EvidenceProf Blog

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Deep Dive Into Jay's Five Competing Stories About Track Practice

Two days before the deadline for the filing of the defense's appellate brief in the Adnan Syed case, I thought I'd take a look back at one of the most significant parts of the case: track practice. Simply put, if Adnan was on time for track practice, it's really hard to imagine a scenario where Adnan is guilty. Conversely, if Adnan was (very) late to track practice, it's really hard to imagine a scenario where Adnan is innocent. In this post, I will list the five different versions of track practice that Jay gave, followed by some conclusions:

Jay's First Recorded Interview, 2/28/99

After Jay and Adnan go to the Cliffs at Patapsco State Park, Jay drives Adnan back to Woodlawn High School while the sun was going down, at around 4:30 P.M.:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.27.30 AM

Later, Jay picked up Adnan from Woodlawn High School after Adnan called him on Adnan's cell phone at about 6:45 P.M.:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.28.21 AM

In this first interview, Jay does not explicitly mention track practice or Adnan needing Jay to take Adnan to track practice so that he can establish an alibi.

Jay Second Recorded Interview, 3/15/99

After Jay and Adnan go to the Cliffs at Patapsco State Park, Jay drives Adnan back to Woodlawn High School at about 5:10 P.M.* According to Jay, during this drive to school, Adnan talked to two people on the phone, and Adnan thinks that one of these calls was an incoming call from Adnan's mother:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.40.33 AM

In this second interview, Jay specifically states that he took Adnan back to Woodlawn for track practice, with Adnan having the plan of seeing classmates to create an alibi:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.39.58 AM 

While Adnan was at school for over two hours (from around 4:30-6:45 P.M.) in Jay's first accounting, in this version, Adnan is at school for only around thirty minutes, with Adnan calling Jay and telling him to pick him up at the end of practice, at around 5:45 P.M.:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.41.12 AM

Obviously, Adnan was very late for track practice in this version of events, and the only thing that Adnan mentioned about practice was that he had to run a lot because he was late:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.46.09 AM

Jay's Ride Along, 3/18/99

When Ritz and MacGillivary take Jay on a ride along, he repeats his story about taking Adnan to track practice after the two had gone to the Cliffs at Patapsco State Park

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.49.51 AM

Jay also repeats his story about Adnan receiving an incoming call from his mother, now specifying that it came as they entered the school parking lot:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.42.52 AM

Jay doesn't give a specific time for this drop off, but he says that, after dropping off Adnan, he arrives at Cathy's place between 5:20 and 5:30 P.M., which is again consistent with a track drop off time of about 5:00 P.M.:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.51.56 AM

In this version of events, Adnan later calls Jay to tell him he's finished with practice and to meet him in front of the school. When Jay arrives at Woodlawn at about 6:00 P.M., he sees Adnan in front of the gym with his track buddy Will:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.53.34 AM

According to Jay, Adnan later told him that he was glad that he talked with his coach during practice because his coach was subsequently asked about Adnan's attendance on January 13th:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.54.31 AM

Jay's Testimony, First Trial, 12/14-12/15/99

In this version, after the Patrick/Patrice call, Jay and Adnan score some weed in West Forest Park, followed by Jay taking Adnan to track practice:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 10.04.06 AM

While the Patrick/Patrice call was at 3:59 P.M., Jay had previously testified that the "come and get me" call was at 3:45ish, so it's unclear when Jay drops off Adnan in this version. Unless I missed it, Jay does not testify at trial #1 about Adnan making or receiving any calls during this drive to track practice.

