Serial Returns to the Case of Adnan Syed with New Episodes

Sarah Koenig is reporting daily from the courtroom as a new hearing takes place on whether to overturn Adnan's conviction.

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04 February 2016, 4:00pm

What's going on over at Serial HQ? When that show launched in 2014, it was scrupulously scheduled, one story told week by week, each episode focusing on another element of Adnan Syed's complex case. Now, in season two, they're covering a story that's also being made into a movie at the same time, then they randomly decided to switch it to fortnightly – "it's a story told WEEK BI-WEEK" Sarah Koenig chortled in a one-minute episode they dropped apropos of nothing. Now, in the middle of season two, they're going back to report of the Adnan Syed case daily as his new hearing continues. Perhaps Koenig is drunk on power and half a bottle of red going "Fuckkkk, you know what we should do, let's cover seven different stories day by day but backwards so you have to listen to the end of story seven on Monday to understand the beginning by Sunday. Guys, I think this could really work."

Anyway, yes, Serial is going back to Adnan (and it's old theme tune, and Mail Chimp adverts) because yesterday a new hearing began for his case. Asia McClain the potential alibi for Adnan, Koenig and Adnan himself are all in the courtroom in Baltimore, with Koenig filing phone reports from each day of the hearing, which will decide if Adnan's conviction should be overturned.

In the time since Serial season one finished, a lot has happened, with spin-off podcasts and internet investigators - which Koenig doesn't really mention. Perhaps most notably, Jay spoke to the Intercept about the case, refuting Adnan's innocence. In one chilling passage Jay tells the reporter that Adnan says "'You've gotta help me, or I'm gonna tell the cops about you and the weed and all that shit.' And then he popped the trunk and I saw Hae's body. She looked kinda purple, blue, her legs were tucked behind her." It provided a very different version of the Adnan heard in the interviews on Serial.

Rather than dwell on that, Koenig jumps straight into the first day of the trial, the headline news of which is that Asia McClain showed up and testified. If you know anything about this case, you know that Asia could potentially have been Adnan's alibi, as she claims the pair were in a library at the time Adnan's then ex-girlfriend was supposed to have been murdered. But Asia was never called to testify at the original trial. This is one of the main reasons this new hearing is happening, to find out if Adnan's legal council screwed everything up for him.

Koenig, who phones from inside a wardrobe in her hotel room, says Asia's testimony "landed" in the courtroom, suggesting there was a palpable sense that she was a missing piece in the puzzle of this case.

As well as her overall alibi, Asia explained some of the more finickity parts of the case. After Adnan was arrested, he and Asia exchanged letters. In one of them, she writes: "I will try my best to help you account for some of your unwitnessed, unaccountable time." In the original post-conviction hearing, the judge noted that it sounded as if she was offering to lie for him.

But, Koenig explains, Asia goes into more detail at the hearing, explaining that she "had been to Adnan's house that day to tell his family what she knew and they told me he was struggling to account for that day". So, Asia claims, it was an offer not of an alibi but to help him work it out.

Asia's letter to Adnan, March 1st 1999

One person we haven't heard much about in the year since Serial was released is Hae Min Lee, the murdered 18-year-old ex-girlfriend of Adnan. Lee's family did not participate in Serial or any other of its associated media and were also not mentioned in this first episode of Koenig's podcast. But they were in the courtroom yesterday and after the hearing their lawyer read a statement from the family, in which they said that the hearing was forcing them to "relive a nightmare we thought was behind us".

"We believe justice was done when Adnan was convicted in 2000, and we look forward to bringing this chapter to an end so we can celebrate the memory of Hae instead of celebrating the man who killed her," the family said.

To listen to these new Serial episodes feels a little like your favourite band reforming. By all accounts, they'll be running through their greatest hits: Jay's inaccuracies, the cell tower records, the failings of Adnan's trial lawyer. No doubt these revived Serial episodes will be riveting, and may provide some closure to the case which was left pretty much unsolved at the end of the original run. But hearing a statement from Lee's family for the first time is a grim reminder about how this entertainment is profits. They say they want to bring this chapter to an end and hopefully, one way or the other, this will allow them to do that.

@samwolfson

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