EvidenceProf Blog

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Episode Three of "The Case Against Adnan Syed": The End of the Case Against Adnan Syed

In tonight's 3rd episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed," there was a huge revelation that makes its really difficult to believe in Adnan Syed's guilt: Amy Berg showed Kristina (Kristi) Vinson her academic record from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. That record showed that Kristi was taking a short course during the Winter Term in January 1999. That class met three (or four) times on Wednesdays from 6:00-9:10pm, including on January 13, 1999, the day that Hae Min Lee disappeared. As Kristi notes, there's no way she could have blown off that class. Because the class met only three/four times, if she skipped even one of the class sessions, Kristi would have failed; instead, she got a B. Therefore, as Kristi herself concludes, there's no way that the day that Jay and Adnan came to her house was January 13th. So, what does it all mean?

Let's start at 4:12pm on January 13th. At that time, there's an outgoing call from Adnan's cell phone to Jay's friend Jennifer Pusateri. At trial, Jay testifies that this call was Jay asking Jenn whether Kristi was home:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.20.57 PM

Then, according to Jay, he dropped Adnan off at track practice and went to Kristi's place, where he smoked weed and contemplated what he should do:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.23.24 PM

Jay then testifies that he receives a phone call from Adnan while he's at Kristi's place, which leads to him picking Adnan up from track practice, followed immediately by Jay taking Adnan to Kristi's place:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.26.20 PM

According to this story, while Adnan and Jay were at Kristi's place, there were some important phone calls.

First Important Call

First, Kristi testifies that Jenn calls over to her place while Adnan was there:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.48.02 PM

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.48.41 PM

Jenn also testifies about this call. She says she called over to Kristi's place because Jay and she were supposed to hang out at Kristi's place later that night. According to Jenn, during this call, she talked to Jay, Kristi, and Kristi's boyfriend Jeff, with Jeff telling her that she was supposed to pick up Jay at Gilston Park:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.33.20 PM

It is this conversation that leads to the phone calls with the infamous "Leakin Park pings." According to Jenn, Jay sends a confusing voice message to her pager (presumably the 7:00pm call on Adnan's call log) telling Jenn not to pick him up, despite what Jeff told her:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.38.30 PM

Jenn then testifies that this confusing message leads her to call the number (Adnan's cell phone) back (the 7:09 and/or 7:16pm calls), whereupon she's told that Jay is busy and will call her back when he's ready to be picked up:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.40.30 PM

Jenn says that Jay thereafter does call her (the 8:04 and 8:05pm calls), leading to her picking Jay up at Westview Mall:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.44.41 PM

Finally, according to Jenn, (1) Jay tells her that Adnan killed Hae; (2) they go to Stephanie's place; (3) Jay tells her that they used shovels to bury Hae's body; (3) Jay (says he) dumps the shovels in a dumpster at Westview Mall; and (4) they go to Kristi's place immediately after Jay (says he) dumps the shovels:

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 9.18.53 AM

Kristi agrees with Jenn, saying that Jay and Jenn came to her place later on the same night that Adnan and Jay had been to her house:

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 9.50.54 PM

Second Important Call(s)

Adnan's call log shows that he received three incoming calls at 6:07, 6:09, and 6:24pm on January 13th. According to the State at trial, these calls are from Hae's brother Young Lee,* Aisha, and Officer Adcock. According to Kristi, one of these calls got Adnan to freak out and leave her place in a hurry with Jay:

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 9.22.39 AM

Jay testifies that it was the call from Officer Adcock that got Adnan to leave in a hurry so that they could bury Hae's body earlier than planned:

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 9.25.08 AM

The Story by Jay, Jenn, Kristi, and the State

Breaking this all down, we have the following story by Jay, Jenn, Kristi, and the State:

(1) Jay calls Jenn at 4:12pm, asking if Kristi is home;

(2) Jay drops Adnan off at track practice and goes to Kristi's place;

(3) Jay is at Kristi's place when he gets the call from Adnan to pick him up at practice;

