The Serial Podcast

serial

I enjoy podcasts, and lately I’ve been listening to a lot of them. After spending hours and hours over on Jackie Kashian’s entertaining The Dork Forest, I decided to branch out. About a year ago, in fact, the very night before I moved to Delware, I’d listened to an interview on Geeks Guide To The Galaxy with Cecil Palmer, who serves as the central narrator of the radio play style podcast Welcome to Night Vale. I started listening, but I was a little aggravated by the format, I was hoping for something closer to an actual radio play, whereas Welcome to Night Vale is mostly told via a single character speaking through the town’s radio news broadcast. Occasionally there are other characters speaking, and it seems like most often they happen during the live episodes, but for the most part it’s just Cecil speaking, and there isn’t really a concrete narrative, mostly just endless descriptions of the town in Lovecraftian detail. It’s actually really cool, I don’t mean to sound down on it, but I was getting frustrated because I wanted something with a genuine narrative.

This led me to Serial. I knew absolutely nothing about Serial other than that it was an incredibly popular podcast. I had no idea what the show was about, and I actually assumed it was something more like Welcome To Night Vale of Thrilling Adventure Hour, so when I started the show I assumed it was fictional. It turned out to be entirely non-fiction, and is the story of the murder of a teenage girl in 1999, and one reporter’s efforts to truly understand everything that happened, and whether or not the man convicted of her murder was truly guilty. The following paragraphs are adapted from some comments I made in a Facebook discussion about the show.

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For me, there are some common sense issues here.

Jay admits to helping with burying Hae. It was done using his shovels. He was, in any version of events, the one helping to put her body in the ground. Immediately that doesn’t look good for him. Then, you add in the fact that he cannot keep his story straight, even after all this time. Even after Serial he came forward with yet ANOTHER version of events.

Jay’s character seems to be that even in the most amiable light, he was a bit of a weirdo. That whole incident where he wanted to stab his friend just for fun, that doesn’t seem like just random playing around to me. His answers to the questions change so constantly that no one actually knows what his story is, there are five versions and counting. When Sarah spoke to him, he seemed defeated, exhausted, destroyed.

He talks in detail about seeing her dead body, helping bury it, describes the way she looked dead in graphic detail, talks about throwing away his clothes and disposing of anything incriminating. And all of this because… Some guy he only casually knows who he got high with murdered someone and he’s just fine with helping get rid of her? No way. I don’t buy anything Jay says.

Then add in the fishiness of the prosecutor getting him a free lawyer. I know nothing about law but that was clearly a conflict of interest on some level and i don’t understand how the case wasn’t thrown out on that alone.

Compare Jay, the unpredictable guy described even by friends as a weirdo and in his own words as someone who was the person to come for with illegal activity, to Adnan, who is either innocent or is doing a DAMN good job of looking, speaking and acting innocent fifteen years on and never slipping up once.

I don’t even know what to think about Mr. S and his weird story that doesn’t add up.

The prosecution doesn’t seem to have any hard evidence, and the defense has none either. With the Nisha call, it seems to me that Jay could have called her by accident, freaked out and then pretended to be Adnan, “Jay on the phone,” and then spoken as himself for the rest of the call. Then you have Jay’s incredible paranoia in the porn store after the murder happened, thinking people were out to get him. Who was he afraid of? The state seemed to be creepily involved with him in a variety of ways.

Also, from the very first episode I thought there was a huge element of anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan Prejudice involved, and sure enough, it was there in droves. The investigators were given incredibly inaccurate information about Muslim culture and the prosecution used both the ignorance and prejudice against Muslim culture to paint a picture of Adnan as an angry Muslim killing the woman who slighted him in some kind of archaic honor killing.

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Sure, Adnan doesn’t have an ironclad alibi. Sure, Asia seems to be a little shady, and the fact that she refused to come forward until the podcast became incredibly popular and then wrote an entire book about the case makes her seem like a fame-seeker who just wants to milk some money and popularity out of the resurgence of interest in Adnan’s case.  And sure, Adnan cant say anything incredibly convincing about what he was doing the day of the murder. But Jay? He has red flags all over him. Somehow he was the prosecution’s star witness, when he is the fulcrum on which the entire case turns and he can’t be counted on to keep a single detail straight. Not to mention he is the only person to admit to burying Hae. The only person who SEEMS guilty is Jay. Adnan doesn’t seem like a cunning psychopath, or someone who went into a dissociative state to murder Hae. He admits he was high most of the day. Weirdly enough, so was Jay, but he seems to have a detailed memory of the day, though the details change constantly.

There are so many things about this case that just don’t add up. No one seems to have a clear motive. The prosecution spent all their time on their racist “Muslim honor killing” story, but even in the most unflattering interpretation of Muslim beliefs, it’s clear from Adnan’s behavior that he wasn’t some devoutly religious kid adhering completely to Muslim doctrine, but a modern kid who had sex and smoked pot and did the kinds of things teenagers were doing. Gutierrez, who is a whole separate jar of pickles because she seems unhinged, didn’t put forth any real motive for Jay to do it.

After hearing all the details about these people, it’s hard to understand how Hae ended up murdered at all. None of them seem like they had any reason to kill her. I think that ultimately, there’s not truly enough evidence to convict ANYONE. The whole thing just feels like a puzzle with a huge central piece missing, and it’s easiest to blame the ex boyfriend, and easier if you happen to be in Maryland and the boy is the Muslim son of Pakistan immigrants. It doesn’t seem like anyone had any real reason to kill her. The idea that it was a serial killer seemed farfetched, but what if it turns out to be? If so, that means that not only was Adnan innocent, but Jay is guilty of being involved in some serious conspiracy with the police. I’m told that a separate podcast dug a lot deeper into what happened and that it seems like the police were acting incredibly shady, and I believe it, especially with the prosecutor getting Jay his attorney for free.

I wish I could say that I believe unequivocally that Adnan didn’t do it, but I can’t. Hae is dead, and her death was heinous and gruesome, and it’s utterly horrifying to know a real person was killed, stuffed in a trunk and then buried. It’s hard, knowing that, to think that if Adnan DID do it, well how could I possibly entertain the notion of wanting him to go free without knowing without a doubt he was innocent? In the end, there isn’t enough evidence to prove who did it. But is Adnan guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? No way. Even if Adnan did it, there isn’t enough evidence to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. Like Sarah said, a juror would probably have to acquit Adnan, because there isn’t any hard evidence to prove that he was the one who murdered Hae.

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