In previous posts, I’ve dissected both Adnan’s cell phone records and also Jay’s statements to the police and his testimony at trial. This post, rather than focusing on any single piece of the state’s case, is an attempt to assemble and review all available evidence that supports the state’s case against Adnan. If any readers think there is evidence that I’ve left off, please let me know — all reasonable evidence will be added. My goal is to have as complete a record as possible, with links to the available primary documents. Even for those of you who don’t agree with my analysis, hopefully it will be still be helpful to have a collection of the known evidence collected in one place.
Where relevant, I have also noted which of the three categories the state’s evidence falls into: (1) evidence that the prosecution could and did use against Adnan at trial; (2) evidence that the prosecution could not use against Adnan at trial, but somehow was able to get admitted at trial anyway; and (3) evidence that the prosecution could not use or did not have at the time of Adnan’s trial, but which we have now because it has been made available on Serial. That way, people can evaluate the case against Adnan in light of both the evidence that the prosecution should have been able to use at Adnan’s trial, and also in light of all evidence that is currently availability, regardless of its admissibility for trial purposes.
Summary of the State’s Case
There was no physical evidence linking Adnan to Hae’s murder. It should be noted that this was not because of any lack of effort on the state’s part; in developing a case against Adnan, investigators compared soil found on Adnan’s boots to soil samples where Hae’s body was found, looked for Adnan’s fingerprints in Hae’s car and at the crime scene, tried to match fibers and hairs found at the crime scene with Adnan’s hair and clothes. But all of that came up empty.
And by itself, that might not mean anything. Sometimes criminals are really careful about not leaving trace evidence behind, or just get really lucky. But that does mean that the state’s evidence against Adnan did not consist of any evidence that could show a physical link between Adnan and any of the crime scenes. Instead, the state built its case out of three main pillars: Jay’s testimony, Adnan’s cell phone records, and evidence suggesting that Adnan is the kind of person who could have killed his ex-girlfriend in a vengeful rage.
The first two points I have already addressed in detail (in posts outlining the lack of any objective basis for concluding that Jay’s testimony was credible; the contradictory and dreamlike nature of Jay’s statements concerning Hae’s burial; the indications from the transcripts of Jay’s police interviews that hist statement was coached by detectives; and a comparison of the data from Adnan’s cell phone records and the witness statements). While I have also provided a brief (well, sorta brief…) summary of those topics below, please check the prior posts for the complete discussion on those issues.
That leaves us with the third type of evidence in the state’s case against Adnan: evidence suggesting that Adnan is the kind of person who could have killed Hae. This category include evidence based on witness’s perceptions of an individual’s behavior or character, when that perception had been informed by the perceiver’s knowledge of that individual’s possible involvement in a crime. It includes, for example, evidence that is introduced to show that someone’s reactions to an event were not what his or her reaction “should have been,” or that the way someone had been acting was odd or shady, or that someone was “the kind of person” who might commit a crime.
And I’ll go ahead fully disclose my biases now: as far as I’m concerned, this sort of post hoc, perception-based evidence is the modern day successor to phrenology and tarot card readings. Because I don’t care what kind of person Adnan is or was; I don’t care if he stole candy from babies, or smoked a bowl of weed every morning, or if he bullied kids for their lunch money. I also don’t care if he pauses too long (or not long enough) when answering questions, or if he shows insufficient anger about being imprisoned, or if he was born a Pisces with Jupiter rising. None of that has even the slightest relevance to the question of whether he killed Hae. If Adnan had previously tried to kill someone he was in an intimate relationship with, or even used physical violence against them — well, I would care about that, that would have some relevance, but as far I know there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest anything along those lines. And by the same token, I don’t care what kind of person Jay is or was, either. I don’t care if he has a criminal record, I don’t care if he dealt drugs, and I don’t care if he tried to stab a friend because the friend needed to know what being stabbed felt like. (And I definitely do not care if he owned a rat-eating toad.)