(4) Jay gets Adnan, and they go directly to Kristi's place;

(5) Jenn calls over to Kristi's place and talks to Jay, Kristi, and Jeff;

(6) Jeff tells Jenn she's supposed to pick up Jay at Gilston Park;

(7) Adnan is at Kristi's place when he gets the calls from Young, Aisha, and Adcock;

(8) One of these calls causes Adnan to freak out and leave w/Jay to bury Hae's body earlier than planned;

(9) Jay sends a confusing page to Jenn about NOT picking him up;

(10) Jenn calls Adnan's phone (the Leakin Park pings);

(11) Someone/Adnan tells her Jay will call her back about pickup after he's done;

(12) Jay calls Jenn and tells her to pick him up at Westview Mall; and

(13) Jenn picks up Jay, Jay says Adnan killed Hae, Jay dumps the shovels, and they go to Kristi's place.

Implications of Kristi Having the Wrong Day

Now, knowing that Kristi has the wrong day, where does that leave us? Kristi and Jenn tell interlocking stories about (1) Jenn calling Kristi when Adnan and Jay were at Kristi's place; and (2) Jenn and Jay coming over to Kristi's place that same night. It therefore seems highly likely that they're thinking of the same day...and we now know that day was NOT January 13th. Therefore, the State's entire narrative about what happened after 4:12pm on January 13th is gone. 

Let's next look at the implications for all three witnesses:


This now means that Kristi has nothing meaningful to say about January 13th. She, of course, no longer corroborates Jay's story and in fact dispels Jay's story because the events he describes did NOT happen on January 13th. We also have to wonder how the police consciously or unconsciously led Kristi to believe that the Jay/Adnan visit was on January 13th. 

I've always wondered something about Kristi. She gave her police statement on March 9th. Then, on March 11th, Detective Ritz interviewed Kristi's boyfriend Jeff, followed by Ritz again talking to Kristi:

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 9.46.16 AM

There are no notes from these interviews of Jeff and Kristi, and Jeff was not called at a witness at trial...despite the fact that he was the only person other than Kristi and Jenn who allegedly saw Jay and Adnan together that evening. He should have been a great and important witness...unless he told Ritz something he didn't want to hear. I don't know whether the HBO team was able to track down Jeff, but he might very well have some information that could point to a Brady violation (if, for example, Jeff said something inconsistent with the Adnan/Jay visit being on January 13th)


As noted, the memories of Kristi and Jenn interlock. So, that night when (1) Jenn called Kristi when Adnan and Jay where there; (2) Jenn and Jay played phone tag about picking up Jay; and (3) Jay and Jenn went to Kristi's place after Jenn picked up Jay...that was NOT January 13th. That was some other night. 

And what that means is that Jenn is no longer corroboration for Jay. Instead, she dispels what Jay says happened on January 13th...because the events she describes happened on another day. So, the Leakin Park pings...they're gone. Instead, those calls that Jenn made after she talked with Jay, Kristi, and Jeff happened on on another day. And Jenn's story about Jay (allegeldy) dumping the shovels on January 13th...that couldn't have happened. She claims this happened right before Jay and she went to Kristi's place...but that visit took place on a different day. And so, Jenn's story now looks like some weird retcon that someone convinced her to say after the fact.


That leaves us with Jay. We already knew that Jay's story had problems during the day. He says that the "come and get me" call came at 3:45ish, which does not match any call on Adnan's call log (no incoming calls between 3:15 and 4:27 pm) and is inconsistent with the State's claim of a 2:36pm "come and get me" call. We knew that Jay has given numerous stories about where the murder and trunk pop occurred. And were knew that Jay's story about the events of the early afternoon did not match the cell tower pings. As Judge Welch concluded, this part of Jay's story was always a jumbled mess that didn't line up with the State's narrative.

But, as Judge Welch and now the Court of Appeals concluded, the crux of the State's case was Jay's story about the evening: the visit to Kristi's place, the Leakin Park pings/burial, and meeting up with Jenn later that night. Here, Jay's story was corroborated.