There is one interesting thing in this version that I hadn't noticed before:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.45.38 AM Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.45.52 AM

If I'm reading this correctly (page 215-216), Jay is saying that Will saw Adnan and Jay when Jay dropped Adnan off for track practice, not after track practice, with Jay and Adnan both entering the school/gym on arrival ("I believe Will was out front when we went inside."). Later, after practice, Adnan called Jay on Adnan's cell phone and asked him to pick him up:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.50.37 AM

Jay's Testimony, Second Trial, 2/4, 2/10-2/15/00

This version again starts with the call to Patrick/Patrice, followed by buying weed in Forest Park and the drive to track practice. Serial places this drop off at 5:15 P.M., but it's tough to pinpoint a time given Jay's inconsistent narrative. At the second trial, the "mom call" reappears, with the State claiming it is the 4:27 P.M. call on the call log:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.13.06 PM

One interesting thing I hadn't noticed before is that Jay says or at least implies that it was Adnan who had driven to track practice:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.14.48 PM

This seems inconsistent with Jay's prior statements, unless I'm missing something. In his first interview, Jay said, "I took him back to school." In his second interview, Jay said, "I took him back to school and dropped him off." And, at the first trial, Jay testified, "I drove him to the front of the school." 

Finally, at this second trial, Jay testified that he went to Cathy's place after Adnan went to track practice, with Adnan calling about half an hour later and asking to be picked up:

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 12.20.29 PM


1. Jay's "Will" testimony at trial #1 seems pretty significant. Facially, it seems to make little sense, given that Jay has always said that Adnan was pretty late getting to track practice. If that were the case, why would Will be at the front of school during the drop off, unless he were also very late to practice? And what's the deal with Jay apparently saying that he entered the school/gym with Adnan? That's not part of any other accounting that Jay gives. I suppose the State's response would be that Jay was simply confusing or conflating different days when he dropped Adnan off at track,** but this seems to be a pretty big inconsistency that points toward fabrication.

2. The same seems to go for Jay's testimony from the second trial that Adnan drove his car to track practice, with Jay being in the passenger seat. This was a 180 from all of Jay's prior statements, where he said that he drove Adnan back to track practice.

3. I've always been interested in Jay's seemingly competing stories about (1) Adnan being very late for track practice; and (2) Adnan being happy about speaking to Coach Sye and creating an alibi. Again, facially, this seems to make little sense. If Adnan's tardiness at practice caused Coach Sye to punish Adnan by having him run a lot, wouldn't Adnan be worried about the fact that he also discussed Ramadan with Sye during that same practice? In other words, if Adnan was glad he talked about Coach Sye about Ramadan during practice on January 13th, wouldn't he also be worried about the fact that Sye would also presumably remember that he punished Adnan for being late that same day?

More fundamentally, though, Jay's two claims can't really work together because Coach Sye didn't make Adnan run during Ramadan, which was the focus of their conversation. The other thing that continues to confuse me is the source for Jay's claim that Adnan was glad he talked to Coach Sye on January 13th because Sye was questioned about this by police. Jay made this statement during his March 18th ride along, and Sye didn't speak with the police until March 23rd, nor did he speak with the defense PI until after Adnan was arrested. So, when would Adnan have made the statement that Jay claims?

This takes us back to the inconsistency between Jay's two claims: On March 15th, Jay says that (Adnan told him that) Coach Sye made Adnan run a lot on 1/13 because he was late; then, a mere three days later, on March 18th, Jay says that (Adnan told him that) Adnan was glad he spoke to Coach Sye on 1/13 to establish an alibi. What transpired in those three days that caused Jay to make a new claim about track practice that practically contradicted his prior claim?

4. The "mom call." As many people have noted, Jay's narrative of events makes little sense in connection with his claim that Adnan was trying to fabricate a track alibi. After all, why would Adnan go to Patapsco State Park or score weed with Jay at Forest Park, instead of trying to get to track practice as soon as possible to create an alibi. I suppose the response would be that Adnan was freaked out in the wake of the murder and wasn't thinking clearly. 

But, according to Jay, by the time of the "mom call," Adnan (a) had already created his plan for his track practice alibi; and (b) was already very late for track practice. So, why in the world would he answer a call from his (mom) or anyone, let alone speak to that person for 2:56 (assuming we are talking about the 4:27 P.M. Call), rather than going directly to practice.

