 12:14:26 PM

Seamus: After talking with Stephanie, Davis went to talk to Sis later that day. That was an unintentional omission from my prior comment. I assume that he was following up on the information given by Stephanie. I have no record of Davis trying to reach Jay before Gutierrez was hired. Davis did go to the LensCrafters but never talked to Don. I only have a record of Davis talking to an Officer Mills before he worked for Gutierrez. I'm not sure about what connection, if any, he had to the case.

So, I was a little bit too absolute in my prior statement, but the primary focus of Davis before working for Gutierrez was bail issues (600+ character letters).

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jul 10, 2015 4:15:23 PM

Colin, are you able to summarise how an MPIA request works in this instance – is it the case that a request is made for police files (whether Baltimore City or Baltimore County)? Or is the request made for prosecution files? And might these produce different results? Is it possible they could say ‘the interview with X/Y/Z wasn’t handed over because it was done by Baltimore City not County’ or something, or do they have to hand everything over? Thanks.

Posted by: Cupcake | Jul 11, 2015 3:47:12 AM

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