But now, it's dispelled. Everything Jay describes starting at 4:12pm has now been debunked: We now know that the visits to Kristi's place and everything connected to them did NOT happen on January 13th. And so, Jay's story about the evening goes from being corroborated to dispelled. What he describes simply couldn't have happened on January 13th, making that story a clear fabrication that was an attempt to match the call log and the cell tower pings. 

And this is why it is now so hard to believe that Adnan is guilty. Now, the ONLY evidence against Adnan is Jay, and Jay's story about the events of January 13th has gone from mostly dispelled and partially corroborated to completely dispelled. He tells a story that bears no tangible relation to reality and that was clearly a construction based on what the police believed about the cell tower pings (hence the alleged first visit to Kristi's place based on the misplaced cell tower).

The title of the show might be "The Case Against Adnan Syed," but this is now the end of the case against Adnan Syed.


*Adnan believed that this call occurred while he was in his car:

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 9.30.39 AM



| Permalink


Is there proof that Kristi was in class on the 13th? Or just her belief that she would have failed the class if she did not attend? Has this been confirmed with the school?

Posted by: Kate | Mar 24, 2019 7:20:31 PM

Colin- I recall that you confirmed the conference Kristi keeps referencing occured on a different day. I’m curious why they haven’t put that in front of her on the show like the class schedule. I also thought the bombshell was really Nakisha getting Jay to admit he sold Adnan out to stay out of jail when he got arrested on 1/24/99

Posted by: Jason Y | Mar 24, 2019 7:25:38 PM

Hi Colin,

Absolutely believe Adnan is 100% innocent. Just playing devil’s advocate for the Kristy situation, is it possible her class was cancelled that night due to the snow/ice storm that occurred that evening?

Posted by: Taylor Gavin | Mar 24, 2019 7:34:08 PM

This is all great and all, but how do we get the corrupt judges, who clearly have no interest in actual justice, to do something about this?

Posted by: Brian | Mar 24, 2019 7:45:43 PM

Why is Jen so adamant this happened the 13th even after Kristi’s class verification? But more importantly, let’s even say this storyline happened the 14th, is she lying? If we are saying that Jay was fed this story then how could she have testified to him telling her Adnan did it and he helped the night it happened? If he had no clue about any details, this conversation couldn’t have happened until late feb. Trying to wrap my head around her and that she knew this information before his first interview even happened.

Posted by: Jackie | Mar 24, 2019 8:07:51 PM

Do you think Jen became hostile when confronted with these facts by Amy Berg because she was coerced to lie by police too? Will these discoveries only be made part of the official record in the event of a new trial? Also, where did Jay say Hae’s body was supposed to be when they were at Kristi’s?

Posted by: Sarah | Mar 24, 2019 8:08:30 PM

The police seemed to tell everyone that events happened on the 13th. That seemed to cement their recall of events to this day.

Posted by: Bruce | Mar 24, 2019 8:33:26 PM

Wow. Will this information ever get before the court?

Posted by: Suzanne | Mar 24, 2019 8:35:21 PM

Kristi understandably came off as upset upon the realization that she may have actually been in class the night of the 13th & sad/frustrated wishing she could remember more clearly

Jenn however laughs, gets super defensive, raises her voice, & mentions regretting talking to the filmmakers..

I firmly believe jay & Jenn have been lying together from the beginning. I dont think they have information about the actual murder, but I think she’s been in on his lie from the start.

Posted by: Dee | Mar 24, 2019 8:35:48 PM

"In tonight's 3rd episode of HBO's "The Case Against Adnan Syed," there was a huge revelation that makes its really difficult to believe in Adnan Syed's guilt: Amy Berg showed Kristina (Kristi) Vinson her academic record from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. That record showed that Kristi was taking a short course during the Winter Term in January 1999. That class met three (or four) times on Wednesdays from 6:00-9:10pm, including on January 13, 1999, the day that Hae Min Lee disappeared. As Kristi notes, there's no way she could have blown off that class. Because the class met only three/four times, if she skipped even one of the class sessions, Kristi would have failed; instead, she got a B. Therefore, as Kristi herself concludes, there's no way that the day that Jay and Adnan came to her house was January 13th."