.. This is my first time really doing a deep dive into Jay's track stories, and they now seem even weaker and more contradictory than I have previously realized. Am I missing or misrepresenting anything? Any feedback would be welcomed.


*Jay doesn't give a specific time, but this was the guesstimate created by Serial. Presumably, this was based on Jay giving the following sequence of events in his interview: (1) the Patrick/Patrice call (3:59 P.M.); (2) the drive to Patapsco State Park; (3) 20-30 minutes at the Cliffs; (4) 13-15 minutes to get from the Cliffs to Woodlawn High School.

**Or maybe the State would claim that Jay was confusing the track drop off with the track pick up, but how does that explain Jay saying that Adnan and he went inside together?



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In Jay's 2nd interview, was it established elsewhere that Adnan had to run alot BECAUSE he was late? The transcript says that he said he had to run alot and that he was late, not run alot because he was late. I read that as two separate things.

Posted by: Zark | Mar 27, 2017 1:34:40 PM

Zark: I drew that implication from Jay's statement, even though he doesn't say it directly. If Jay didn't draw that connection, it would make his claim even weaker. I could at least possibly see Coach Sye punishing Adnan for being late and making him run, even though it was Ramadan. But, if Adnan weren't being punished, there was no way he was running a lot on 1/13.

Posted by: Colin | Mar 27, 2017 1:37:59 PM

This whole situation is just a huge ridiculous mess overall, but I definitely think it is telling that Jay mentions the comment that Adnan allegedly made about being glad he talked to Coach Sye. Unless Adnan has telepathic and remote viewing powers, the only explanation I can see for this is that the cops told Jay about it. And it really doesn't make sense that they would just casually drop this bit of info to Jay, without also telling him what exactly they wanted Adnan to say about it. Plus, it is very suspiciously convenient for the cops that the only comments that Adnan supposedly makes to anyone about the murder just happen to implicate either that he committed the murder, or that it was premeditated, and he just happens to say it all to Jay, their star witness. The comment about the coach seems an awful lot like the thing about the windshield wiper/turn signal lever. Why? Why would Adnan just give Jay this one specific detail that could link him specifically to the crime, or to premeditating the crime? I mean, if this story were true, Adnan would have to be the dumbest murderer ever. He goes to all this trouble to establish an alibi (then casually takes his time getting to it and ends up late anyway), then just gives Jay all of the ammunition he needs to turn him in anyway. It's even more incredulous if we are to assume that Adnan knew the cops were talking to Jay (Is that right? I may be wrong about that, kinda tough to keep anything straight with this). What could he possibly have been thinking to make the decision to say this stuff to Jay? "Well, I know the cops are talking to this guy who helped me commit murder, I guess I'll make sure to tell him exactly what the cops need to put me away for life. Sure don't want them to have to go out of their way to actually figure anything out." Yeah, right. Either he was cold and calculating and trying to hide it, or he was remorseful and wanted to confess. He can't be both at the same time. Only way this makes sense is if he never knew anything about it and had no idea that the police and Jay were collaborating to set a trap for him, and he never saw it coming.

Posted by: Kevin | Mar 27, 2017 3:04:38 PM

Might Will (and/or possibly another track teammate of Adnan's) have given the police a statement to which Jay was trying to conform and that the defense never saw?

It doesn't explain every change specifically, but it might explain why Jay was concocting a new narrative generally.

Posted by: pluscachange | Mar 27, 2017 3:05:00 PM

Kevin: The question would be how the police knew when Coach Sye hadn't spoken to the police at the time of the ride along.

pluscachange: On Serial, Will said that neither the police/prosecution nor the defense contacted him.

Posted by: Colin | Mar 27, 2017 4:15:40 PM

Colin: Well, I suppose that's true, but only if we take the cops at their word, which I am increasingly having trouble doing. If they are fabricating a story or feeding a story to Jay--which is already unethical--I don't think it would be too much of a leap to suggest that they also post-dated reports and notes, or interpolated later revelations into past notes to make it look contemporaneous.

