EvidenceProf Blog

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

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Why It's Highly Likely Becky Heard Hae Tell Adnan She Couldn't Give Him a Ride b/c She Had "Something Else to Do" on January 13, 1999

There has been a good bit of discussion about the Adnan Syed case on Twitter/X recently, and a good deal of it has dealt with Becky, a classmate and friend of both Adnan and Hae Min Lee. I've written before on this blog about Becky, but I don't think I've ever done a full post on why it is highly likely that the critical event she remembers in fact occurred on January 13, 1999, the day Hae disappeared.

Let's start with a refresher on Becky: On April 9, 1999, Becky was interviewed by the police. According to the notes of that interview, shortly after school ended on January 13, 1999, Hae said to Adnan regarding his ride request earlier in the day, "Oh no, I can't take you, I have something else to do." The notes also indicate that Becky told the police that Hae "didn't say what else" Hae had to do.

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Adnan's first trial ended in a mistrial before Becky could testify. At Adnan's second trial, Becky testified as a defense witness. Specifically, she testified that, shortly after the end of school on January 13th, she saw Hae heading to the door that led to where her car was parked, with Hae saying "she had to be somewhere after school. She didn't tell me where she was going but she said she had to leave."

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This is very similar to Becky's police statement, with the key difference being that defense counsel Cristina Gutierrez never asked Becky whether Adnan was present for what Hae said. That said, when Sarah Koenig interviewed Becky for Serial and read her police statement (about Hae telling Adnan that she couldn't give him a ride), Becky responded twice that what Koenig had read to her "sounds right."

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Clearly, Becky is a critical witness. If she's right and Hae was being honest, Hae had something else to do and somewhere else to be, preventing her from giving Adnan a ride. That would mean that, unless Hae again changed her mind, she didn't give Adnan a ride, and she very likely died while doing this other thing. Moreover, if, (1) as Becky suggests, Hae left soon after school; and (2) Adnan was at the library with Asia until about 2:40pm, it's very likely Adnan is innocent.

But is Becky remembering the correct day? I think so. Here are several reasons why I think she is:

First, Becky's memory of Hae turning Adnan down for a ride at the end of school is tied to the day when she heard at lunch about Krista overhearing Adnan ask Hae for a ride at the start of the day.

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Krista is the primary basis for people believing the ride request was on January 13th b/c she was asked about it that same night. Because Becky's memory is tied to Krista overhearing that request, she is also likely remembering Hae changing her mind on that same day: January 13th.

Second, Becky remembers Hae turning Adnan down for a ride on Stephanie's birthday. Stephanie's birthday was January 13th.

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Third, Becky doesn't just remember it being Stephanie's birthday. She remembers the stuffed animal that Adnan did in fact get Stephanie for her birthday.

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Fourth, Becky remembers Hae saying she was thinking about Don at lunch, which means, at a minimum, Hae turned Adnan down for a ride in January.

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This is significant b/c there were very few days in January when Adnan was at school and didn't have a track meet, i.e., days when Adnan would have been asking for a ride. Here were the school days in January before January 13th:

1/4: Adnan absent

1/5: track meet

1/6: Adnan absent

1/7

1/8: snow day (no school)

1/9-1/10: weekend

1/11

1/12: track meet 

As you can see, the only other possible days when Hae might have turned Adnan down for a ride at the end of the day were 1/7 or 1/11. But, if it was one of those days, was that other day possibly the only day Adnan made a ride request in the first place?

Fifth, Becky remembers Hae turning Adnan down for a ride the day before the ice storm that did in fact close school the next day, Thursday, January 14th:

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Sixth, Becky says that Aisha was there when Hae turned Adnan down for a ride.

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This is significant because it lines up with what Krista told me, which is that she talked to Aisha on the night of January 13th, with Aisha telling her that Hae turned down Adnan for a ride at the end of the day.

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Seventh, it would make sense that both Becky and Aisha remember Hae turning down Adnan for a ride on January 13th in particular b/c Becky says in her police statement that she talked with Aisha on the night of January 13th after Aisha learned that Hae was missing:

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All of the above adds up to a high likelihood that Hae did indeed turn Adnan down for a ride at the end of the school day on January 13, 1999 b/c she had something else to do.

-CM

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2023/08/there-has-been-a-good-bit-of-discussion-about-the-adnan-syed-case-on-twitterx-recently-and-a-good-deal-of-it-has-dealt-with.html

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Comments

Thank you for the refresher, Colin. I can’t help but think that this resurgence of interest and negative (i.e. Adnan is guilty) sentiment is largely generated by that particular podcast that prompted your response. I have not decided if I am more upset about supposed professionals disparaging the work of other professionals in such an ad hominem fashion, or if I am most upset about Mr. Syed again being tried in the court of public opinion. I think the latter, but both are upsetting. Keep doing what you do - the voice of reason and fact-finding prevails for many; we just might not be the loudest at times.

Posted by: Susan Dietsch | Aug 13, 2023 4:19:06 PM

This is a nitpicky question, but it's "track practice," not "track meet," correct? A track meet is a track competition usually among different schools.

Posted by: Jennifer Hill | Aug 30, 2023 7:28:58 AM

Jennifer: On 1/5 and 1/12, Adnan had track meets. On other days, he had track practice.

Posted by: Colin Miller | Sep 3, 2023 8:00:50 AM

A further bit of support for Jan. 13 being the correct day of the ride request and Hae's change of mind: Colin, in a Q&A addendum on Undisclosed, you answered the question about the most likely reason for Adnan's ride request: that he wanted Hae to drop him off at the track field for practice. Otherwise, he'd have to walk down there since there was no parking at the field. Jan.13 was the only day before Hae's murder and during Ramadan for which track practice was outdoors; other regular practice days were too cold and so practice was held indoors. So the whole thing hangs together: Coach Sye's memory of his conversation with Adnan during an outdoor practice during Ramadan and the ride request. Also, something everyone gets wrong: Hae wasn't rushing to pick up her cousin; she was rushing to do something before that. The only thing that makes sense is that she was going to meet Don at the mall and then do the pickup. I've written a short book about the case against Don; get a copy at https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Hae-Min-Lee-Examination-ebook/dp/B0CHLK4K2Z/ref=sr_1_2?crid=24QB7RM9Z391K&keywords=%22The+Killing+of+Hae+Min+Lee%22&qid=1703103711&sprefix=the+killing+of+hae+min+lee+%2Caps%2C746&sr=8-2

Posted by: Debi Simons | Dec 20, 2023 12:23:38 PM

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