So while I have tried to list all of the state’s evidence against Adnan in this post, I make no promises about giving any serious consideration to “evidence” consisting of things such as “I can tell that Adnan is a sociopath because he once described his facial expression to someone he was speaking to on the phone” is not going to make the cut. You are, of course, free to disagree with me on the significance of that kind of evidence. However, any time the state’s case is based upon a suggestion that Adnan was a “bad person,” and therefore could have been capable of killing Hae, I would encourage you to consider whether or not that sort of amateur psychoanalysis can truly serve as a replacement for evidence demonstrating that Adnan actually killed Hae.
(1) Jay’s Testimony that Adnan Killed Hae.
Jay’s testimony is the crux of the case against Adnan. Without Jay testifying at trial, the prosecution’s case could not have withstood a motion for judgment of acquittal.
But since Jay would have been expected to give precisely that same testimony regardless of whether Adnan was guilty or innocent, there is no reason to assume that it proves — let alone proves beyond a reasonable doubt — that Adnan was actually the murderer. Although the jurors at Adnan’s trial chose to credit Jay’s testimony, we also know, from Episode 8, that at least one of the jurors based that belief on a mistaken assumption about the nature of his testimony. The juror stated that she had chosen to credit Jay because it
struck [her] that “why would [Jay] admit to doing something that drastic if [Adnan] hadn’t done it?” You know what I mean? For what reason? What was he going to gain from that? He still had to go to jail.
But we know exactly what Jay was going to gain from that. During initial police interviews, Jay’s “admission” to helping bury Hae provided Jay with a way to avoid police scrutiny into his own responsibility for Hae’s death. And at Adnan’s trial, Jay was given both a carrot, in the form of an amazingly favorable plea bargain if he stuck with the prosecution’s script, and a stick, in the form of threatened jail time if he failed to do so.
Moreover, the timing of Jenn’s and Jay’s initial contacts with the police, and their subsequent interviews, show us the series of events that led to Jay making the rational choice to “confess” to his role in the cover up of Hae’s murder. On February 27, 1999, Jay walked into a police interview with two detectives who were already convinced of Adnan’s guilt, and had the testimony of one witness — Jenn — to back it up. And while we do not know the details of what occurred during Jay’s “pre-interview” that day, it does not take a great leap of the imagination to think that the detectives’ approach to the interview was something along the lines of, “C’mon, Jay, we know you helped Adnan bury the body. We got a witness saying you were there. We got evidence showing you were there. We got evidence that you and Adnan talked the night before the murder to plan it all out. And if you don’t start talking now, we’re going to assume you had something more to do with it than just helping with the disposal.”
[Edit, 12/22/2014: It was far more blatant than that. The police informed Jay that if he did not implicate Adnan in Hae’s murder, then Jay would be getting charged with the murder”
In light of that, there should be no question as to why Jay would have implicated Adnan in Hae’s death. Jay has said it himself — he accused Adnan of murder so that he could avoid being charged with the murder himself.]
In addition, the precise details of Jay’s plea deal, and the arrangement through which a private defense counsel that was hand-selected for him by the prosecutor, was not disclosed to the defense in advance of trial, which prevented them from being able to make the greatest use out of this striking information. Like Jay testified, something “smelled fishy” about the way he obtained his defense counsel, and he has suspicions that his counsel was representing the prosecutor’s interest and not his own (Appellee’s Brief at 12-13).
Jay might very well have been right about that — the most obvious explanation for why the prosecutor was so eager to handpick a private defense attorney for Jay is because the prosecutor was concerned that a PDS attorney might have advised Jay against pleading to a felony, as the state’s only evidence against Jay was his own (possibly improperly Mirandized) statements.
So Jay making a sweet deal to save himself from a much worse criminal charge is not reliable evidence of Adnan’s guilt. Jay’s testimony only becomes evidence of Adnan’s guilt if the factfinder believes that he or she possesses a special ability to act as a human polygraph machine, with the power to sort truth from lies merely by observing someone speak. And that is not something humans are actually capable of doing. It was undisputed at trial that Jay had lied in every police statement he had ever given; why should anyone expect he started telling the truth at Adnan’s trial?
(2) Adnan’s Status as Hae’s Ex-Boyfriend.