Posted by: Kevin | Mar 27, 2017 4:49:43 PM

How does Jay know the language was Arabic? and not Urdu or a more likely language?

Posted by: mark | Mar 27, 2017 5:20:57 PM

Personally I think that someone else was with Jay with whom he went to the Cliffs with after dropping Adnan at track at around 4.30pm.
I think Jay accidentally inserted the cliffs story in his first interview so he therefore needed to tell the cops that it was Adnan with him at the cliffs when in fact it was another person.

Posted by: ben | Mar 27, 2017 7:33:25 PM

Hm. Well, maybe it's just a purposeless confabulist flourish.

@mark I had the same thought. I think he's probably using "arabic" to mean "whatever foreign language Adnan was speaking."

Posted by: pluscachange | Mar 27, 2017 9:17:34 PM

Kevin: Yes, that would be one explanation for the note. I wonder what the “innocent” explanation would be?

Mark: I think Jay would say it was a guess.

ben: So, is your theory as follows: (1) Adnan/Jay/friend arrive at Woodlawn at 4:27ish; (2) Adnan receives a call and talks to the called for 2:56; (3) Adnan leaves the car and arrives at track practice at 4:35ish; (4) Jay/friend go to Patapsco; (5) Adnan call Jay at 4:58 or 5:13 and tells him to pick him up; (6) Jay picks up Adnan; (7) Jay and Adnan drop off the friend? Or is it something else?

Posted by: Colin | Mar 28, 2017 3:56:51 AM

I'd like to know whose phone Adnan was using to call Jay when Jay had Adnan's phone in his possession.

Posted by: June Rittmeyer | Mar 28, 2017 6:00:28 AM

Another theory about Jay's comment about Adnan saying he was glad he talked to Coach Sye:
Adnan mentioned innocently to Jay that he had talked to Coach Sye. Hadn't they still been talking to each other here and there before Adnan was arrested?

Jay thinks he can use that to make Adnan look guilty, like he was trying to fabricate an alibi. Jay does not realize that the police haven't talked to Coach Sye yet.

Posted by: Camille Edwards | Mar 28, 2017 6:36:21 AM

Or Adnan mentioned talked to Coach Sye right after practice. We know that Jay embellished and didn't always stick exactly to the story he was supposed to be telling to the police.

Posted by: Camille Edwards | Mar 28, 2017 6:39:38 AM

He cannot keep the story straight because he tells lie after lie. Adnan was never with him, he was at track practice. High school kids do not practice track in the dark, and the school doesn't turn on the lights for them. When did the sun go down that day? That is the time that Adnan would be leaving. Woodlawn was not a super track school. They would not be practicing until 6 pm. Usual practice was from about 3:45 til 5. My daughter was running track in Montgomery County in1999. She would leave Richard Montgomery HS at about 5, take the Metro down to my office in Bethesda, and we would be in the car about 5:30 to go home.

Posted by: Linnette Garber | Mar 28, 2017 6:54:13 AM

June: I would guess that State would say that Adnan called from a pay phone.

Camille: That’s a definitely possibility.

Linette: I think that practice was from 3:30-5:00

Posted by: Colin | Mar 28, 2017 8:44:09 AM

It's also possible that Jay talked to Will (or heard from someone who had), although police didn't. It wouldn't be at all surprising if Will remembered seeing them together when the event was relatively recent, but no longer does. By and large, the only equivalent things that I remember in that much detail after that many years have passed are the ones that were personally significant to me, not to other people. And he wouldn't necessarily have known whom they were talking to, or going to.

Posted by: pluscachange | Mar 28, 2017 12:39:10 PM

Were there payphones in the school/library?