- These events happened over 20 years ago. Memories fade a little. Maybe class was cancelled. Maybe she skipped class and the professor didn't care. Maybe she was excused. Maybe the professor let her do makeup work. Are there attendance records? If they are available, how come we didn't see them?

Perhaps Kristi was excused from the night class that evening because she had already attended her internship conference earlier that day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

So Kristi got a "B" in her class. That proves beyond all doubt that she was in class the evening of January 13th, 1999? Seriously?

Posted by: Daniel H. | Mar 24, 2019 9:06:40 PM

Was not the 13th the day of a severe ice storm and is it not possible Kristi’s class was

Posted by: Cheri Browm | Mar 24, 2019 9:20:06 PM

*Sorry if this is a duplicate, the page cleared and I am unsure if my original comment posted*

Hi Colin,

Thank you for posting this information and for all that you have done for this case. Do you know if Kristi Vinson's attendance records have been looked at to confirm the assertion that she was, in fact, in class until 9pm?

Thank you,
Heelah Saleem

Posted by: Heelah Saleem | Mar 24, 2019 10:26:58 PM

So how does this get before a court at this point?

Posted by: Liz | Mar 24, 2019 10:47:26 PM

Thanks for this great breakdown. Wouldn’t they have to prove Kristi was in class that night though? Too bad cops didn’t!

Posted by: Brook | Mar 25, 2019 3:21:36 AM

Wow. Jeff could really blow the lid off everything. I wonder if this is why they didn't go further with Patrick - maybe Patrick knew Jay had been caught with drugs.

Posted by: Lori | Mar 25, 2019 4:12:31 AM

What exactly was shown to Kristi (sorry, I don't have HBO)? What is meant by her "academic record"? Her transcripts should be protected by FERPA, right? So I'm curious what the documentarians had and what they showed to Kristi.

Posted by: Paul's Unhinged | Mar 25, 2019 6:15:33 AM

Kate: The proof is Kristi knowing that this was a short winter term class where missing one 3+ hour session would lead to failure and seeing that she got the grade of B in the class. I don’t think any attendance records still exist in 2019.

Jason Y: We found some possibilities for the conference, but we didn’t have anything concrete. Now, we have something very concrete. The Nakisha call was important, but can we really trust anything Jay says?

Taylor Gavin: The Baltimore Sun shows several events occurring without a hitch on the night of January 13th and nothing being cancelled. The storm didn’t start until 4:30am on January 14th.

Jackie: I’m sure Jenn doesn’t want to admit that something she’d believed for 20 years is wrong. There’s also the possibility that she knows she lied and doesn’t want to admit it.

Sarah: That’s a possibility.

Bruce: Indeed.

Suzanne: It could definitely be included in a petition for writ of actual innocence, especially if Kristi does an affidavit.

Dee: It’s a distinct possibility.

Daniel H: It doesn’t prove her attendance beyond any doubt. But she clearly had a class scheduled that night for her winter term course and recognized that her failure to attend this 3+ hours class session would have led to her failure. It was certainly enough to convince Kristi that she attended.

Cheri Brown: The storm didn’t until 4:30am the next day.

Heelah Saleem and Brrok: I don’t think attendance records still exist, but Kristi’s statement seems to be the next best thing.

Liz: This could be used in a petition for writ of actual innocence down the road.

Lori: I really hope Jeff talks at some point.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Mar 25, 2019 6:23:46 AM

I remember at some point hearing Susan discuss that she had investigated the date of the conference Kristi attended and that it wasn't on January 13th. Why wasn't that info introduced to solidify that Kristi's memory was wrong? Was the date of the conference never officially confirmed? Thank you!

