EvidenceProf Blog

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

Friday, January 1, 2016

More Information About Hae Possibly Coming From Drama Tryouts on January 13th

In an entry last week, I posted about how Hae could have been coming from Drama when Becky saw her tell Adnan that she couldn't give him a ride because something had come up and she had "something else" to do. In a comment to that post, a reader asked whether Hae would have had time to make it to Drama after class ended (about 2:15 P.M.) and before Becky saw her (about 2:20 P.M.). In response to that comment, the same former Woodlawn student sent me the following:

Reading the comments on that post, I can clarify that the psychology class was in the 3rd floor pretty close to the stairwell by the gym. Just past the gym is the auditorium. It wouldn't have taken more than about 2 minutes to get from A to B. I had time to leave my last class and drive to Wendy's and back and get to drama before 2:30. Woodlawn was pretty small back then. They've added to it a lot since I graduated. 

This response is interesting for two reasons. First, it makes it seem like Hae indeed could have gone to Drama tryouts before Becky saw her. Second, it seemed to imply that students could drive away from Woodlawn before the bus loop cleared, which would be contrary to what Sarah Koenig found during her drive test in Episode 5 of Serial. I asked the former Woodlawn student for clarification on this point, and she responded:

If you left class without staying to listen to the announcements, you could get out before the buses. Some teachers were more lenient than others, especially those who taught the magnet students. They knew most of us were involved with after school teams and clubs. After school, students were allowed to park in the front lot right by the gym/auditorium. I know they have since built a football stadium on the back side of the school. And I think a whole new building of classrooms. I haven't been back to visit the school, but I've driven past it a few times.

So, it turns out that this is more of a footnote than a contradiction. Here's Sarah Koenig describing her drive test in Episode 5:

So here we go. We’re at Woodlawn High School, Wednesday afternoon. After school announcements....Okay then, last bell. More than a thousand students fill the halls just like Adnan described in his letter. We figure Hae gets in her car quickly. She’s in a hurry. Okay. It is now 2:17. The bell rang at exactly 2:15, say the fastest she could have gotten to her car is two minutes. So that’s giving the State the benefit of the doubt, right? If she’s really hustling, maybe she can get to her car in say two minutes? Remember her friend Debbie Warren said that Hae had told her right after school that she was in a rush to see her new boyfriend Don at the mall.*

Basically, then, if you left before the school announcements, you could get out of Woodlawn before the bus loop cleared; if you left after the school announcements, as Hae seemed to do on January 13th,** you had to wait for the bus loop to clear.

Anyway, none of this is game changing information, but I think it provides some really important context to the Woodlawn schedule and what could have happened on January 13, 1999. Happy New Year.


*Is this another case of Sarah getting facts wrong regarding Debbie, or did Debbie actually say at some point that Hae told her right after school that she was in a rush to see Don? As far as I can tell, Debbie said this happened at 3:00 P.M., well after school ended at 2:15 P.M. Could this be a case of Sarah concluding (or Debbie telling her) that this was in fact right after school based upon this type of thinking?

**I'm basing this on the statements made by Aisha and Becky.




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Colin--I find it just incredible that Debbie would forget her testimony just two months later. This makes no sense. I know I would not forget my testimony because it would have been very memorable, no? It must have been burned into her brain. Was Debbie the one who had a 7-hour conversation with Don? That has always hit my "wrong" button. You don't have 7-hour conversations unless something else is going on. She had to have some motive for not remembering/changing her story. Ugh...so frustrating! Thanks -- @MysticalSusan

Posted by: Susan | Jan 1, 2016 4:17:06 PM

I also thought that long of a conversation was weird

Posted by: Megan Pawlak | Jan 2, 2016 7:06:39 AM

I really appreciate the contribution of the former Woodlawn student. The fact that the police never fully investigated Haes day is so disheartening. It's as if she didn't really matter. All that mattered to the police was nailing a conviction of Adnan and closing the case. Who cared if the real killer was found?

I have a request to any former Woodlawn high school students. If you were involved in drama or theater productions at the school in 1997 & 1998 and have scrapbooks or information about the theater program from that time period, would you make that information available to the undisclosed investigators?

I have the same request to students (or parents of students) involved in the school's wrestling program. Do you have team schedules, meet results, scrapbooks saved about the 1998 Woodlawn Warriors wrestling team? There may be information contained in your saved scrapbooks that would be useful to the defense.