Posted by: Cupcake | Mar 28, 2017 12:39:52 PM

Colin: I dunno, it's really hard to find anything resembling an "innocent" explanation for this. I think the most inocuous theory I can come up with is: At some time after the ride-along and after the cops talked to Coach Sye, they were going over their notes in an interview with Jay, trying to 'clean up' their timeline. When they get to the point where Jay is talking about track practice, they mention to Jay that they had talked to the coach and he had told them he didn't remember Adnan being late but that he remembered having a conversation with Adnan about Ramadan. So Jay, wanting to make his story sound more credible, makes the statement about Adnan saying he was glad he talked to the coach, thereby tying his lie up neatly with known factual details, which is pretty much textbook con-artist 101. And the cops write this little note in the margin of their notes of the ride-along, because that is what they have open in front of them at the time.

That still sounds fairly egregious to me, though, because it means that (1) Jay is just pulling random nonsense out of his ass and giving it to the cops for some reason, and (2) the cops are, at best, being carelessly helpful in giving Jay's lies credibility, and, at worst, willfully fabricating a story in cooperation with Jay. I don't think there's any way out of this without some degree of shadiness being cast on both Jay and the cops. We can theorize as to whether it's the cops or Jay being the most deceptive, but I don't think there's any explanation that leaves either party entirely blameless.

Posted by: Kevin | Mar 28, 2017 8:42:42 PM

pluscachange: I’m pretty shocked that the police didn’t talk with Will, assuming that Jay really did make some mention of seeing Will before or after track practice. He potentially could have really helped the prosecution case, especially if he could (somehow) corroborate Jay’s testimony from trial #1.

Cupcake: I’d imagine that there were in 1999, but I’m not sure.

Kevin: My question would be whether the police had to be complicit. I could easily imagine (1) Adnan telling Jay that he talked with Coach Sye about Ramadan at practice on 1/13; and (2) Adnan telling Jay that the police talked to his track coach, with Adnan referring to Coach Russell, who was interviewed by Detective O’Shea on 2/1. Then, to further his “fake alibi” story, Jay puts 2 and 2 together and tells the detectives during the ride along that Adnan told him he was happy he talked with his coach on 1/13 because that helped with his fake alibi. Jay just doesn’t realize that O’Shea had talked with a different coach.

Posted by: Colin | Mar 29, 2017 7:58:50 AM

Colin: Oh! Ok, now I see what you mean. I had actually considered the thought that there was another coach, but I couldn't remember clearly if there really was. But yeah, I think that would make sense. Adnan just says he talked to his Coach, not referencing an actual name. And then talks about the police talking to the Coach, again not saying a name. Jay just assumes he means the same coach, when in reality it is two different people. Yeah, I actually do think that theory logically makes sense, and doesn't implicate the police. At least not in an active deception. They are still on the hook for the extreme tunnel vision. =)

Posted by: Kevin | Mar 29, 2017 4:02:37 PM

A possible innocent man is sitting in prison based on the confusing and conflicting stories of Jay and a dysfunctional lawyer....incredible. My son put me on to the podcast and I could not believe what I was hearing....Jay who is known for making up stories....what about beyond a reasonable doubt. Someone please help this kid, now a grown man!

Posted by: Janice P | Mar 29, 2017 8:11:28 PM

Even Occam's Razor, not a legal concept, leads one in the direction that Jay knows nothing, or nothing significant about the case or at least whether Adnan was somehow involved. It's the simplest alternative, though maybe not the truth. Why he would give all these different, contradicting stories? One can only speculate that the whole kept getting bigger, however it started, and perhaps he still fears for ...? Thank you Colin for submitting your brain to this swamp; and thanks to everyone else, too.

Posted by: Hal | Mar 31, 2017 10:56:46 AM

This was terrific! I would love to see deep dives like this laid out regarding all of Jay's stories!

Posted by: Beth | Apr 1, 2017 2:43:46 PM

If Adnan was late for practice, why would he even be answering the phone? That just messes up that Alibi. And his mother wouldn't be calling him while he's at track running. I'm sure she knows he's not got his phone on him? Responses?

Posted by: Mary | Apr 11, 2017 9:58:03 PM

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