Saturday, September 16, 2017
As we all know, Nisha was a key witness in the Adnan Syed case. She testified that on some unknown date she received a call from Adnan, who told her that his friend Jay had invited him to his job at an adult video store. Adnan told Nisha that he was arriving at the video store during the call and handed the phone to Jay talk to Nisha upon his arrival (the only time she spoke to Jay). The prosecution claims that this call took place at 3:32 P.M. on January 13, 1999. Others, including me, have countered that this call couldn't have taken place until the end of January, when Jay started his job at the adult video store. In turn, this had led to consideration of which outgoing call from Adnan's cell phone to Nisha could have been the adult video store call.
But what if there's no record of this call because it was either unanswered and dropped and then perhaps followed by a call from Nisha to Adnan?
According to the notes from Nisha's police interview, (1) she saw Adnan at an Indian party at the Coco Cabana in D.C. on February 12, 1999; (2) she arrived at the party at about 11:00 P.M. and left about 20 minutes later; (3) the party ended fast because someone pulled the alarm; (4) Adnan called her from the road to ask where the party was; (5) Adnan told Nisha at the party that he had gotten phone numbers from a couple of girls at the party; and (6) Adnan gave Nisha the paper with the phone number(s). Nisha is quite certain that the party was on February 12th. Here are the key portions of the interview notes:
Now, let's look at Adnan's cell phone records. On February 12th, Adnan made/received a series of calls that pinged tower L651C between 6:04 and 9:52 P.M. None of the outgoing calls are to Nisha. These calls are consistent wth Adnan being at or near his home. Then, there's an incoming call at 10:16 P.M. that is answered and lasts one minute; it also pings tower L651C. This is followed by:
-an incoming call at 11:22 P.M. that pings tower L673A and lasts 4:11; and
-an outgoing call to Krista at 12:27 A.M. that pings tower L673A and lasts :37
I'm not entirely sure of where the Coco Cabana or Cococabana was in 1999, but this article from 2003 discusses the opening of a Cococabana at 2031A University Blvd., Hyattsville, Maryland, just outside of D.C. The L651 tower was at 1500 Woodlawn Drive in Woodlawn, Maryland, and the L673 tower was at 8587 Mission Road in Jessup, Maryland. Here's a screenshot of a map with these three locations:
So, assuming that the Coco Cabana was in Hyattsville in 1999, you can see that Adnan probably would have driven through the range of tower L673 as he was going to and from the party.
Now, let's assume that Nisha is correct that Adnan called her from the road to ask about the location of the party on February 12th. Why is there no record of an outgoing call from Adnan to Nisha on the 12th? Here's one possible theory: (1) Adnan leaves his house at 10:00ish, and, as he's driving away, he calls Nisha to ask about the location of the party; (2) Nisha (just) misses the call, or it's a dropped call (which don't show up on Adnan's bill or cell phone records); (3) Nisha calls Adnan back at 10:16 P.M. and tells him the location of the party (the one minute incoming call at 10:16:09 P.M.); (4) Adnan arrives at the party and gets phone numbers from girls; (5) Nisha arrives at the party late at a little before 11:00 P.M., which is when Adnan talks with her and gives her the paper with the phone number(s); (6) Adnan leaves the party soon after 11:00 P.M. and drives in the direction of Woodlawn, reaching the range of the L673 tower in time for the 11:22 P.M. incoming call; and (7) Adnan ends up hanging out somewhere in that same general area until at least 12:27 A.M., when his outgoing call to Krista pings the same tower.
So, where does that leave us? Assuming that Nisha is right about the date of the Indian party and Adnan calling her from the road,* it seems like we have three options: (1) Adnan made a regular call from his cell phone to Nisha that somehow didn't show up on Adnan's bill or cell phone records; (2) Adnan made a call to Nisha from his cell phone that was dropped after she told him the location of the party, which is why the call didn't show up on Adnan's bill or cell phone records; or (3) Adnan made an unanswered or dropped call to Nisha from his cell phone, followed by Nisha calling him back.
Now, if it's option #1, that of course leaves the possibility that we don't have records for any number of Adnan's cell phone calls, including the adult video store call. If it's option #2, that leaves open the possibility that calls lasting some duration could be dropped without any record. Given that Nisha says the adult video store call was short, we again have the possibility of no record of that call.
The third option is interesting because of the parallel to the adult video store call. The Coco Cabana call presumably happened as Adnan was driving away from his home while the adult video store presumably happened as Adnan was driving up to Jay's adult video store. Nisha describes the Coco Cabana Call as Adnan calling her, just as she describes the adult video store call as Adnan calling her.
What we see from the Coco Cabana call, though, is that this might not be entirely accurate. If scenario three is correct, Adnan did call Nisha, followed by her calling him back. Then, months later, Nisha describes it as Adnan calling her. And I think that makes sense under two scenarios. First, if you miss a call from someone and then call them right back, you might just remember them calling you when asked about the call months later. Or, second, even if you remember calling the person back, you might still describe it as the other person calling you because he/she made the initial phone call.
So, where does that leave us? If my scenario is correct, it's quite possible that the adult video store call was unanswered or dropped, followed by Nisha calling Adnan back. If this is a real possibility, then the universe of calls that could be The Nisha Call expands from just outgoing calls to Nisha to all incoming calls. On the other hand, if Nisha is wrong about the date of the Indian party and/or Adnan calling her from the road to get the location...well, that would just show the fallibility of human memory.
*Nisha remembers Adnan calling her the next day to talk about the party, and there was a call from Adnan's cell phone to Nisha at 8:19 P.M. on February 13th.