Please come forward and help find Haes real killer.

Posted by: CGfromAustin | Jan 2, 2016 9:01:14 AM

This is about a relatively minor detail from Undisclosed... To me, the fracture examination of the windshield wiper lever doesn’t prove or disprove anything, so I worry it could be misinterpreted as a red herring. If it were broken, it probably would have been replaced entirely, not glued or melded back together. I don’t have any specialized knowledge about cars, so maybe I’m wrong. I assume a lot of other car owners are having the same thought process as me though, which is that every time something goes wrong with my car, they have to replace it. They almost never FIX anything. So whether or not a lever in Hae’s car was really broken, it seems unlikely that there would have been evidence of a fracture by the time was analyzed. I don’t really understand why there's so much discussion about the windshield wiper analysis and each time it comes up, all it does is reinforce how meaningless I think it is.

On the other hand, if one of the levers were broken and replaced, I would think it would show up on a receipt. Even if the repair shop didn’t itemize every single little thing, they probably would have priced out new parts. Was there ever an attempt to get a receipt or records from the repair shop before the trial (or more recently)? If the receipt didn’t show that any that any parts were replaced or if it showed that it was definitively the lever on the left side, that would be a lot more convincing to me than the fracture analysis.

*I hope it's not a faux pas that this isn't related to today's blog post.

Posted by: MT | Jan 3, 2016 5:54:25 PM

MT: the wiper lever was examined by forensics pretty immediately after the car was found (so no time for it to be replaced) - and no fractures in the plastic were found – thus no evidence it was broken from this inspection. The issue for undisclosed is that the video shown in court, purportedly showing evidence of a dangling (rather than broken) lever was made a long time after the car was found/released back to Hae’s family - and this 'damage' could have happened in the interim (e.g. whilst at the body shop/being repaired. Thus there is no uncompromised evidence that the lever was broken – and the video evidence of such shouldn't have been presented at trial (thus it couldn’t have corroborated Jay’s story in this respect). There is evidence, however, that the ignition collar was replaced - as shown by photos immediately afterwards where it was absent (on finding the car) versus in the video, where it was present, adding weight to the possibility the lever could have been damaged/unclipped whilst being repaired. At the end of the day, the issue is whether the jury were misled as to whether Jay’s story was corroborated – which they probably were = more evidence of an unfair trial.

Posted by: Cupcake | Jan 4, 2016 2:06:27 AM

MT & Cupcake: I suspect we're all probably in the same boat. The fracture analysis showed no broken edges. The ignition collar was missing. The video was taken after the car had been released to a private body shop for over a week. It's possible that the lever corroborates Jay's story to some extent, corroborates the claim of police corruption, or corroborates neither. There are just too many gaps there to prove anything meaningful one way or the other.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Jan 4, 2016 6:46:01 AM

Pardon me for asking, but where are you going with this? As well as the fact that a <5 minute drama tryout is both bizarre and logistically very tricky, I don't see what bearing it has on what happened to Hae after she got in her car.

Posted by: BonaFide | Jan 4, 2016 8:22:48 AM


Nobody is suggesting that Hae was trying out for drama. The "five-minute drama tryout" is a bit of a red herring.

What is possible and what should be investigated is to find out whether or not Hae dropped by the area where drama tryouts were going on to determine if she spoke to or was was seen by any other students. It's possible that one of these other students may remember something Hae said about what she intended to do immediately after school.

The police did not do a full investigation of Haes movements on the day she disappeared. And police appear to have suppressed Takera's statement that Hae turned down Taker's request for a ride.

Posted by: CLarence | Jan 4, 2016 9:39:28 AM

Cupcake, thanks. Based on your reply and Colin's, it sounds like I conflated the the fracture analysis with the video. I thought the fracture analysis didn't happen until the car was already in the shop. In that case, wouldn't they have been able to see if it were broken? Because if there wasn't a visible crack, my thought would have been that it was either never broken or it was replaced by whoever had her car before the cops found it. I just can't imagine that anyone would have been interested in/capable of fixing that lever. I know it's a minor detail. I don't know why it kept catching my attention.

Posted by: MT | Jan 5, 2016 12:06:02 AM

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