At trial, the prosecution argued that Adnan’s status as Hae’s ex-boyfriend was evidence that he was guilty murdering Hae. And that is a fine argument for them to have made, to the extent that it sets the stage for the alleged motive for the offense, but that is as far as that evidence can take you. I have seen a lot people, however, trying to argue that Adnan is almost certainly guilty of Hae’s murder simply because, statistically, intimate partners are responsible for most homicides with female victims, and therefore it is overwhelmingly likely that Adnan was the killer. But this murder-by-numbers approach to crime solving makes two huge mistakes: it relies on inaccurate numbers and faulty application of the data.
First, let’s look at the numbers. Of all female murder victims, somewhere between two-fifths and one-third are killed by an intimate partner (defined as a current or former spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend). Although the precise numbers depend on which study you are relying on for your data, one Bureau of Justice Statistics Report released in 2001 found that, from 1993-1999, a total of twenty-two percent of female homicide victims between the ages of 16-19 were killed by an intimate partner.
This is a significant number, and Adnan should absolutely have been on a list of people to be investigated in Hae’s death. But if you are looking at crime statistics to solve this murder, then you would now have to conclude that Adnan is almost certainly innocent, or at least that there is no way the government could have proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. After all, that means there is only a 1 in 5 chance he did it, right? (Actually, less than one in five — Adnan was not Hae’s only intimate partner. We know of at least one other, which means that, statistically, there can only be a 1 in 10 chance that Adnan is guilty!) (/s.)fn*
But the published statistical reports are irrelevant. Because crime statistics cannot provide evidence of Adnan’s guilt, no matter what the precise numbers might be. While this kind of data is very useful during the investigation stage, and provides detectives with a way to identify potentially productive leads, it has no use when it comes to demonstrating that a specific suspect committed a specific crime.
For that reason, Adnan’s status as Hae’s ex-boyfriend is as irrelevant as is the chatter about Jay’s criminal record. Yes, when looking at crime statistics, it may be possible to conclude that individuals with a history of certain violent offenses are more likely to commit homicide. But that data is meaningless, because this isn’t a sociology project. And neither the prosecution (or Serial listeners) are ever going to get closer to figuring out who is responsible for killing Hae Min Lee by choosing to follow general statistical trends rather than the evidence.
(3) Adnan Asked Hae for a Ride on the Day of Her Disappearance.
One of the prosecution’s more intriguing and confusing pieces of evidence against Adnan is testimony suggesting that, on the day of Hae’s disappearance and presumed death, Adnan had asked Hae for a ride. Here is what we know so far, from both the podcast and the available court records. On April 9, 1999, Becky, one of Hae and Adnan’s classmates, was interviewed by the police. Notes from that interview provided the following:
Sometime earlier that day, apparently [Adnan] asked her to take him possibly to get car before lunch because it was in the shop. Heard about it at lunch. . . . Hae said she could, there would be no problem. At end of school I saw them. She said ‘Oh no I can’t take you, I have something else to do.’ She didn’t say what else. Approximately 2:20. . . . He said, ‘Okay I’ll just ask someone else.’ . . . He told her goodbye.
Did not see Hae after that. (Episode 2.)
In the podcast, however, Becky states that she “remember[s] that there was talk about” Adnan asking Hae for a ride. This makes it sound as if Becky did not actually witness Adnan asking Hae for a ride (which means her testimony would not have been admissible at trial, and could explain why she was not called by the prosecution). Moreover, it is also not clear from Becky’s statements when the “talk about” Adnan asking for a ride occurred — from available context, it seems she may be referring to talk that occurred after Hae’s disappearance, or even after Adnan’s arrest, rather than talk that occurred on the day of Hae’s disappearance. The police statement itself is equally vague, using the word “apparently,” and not specifying whether the source of Becky’s information was first-hand or the talk that she had heard at school.
Krista, another friend of Hae and Adnan’s, also stated the following on the podcast:
If I remember correctly (laugh) I think Adnan and I were taking– ah, had a class together, um our first period class was Photography, and she– they passed each other in the hallway and I was with him and I remember somebody saying or him saying something about ‘Can you give me a ride after school?’ (Episode 2.)
Again, we have a maddeningly ambiguous witness statement. Did Krista hear Adnan saying something about a ride, or somebody saying something about Adnan asking for a ride?
