Friday, December 12, 2014

Catch Up on the 'Serial' Podcast Before Next Week's Finale

Serial probes the 1999 conviction of a high school senior who was charged with the murder of
his ex-girlfriend.
The Serial podcast has drawn in millions of listeners since it debuted in October with new episodes every Thursday. The show, a production of WBEZ Chicago, tells the story of Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, who disappeared on January 13, 1999. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan's friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae's death. Some people believe he's telling the truth. Many others don't.

Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. She sorted through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators' notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized was that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence - all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person's character? How can you tell what they're capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

Before the finale airs next Thursday, catch up on the first 11 episodes of Serial below:

Episode 1 "The Alibi"
It's Baltimore, 1999. Hae Min Lee, a popular high-school senior, disappears after school one day. Six weeks later detectives arrest her classmate and ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, for her murder. He says he's innocent - though he can't exactly remember what he was doing on that January afternoon. But someone can. A classmate at Woodlawn High School says she knows where Adnan was. The trouble is, she's nowhere to be found.

Episode 2 "The Breakup"
Their relationship began like a storybook high-school romance: a prom date, love notes, sneaking off to be alone. But unlike other kids at school, they had to keep their dating secret, because their parents disapproved. Both of them, but especially Adnan, were under special pressure at home, and the stress of that spilled over into their relationship. Eventually Hae broke up with Adnan. And then, depending on who you ask, Adnan was either understandably sad and moping around, or full of rage and plotting to kill her.

Episode 3 "Leakin Park"
It's February 9, 1999. Hae has been missing for three weeks. A man on his lunch break pulls off a road to pee, and stumbles on her body in a city forest. His odd recounting of the discovery makes Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary suspicious. For instance, why did he walk so far into the woods - 127 feet - to relieve himself? And that's just the start. A look into the man's past reveals some bizarre behavior.

Episode 4 "Inconsistencies"
A few days after Hae's body is found, the detectives get a lead that opens the case up for them. They find Jay at work late one night and bring him down to Homicide. At first, he insists he doesn't know anything about the murder. But eventually he comes clean. He tells them what happened on January 13th. A few weeks later, he's back at Homicide and his story has changed. In some ways, these changes are small and understandable. In other ways, they're big and confounding.

Episode 5 "Route Talk"
Adnan once issued a challenge to Sarah. He told her to test the state's timeline of the murder by driving from Woodlawn High School to Best Buy in 21 minutes. It can't be done, he said. So Sarah and Dana take up the challenge, and raise him one: They try to recreate the entire route that Jay said he and Adnan took on January 13th, 1999.

Episode 6 "The Case Against Agnan Syed"
The physical evidence against Adnan Syed was scant - a few underwhelming fingerprints. So aside from cell records, what did the prosecutors bring to the jury, to shore up Jay's testimony? Sarah weighs all the other circumstantial evidence they had against Adnan, including curious behavior, a disconcerting note, and an unexplained mid-afternoon phone call.

Episode 7 "The Opposite of the Prosecution"
Adnan told Sarah about a case in Virginia that had striking similarities to his own: one key witness, incriminating cell phone records, young people, drugs - and a defendant who has always maintained his innocence. Sarah called up one of the defense attorneys on that case to see if she could offer any insight into Adnan's case, and got much more than she bargained for.

Episode 8 "The Deal with Jay"
The state's case against Adnan Syed hinged on Jay's credibility; he was their star witness and also, because of his changing statements to police, their chief liability. Naturally, Adnan's lawyer tried hard to make Jay look untrustworthy at trial. So, how did the jurors make sense of Jay? For that matter, how did the cops make sense of Jay? How are we supposed to make sense of Jay?

Episode 9 "To Be Suspected"
New information is coming in about what maybe didn't happen on January 13, 1999. And while Adnan's memory of that day is foggy at best, he does remember what happened next: being questioned, being arrested and, a little more than a year later, being sentenced to life in prison.

Episode 10 "The Best Defense is a Good Defense"
Adnan's trial lawyer was M. Cristina Gutierrez, a renowned defense attorney in Maryland – tough and savvy and smart. Other lawyers said she was exactly the kind of person you'd want defending you on a first-degree murder charge. But Adnan was convicted, and a year later, Gutierrez was disbarred. What happened?

Episode 11 "Rumors"
Almost everyone describes the 17-year-old Adnan the same way: good kid, helpful at the mosque, respectful to his elders. But a couple of months ago, Sarah started getting phone calls from people who knew Adnan back then, and told her stories of a different kind of boy.

No comments:

Post a Comment