EvidenceProf Blog

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

If Track Practice Started at 4:00 P.M., Does it Matter Whether Adnan Was on Time for Practice?

Recently, an Undisclosed listener asked me an interesting question: If track practice started at 4:00 P.M., does it matter whether Adnan was on time for practice? This question, of course, relates to the notes from the police interview of track coach Michael Sye. Those notes indicate that Sye remembered a day toward the end of Ramdan when Adnan arrived on time for track practice that was held outside because it was the rare January day when the temperature was in the 50's. As Susan Simpson has noted, this day only could have been January 13, 1999, the day that Hae disappeared.

Of course, if track practice started at 3:30 P.M., Adnan arriving on time would be huge because it would mean that, inter alia, (1) he couldn't have made the 3:32 P.M. Nisha call; and (2) there's a very short window during which Adnan could have committed the murder and gotten back to school in time to be at track practice. But does Adnan's timely arrival at practice matter if practice started at 4:00 P.M.? I think the answer is "yes" for a few reasons. 

Jay's Claim That Adnan Was Late to Practice

In every version of events by Jay except possibly The Intercept interview,* Adnan is late for track practice. Specifically, in his second recorded interview, Jay said that Adnan told him that he had to run a lot because he was late for practice:

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 11.55.04 AM

Of course, we know that part of Jay's story isn't true because Coach Sye didn't let Adnan practice during Ramadan, so Adnan didn't have "to run a lot." If Adnan was on time for practice, we also know that the second part of Jay's story wasn't true because Adnan was not late for track practice. So, why does Jay say that Adnan was late for track practice?

The Patrick/Patrice Call

Before trial, Jay says in second recorded interview and during his ride-along two days later that Adnan and he went to Patapsco State Park before Adnan went to track practice. During the ride-along, Jay says that Adnan and he were there when the sun was setting. Obviously, this story is inconsistent with Adnan probably even arriving at track practice at all, which is probably why it was scrapped at trial. But consider what remained of Jay's story at trial.

At 3:59 P.M. on January 13th, there was a call from Adnan's cell phone to Patrick at his sister Patrice's house. According to Jay, this was a call he made to try to score weed before Adnan and he went to the Forest Park Golf Course to do the same. In fact, according to Jay, this was a follow-up to the 3:21 P.M. call to Jenn, which he claimed was made in an attempt to find Patrick (although Jenn disputes this). Obviously, if Adnan was with Jay for the 3:59 P.M. call, which preceded the trip to the golf course, there's no way that Adnan got to track practice by 4:00 P.M.

The "Mom" Call

As I noted in this post, Jay claimed both in his second interview and at trial that the 4:27 P.M. call on Adnan's call log was a call that Adnan took shortly before he went to track practice. According to Jay, the speaker was talking in Arabic and might have been Adnan's mom. For this to be the case, though, Adnan would have needed to be more than a half hour late for track practice (the call was almost three minutes).

The Stephanie Call

As I noted in this post, in her second interview with the defense private investigator (but not her first interview or her police interview), Stephanie said that she called Adnan's cell phone between 4:15 and 5:30 P.M. on January 13th and spoke with Adnan and Jay. If Adnan were (very) late for track practice, this could have been the 4:27 P.M. call; if Adnan were at track practice at 4:00 P.M., Stephanie is either wrong or spoke to Adnan after track practice had ended (there were no incoming calls to Adnan's cell phone between 3:15 P.M. and 4:27 P.M.).


In his opinion granting Adnan a new trial, Judge Welch found that the State couldn't have shifted the "come and get me" call from the 2:36 P.M. call to the 3:15 P.M. call because of the number of events between the "come and get me" call and the 3:21 P.M. call to Jenn.

What the above analysis reveals is that the State would have faced a similar quandary if Cristina Gutierrez would have been able to get Coach Sye to confirm that the day he was remembering when Adnan was on time for track practice (and talked with him about leading prayers at the Mosque) must have been January 13th. This problem picks up right where Judge Welch left off. According to Jay, (1) that 3:21 P.M. call to Jenn was Jay looking for Patrick to buy weed, followed by (2) Jay calling Patrick at 3:59 P.M. to buy weed, followed by (3) Adnan and Jay scoring weed at the golf course, followed by (4) Adnan taking the 4:27 P.M. call right before going to track practice.

If Adnan arrived by 4:00 P.M. for track practice, Jay can't just be wrong about Adnan taking the 4:27 P.M. call; instead, his entire narrative of the plot to get pot that starts at 3:21 P.M. is fundamentally flawed. In other words, if the jury had believed that Adnan was at track practice by 4:00 P.M., Jay's entire narrative doesn't make sense. 


*In The Intercept interview, it's unclear whether Adnan in late. According to Jay, Adnan tells him, "I’m going to be late for practice, so just drop me off." Notably, in this version, Jay drops off Adnan at track practice before Adnan murders Hae.



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BAltimore, In January is getting dark at 430. I can't believe any student would bother showing up at 430. Jay is lying.

Posted by: Linnette garber | Aug 16, 2017 4:57:29 AM


Given what we know about track practice that day, I don't think the lightness or darkness at 4:30pm is relevant. Either Adnan was there or he wasn't. Either he came late or he didn't. That's what matters here.

Posted by: Megan Pawlak | Aug 16, 2017 10:55:13 AM

"Of course, we know that part of Jay's story isn't true because Coach Sye didn't let Adnan practice during Ramadan, so Adnan didn't have "to run a lot." If Adnan was on time for practice, we also know that the second part of Jay's story wasn't true because Adnan was not late for track practice. So, why does Jay say that Adnan was late for track practice?"