Officer Adcock, who called Adnan at 6:24 p.m. on the night of Hae’s disappearance, testified to the following at trial:
I spoke to Mr. Syed and he advised me that, ah, he did see the victim in school that day, and that um, he was supposed to get a ride home from the victim, but he got detained at school and she just got tired of waiting and left (Episode 2.)
Later, on February 1, another detective called Adnan to ask about Hae, and
[a]sk[ed] him ‘did you tell Officer Adcock you’d asked Hae for a ride?’ . . . Adnan says this was incorrect because he drives his own car to school. (Episode 2.)
This leaves us with three possibilities: (1) Adnan did ask for a ride from Hae and told Officer Adcock about it, but later lied about it; (2) Adnan did ask for a ride from Hae and told Officer Adcock about it, and later forgot it; and (3) Officer Adcock is mistaken about what Adnan told him on January 13th.
If Adnan did ask Hae for a ride on January 13th, that alone is not significant evidence. Since Jay had his car, Adnan might have just wanted to get a ride to the 7-11. On the other hand, if Adnan asked for a ride and later lied about it — that could be very significant.
But just to make this all the more confusing, here is what else we know. Inez, who ran the concession stand at the school, says that she saw Hae at around 2:20 p.m., when Hae parked her car by the gym, engine still running, and ran in to get some snacks. Inez also says Hae told her “to tell the bus not to leave her,” implying that Hae would be back to catch the bus to the boy’s wrestling match (since Hae was a team manager and needed to be there to keep score). But Inez also says she did not see Adnan anywhere nearby at the time — and if Hae was trying to leave school quickly that day (as Hae’s friend Debbie has said), then she presumably left campus straight from the concession stand, leaving Adnan no time to get in her car.
And then we have Jay. Jay, as usual, tells us a lot of things on this subject, but unfortunately none of those things are consistent. In his first interview, Jay says the following about why Adnan gives him his car that day:
Detective: Why does he give you his car?
Jay: Um so I could finish doing, while he was in school and what. (Int.1 at 3.)1
Later though, at Jay’s second interview, his story changes, and he gives the following two explanations:
Detective: Ah, does [Adnan] tell you how he’s gonna do it [when you and Adnan went shopping together on January 12th]?
Jay: No, but he tell me that ah, he’s gonna do it in her car. Um, he said to me that he was going to ah, tell her his car was broken down and ah, ask her for a ride. And that was, and that was it, that. (Int.2 at 4.)
Detective: And the reason you have the car and the cell phone was why?
Jay: To pick him up from wherever he was gonna do this at. . . . He he , that day he told me yes. He told me um, I’m gonna leave you with my cell phone and my car, I need you to come get me, yes. (Int.2 at 7.)
Both of Jay’s new answers contradict his statement in the first interview, and while the new answers are not necessarily mutually exclusive, they are different. Did Jay did Adnan give Jay his car so that he could tell Hae it was broken down, or did Adnan give Jay his car so that Jay could pick him up later? Either, both, neither? No way to tell — as I have already discussed at length elsewhere, Jay’s statements during his second interview cannot be assumed to be statements about his own knowledge, due to the extensive pre-interview prepping and mid-interview coaching that went on. So his answers in the second interview are useful for showing one thing only: that by March 15, 1999, the investigators have a theory that Adnan asked Hae for a ride on the day of her murder.
And in any event, by the time we get to trial, Jay has totally discarded the story about Adnan telling Hae his car was broken down. It is just not part of the story. Jay claims the whole conversation on January 12th never even occurred in the first place. Instead, all that happened is that Adnan “told [Jay] he could drop [Adnan] off at school and take [Adnan’s] car as long as he picked [Adnan] up later. [Adnan] gave [Jay] [Adnan’s] cell phone so that he could call [Jay] when he was ready to be picked up.” (Brief of Appellant at 7.)
But Jay’s testimony provides some even more confusing evidence about the claim that Adnan asked Hae for a ride on the day she went missing. Because if Adnan did tell Officer Adcock that he had asked Hae for a ride that day, why on earth does Jay not remember this? Because Jay clearly remembers the phone call with Officer Adcock, but he does not recall anything about Adnan having asked for a ride.2
Here’s what he has to say about the call in the first interview:
Jay: [B]efore that happened we were … we were eating and ah police officer called him on the phone and then we cut the meal short because we got to go back to the Park and Ride.