Posted by: Petrea | Mar 25, 2019 6:41:53 AM

Does Kristi remember the name or type of conference? Is there anyway to confirm the day that occurred?

Posted by: Lori | Mar 25, 2019 6:50:47 AM

While Jay is definitely dancing for the detectives and prosecution, couldn't cerain things have happened (burial, Kerri's house), just on a different day? And it is the detectives' misstep placing it and suggesting the date to Jay as the 13th. Would explain (?) the lividity... she was kept (face down), then moved/buried.

Posted by: Jennifer Jen | Mar 25, 2019 7:23:11 AM

I don’t see how missing the class means she fails. Isn’t it pretty common to miss classes. She would have got the notes from someone else? Also how has this only just come out now. Wouldn’t they have checked what they did that day when the case was originally at court?

Posted by: Robert Thomson | Mar 25, 2019 7:29:36 AM

It's probably been done already, most likely in the depths of guilter Reddit, but I ask anyhow— has the outgoing cell data been checked against the state's case to ensure it cannot corroborate any of the (BPD and Jay's) Frankenstein stories? I presume the outgoing calls do not in any way support their case, but I also presume innocence until proven guilt, but that doesn't seem to apply in this case, so I'm trying to challenge all reasonable presumptions.

Posted by: Kim | Mar 25, 2019 7:44:40 AM

re: (13) Jenn picks up Jay, Jay says Adnan killed Hae, Jay dumps the shovels, and they go to Kristi's place.

"Jay dumps the shovels" is misleading. Better to say: Jay says he wants to wipe down shovels and disappears behind a dumpster.

By Jenn's testimony, she didn't see the shovels or help Jay do anything with them, she just drove Jay to the dumpsters at the mall and he got out of the car and disappeared for a while while she sat in the car. This is more hearsay from Jay. And one less person who claims to have seen physical evidence related to the crime.

This is a misconception left over from Serial, the implication then was that Jenn saw the shovels in her car and helped dump them.

Posted by: Alex | Mar 25, 2019 8:13:24 AM

I don’t think this is a “smoking gun” but if Kristi doesn’t remember ever missing a class, then she probably didn’t. You tend to remember that kind of thing, especially if it was THAT important (meaning she wouldn’t graduate on time, etc.) I tend to think that if she didn’t miss class and the class was on 1/13, then likely you are correct. But we’ve seen before how “solid” facts can still be twisted or dismissed to him still guarded on being too hopeful for Adnan

Posted by: Megan Pawlak | Mar 25, 2019 8:48:56 AM

Is it possible that Jay has the “confession conversation” with Jen after one of the two undocumented conversations with the cops? Also, I see a lot of people questioning whether classes were canceled. This would have been documented through news outlets as in 2000 that would have been the primary way to inform students of class closures and therefore should be relatively easy to verify or refute. Has this been done already?

Colin Miller note: This is the 25th and final comment that will appear on this post.

Petrea: Someone sent Susan and me a newsletter with UMBC social work conferences. We thought a conference on another date might have been the one Kristi attended, but we weren't sure.

Lori: I'm trying to see if the HBO team asked her about the conference.

Jennifer Jen: The medical examiner we contacted for Undisclosed concluded that Hae was buried w/in 8-24 hours after death, so burial on a different day wouldn't work: https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/files/dr.-hlavaty-affidavit.pdf

Robert Thomson: This was a winter term class w/only 3 or 4 class sessions that were 3+ hours. Missing 1 of the class sessions would lead to a failing grade. Also, I think things like the alleged wrestling match that didn't occur on 1/13 shows a lack of investigation of these types of facts.

Kim: The large majority of the pings don't match the State's case.

Alex: Right. I condensed that for point 13, but I noted above that "Jay (says he) dumps the shovels in a dumpster at Westview Mall."

Megan: Right. This doesn't 100% prove Kristi was in class that night. But it's really solid evidence that she was indeed in class.

Posted by: Kris | Mar 25, 2019 10:11:32 AM

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