Depends on how you're looking at that statement. Jay could be speaking in a general sense that you had to run for being late, rather than saying that Adnan, specifically on that day, would have to run.

This would comport with Will's statements in Serial, episode 4, when he says:

"Yeah, actually if you didn’t have a family emergency, you had to run extra. 400’s. Extra running the next day."

Posted by: Kylo Ren | Aug 16, 2017 12:20:35 PM

Kylo: Do you see any ambiguity in Jay’s statement? Here’s the way I see it:

According to Jay, Adnan told him that he had to run a lot. So, if Jay is telling the truth, Adnan specifically said that he had to run a lot at practice on January 13th. We know that Sye wouldn’t make Adnan run at all during Ramadan, so Jay is either lying/mistaken about what Adnan said or Jay is being honest and Adnan was lying/mistaken about having to run a lot.

I suppose Jay could be trying to communicate that people who were late for practice generally had to run a lot, but it seems to me that he’s clearly saying that Adnan told him he had to run a lot on the 13th.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Aug 16, 2017 1:10:11 PM

I'm confused as to why someone would even need to attend track practice if they weren't allowed to run during Ramadan.

Posted by: Annabel Hayes | Aug 23, 2017 11:40:39 AM

Annabel: Track is a team, even if you cannot participate when you are part of a team you are expected to be there to support the team. Adnan could have supported the team by helping the coach, timing his teammates etc.

Posted by: Robert | Aug 25, 2017 9:00:28 AM

Does the Syed family speak Arabic at home? I thought they're from Pakistan. It's not relevant for the case but I am curious.

Posted by: Kris | Aug 27, 2017 11:35:38 AM

Drew Davis produced long reports of his investigations of Stephanie, Lenscrafters, and the video store. Yet you've said earlier that there are no reports of Davis' investigation of Sye or the library on March 3. It sure seems like someone destroyed evidence in the defense file.

@Kris like Jay would know the difference?

Posted by: Seamus_Duncan | Aug 30, 2017 12:38:18 PM

Aww! I have missed Seamus and his ridiculous assertions.

Posted by: Robert | Aug 30, 2017 3:00:01 PM

Kris: Not as far as I know.

Seamus: Let’s use Davis’s March 3rd interview of Coach Sye as an example. We have what appear to be Gutierrez’s notes on that interview:
and what appear to be typed and handwritten notes from the detectives’ March 23rd interview of Coach Sye:
Both sets of notes seem to be neutral or favorable for Adnan. At worst, they indicate that Coach Sye had no idea whether Adnan was present for track practice on January 13th. At best, when we look at Coach Sye’s description of the day when he spoke to Adnan about Ramadan, they tend to indicate that Coach Sye remembered Adnan arriving and leaving on time for track practice on January 13th.

My interpretation is that Davis’s interview notes were likely pretty similar to Gutierrez’s notes and were accidentally lost, misfiled, etc. at some point over the last decade and a half. Is your interpretation that Sye told Davis incriminatory details about Adnan’s attendance at track practice on January 13th and that (1) Sye didn’t tell the same details to the detectives three weeks later; and (2) Gutierrez did not include these details when she took notes on that interview?

Posted by: Colin Miller | Aug 30, 2017 5:18:30 PM

Hey look! Seamus_Duncan is back from Parts Unknown and he's once again accusing people of nefarious deeds and posting comments completely unrelated to the original thread! Seems like old times!

Posted by: Anonny Mouse | Aug 30, 2017 6:25:44 PM

Actually the 3/23 police notes are quite bad for Adnan, given that they support Jay's 3/15 claim that Adnan was trying to be seen at track practice.

That said, my guess is that Drew Davis' report of his 3/3 investigation didn't go AWOL because of what he said about Coach Sye. The report went AWOL because of what he said about Adnan's supposed library alibi.

Posted by: Seamus_Duncan | Aug 30, 2017 6:40:55 PM

Seamus: As you note, Jay said in his 3/15 interview that Adnan told him he wanted to be seen by the people at track. Next, here are the pertinent notes from Coach Sye’s interview: “Day of conversation of Ramadon. As he was stretching I would talk to him – He would walk around track with me. Remember: I asked, didn’t expect to get a detailed answer.”

So: (1) Coach Sye says he’s the one who initiated the conversation about Ramadan, not Adnan; and (2) Coach Sye remembers talking to Adnan while he was stretching before he walked. That seems (1) highly consistent with Adnan arriving at track practice on time, with Coach Sye then stretching with him before they walked; and (2) highly inconsistent with Adnan being over half an hour or even over an hour late for practice. It also contradicts Jay’s claim that Adnan told him he had to RUN a lot. I don’t see any conceivable scenario with Adnan arriving at track practice after 4:30 P.M. and then stretching with Coach Sye 30+ or 60+ minutes into track practice.

As for the library alibi, again, I’d guess that the notes on the Mills interview were helpful or neutral for Adnan. If they showed that Adnan mentioned the library alibi right after his arrest, that would tend to help his alibi claim. If Davis were just asking Mills about the external cameras at the library, that would be neutral. Of course, if Mills were able to definitively say that Adnan was not at the library on 1/13, that would be harmful for Adnan, but I don’t see any way that Mills would have been able to make such a statement.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Aug 30, 2017 7:28:14 PM

One thing has always bothered me. Why do we have to guess who made/received the calls? Did the defense not get calls from each of the supposed callers land line phones to corroborate/refute the calls on Adnan's phone?

Posted by: Joanne Barker | Sep 1, 2017 2:23:44 PM

Just a thought but why on Earth would Adnan's Mom call him at 4:27 when he was supposed to be at track practice. And why would Adnan answer that call if he was supposed to be at track practice.

Posted by: Amy | Sep 6, 2017 12:18:06 AM

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