Detective: When a police officer called him on the phone, do you recall what time that was?
Jay: No I don’t, but I remember it, I remember ’cause he kept saying … yes no …. yes no …
Detective: Did he tell you he was talking to a police officer?
Jay: Uh huh.
Detective: Did he tell you what that conversation was about?
Jay: Ah he said that Hae didn’t pick up her cousin, they already looking for her. (Int.1 at 12-13.)
And by the time of the second interview, Jay has this to say:
Detective: How how do you know Adnan got a call from the Police Department?
Jay: Um, because that’s what he does, he holds the phone away and says police. And at that time I started panicking.
Detective: Were you inside the apartment or outside the apartment.
Jay: We’re in, we were just leaving. We were stepping from the foyer into the hallway. And ah, he he he, he talks to the cops and um, I hear the beginning of the conversation he lied to him and tells him he doesn’t, he doesn’t know were she is, he hasn’t seen her. Tells him to look for her old boyfriend um, that, that ah, that’ s just how she is. She’s a flighty person like that, um, check with her friends. (Int.2 at 25.)
Detective: Okay do you recall what kind of statements he made to t he police?
Jay: Um, I knew them to be totally false, he told them he had no knowledge of were she was. Um, he gave them other people’s name to try to look for her and told him that that was her personality.
Detective: Said that, find inaudible, go over that again. During the pre, pre-interview you said um, maybe you wanna try her new boyfriend that she may be with him?
Detective: And also that he and ah, [Hae and Adnan] had been broken up for awhile?
Detective: You also said that she may have just ran off and also told them that he may wanna check with some of her friends?
Jay: Yes. (Int.2 at 63.)
But completely absent from any of Jay’s statements about the Officer Adcock call are any references to Adnan having asked Hae for a ride.
So that’s what we do know about the claim that Adnan asked Hae for a ride that day. There are still a lot of unknowns regarding it — I probably have more questions about this piece of the prosecution’s evidence than I do about any other, simply because so little has been released to us so far. Because the evidence we have right now points in too many directions; it is hard to conclude which factual scenario is most likely.
First, we have Krista’s and Becky’s statements. Neither are completely clear about the source of their information — about whether they directly witnessed Adnan asking Hae for a ride, or whether they simply heard “talk about it” — and neither appears to have made any statements about Adnan asking Hae for a ride until a long time after Hae’s disappearance. Why didn’t they? Surely Becky would have thought that was important information to tell someone, but her police statement was dated April 9th, nearly three months later.3 And why are Becky and Krista so sure that Adnan asked Hae for a ride on the day she went missing? If these statements came only months later, is it possible that they are conflating two events that happened on different days? (Or could it be possible that their memories are conflated with some kind of memory of Hae asking Adnan for a ride? Because, interestingly, we do know Hae’s car had broken down in the days preceding her death, and on that occasion Adnan had been the one to drive her home. Perhaps Adnan had also given Hae a ride from school to pick up her car after it had been fixed?)
And then we have Officer Adcock’s testimony. But without the transcripts or corresponding police records, I am not sure what to make of it. The appellate briefs do not reference it, and our only information about the call comes a brief mention in Episode 2, and an even briefer mention in Episode 6. And while we know that there was a written police record concerning Adnan’s second call with the police (on February 1st) which notes that Adnan denied telling Officer Adcock that he had asked Hae for a ride, we have no idea if there are any written records concerning Officer Adcock’s original call on January 13th, or if instead all we have to go on is Officer Adcock’s own recollections. Is it possible Officer Adcock confused Adnan with someone else he talked to that day? After all, he was calling a bunch of Hae’s friends to find out if anyone had seen her, and if there are no written notes from those conversations, I am less certain about how much we can trust Officer Adcock’s memory of his call to Adnan. Because if Adnan did make the statement to Officer Adcock, then why doesn’t Jay remember it at all, when something like that would have been so beneficial for his story?
So right now, there are a lot of unanswered questions about this part of the state’s case, and I hope we do get more information at some point about what was going on. But at the end of the day, whatever factual scenario the prosecution decides to run with, they still have a big problem with trying to use this evidence to show that Adnan committed murder — because the evidence that Adnan asked Hae for a ride thoroughly contradicts the prosecution’s theory of the case. While evidence that Adnan asked for a ride from Hae could have been useful to the prosecution as evidence as to how Adnan may have been able to accomplish the crime, the very existence of that evidence also has the effect of completely undercutting their case. Having multiple witnesses who could testify about Adnan’s request for a ride is strong evidence against the prosecution’s premeditation theory:
(i) If Adnan did kill Hae, why on earth would he have asked her for a ride in a public location, where other students could witness him doing so? If he is planning to kill her after school, it will be immediately obvious to all of their friends who was with her last. The fact that he publicly asked for a ride from Hae is by far stronger evidence that he did not have any plans to kill her.
(ii) If Adnan did kill Hae, why on earth would he admit this to a police officer that evening? He had to know that would be a red flag; it is inexplicable why he would voluntarily disclose that fact to a cop who was simply calling around to ask if anyone had seen Hae. And if Adnan did, for some bizarre reason, admit this fact to an officer, why would he change his story later and claim he did not? The lie that he asked for a ride is far, far more damaging to his case than the fact of him asking ever could be. So why would a guilty Adnan have intentionally changed his story on this point?
(iii) If Adnan did ask Hae for a ride, the prosecution still lacks evidence to show how Adnan could have actually pulled off the murder, because all of the available evidence (Inez’s statements, Becky’s statements, Adnan’s statements) consistently establishes that Adnan did not actually get a ride with Hae that day. So how can Adnan asking for a ride be evidence of his guilt, when that same evidence that shows he asked for a ride also establishes that he did not actually get a ride with her at the end of the day?
So that leaves the prosecution with two options. One option is that Adnan did publicly ask Hae for a ride that day, because he genuinely needed a ride, and later he and Hae got into an argument resulting in Hae’s death — but in that case, the prosecution is left with the problem that all available evidence suggests Adnan was not actually able to get a ride with Hae, and also the even bigger problem that this would be tantamount to admitting that the prosecution’s star witness was lying when he testified about how Adnan planned the crime. The prosecution’s other option is to try to argue that Adnan was so horribly inept at planning a murder that he publicly announced his intention to be alone with the victim at the time of her planned death, and later voluntarily offered this fact to a police officer at the first available opportunity — but in that case, the prosecution is still left with the problem that all available evidence suggests Adnan was not actually able to get a ride with Hae, and also the problem of trying to convincingly argue that someone so stupid and careless could have possibly gotten away with Hae’s murder without leaving any direct evidence of that fact.
(4) Adnan was Acting Paranoid When the Cops Called Him to Ask About Hae.
At trial, Cathy testified that when Adnan and Jay came to her apartment on January 13th, Adnan’s behavior was distinctly odd:
Adnan was lying on some pillows on her floor when he asked, “how do you get rid of a high?” (2/16/00-210) Adnan got a call on his cell phone and said, “they’re going to come and talk to me, what should I say, what should I do?” (2/16/00-213) Then Adnan and Jay left. (2/16/00-214) Jay returned hours later with Jenn, but Adnan was not with them. (Brief of Appellant at 14.)
But any argument from the prosecution that this is evidence of Adnan’s guilty knowledge falls apart under scrutiny.
First, Cathy is the only witness that, to our knowledge so far, has even remotely suggested in their testimony that Adnan’s behavior on the day of Hae’s murder was even remotely suggestive of guilt. No one who saw Adnan at track has suggested that he was acting bizarrely or out of character that day, and even Jenn says that Adnan was completely, utterly normal when she encountered him later that night.
Second, there is an obvious and well-corroborated explanation for Adnan’s weird behavior at Cathy’s — he was super high, and when he found out the police were about to call him, he predictably became paranoid that the police were going to be able to instantly figure out that fact. As the podcast discusses in Episode 8,
There are three calls on the call log around this time that all ping towers near Cathy’s apartment. 6:07, 6:09 and 6:24. The first two calls are for a little less than a minute, the third call is the longest four minutes, fifteen seconds. That was likely Officer Adcock. So maybe Aisha called Adnan at 6:09, says “I just talked to the police and they’re going to get in touch with you too.” Aisha says that Adnan was annoyed. Maybe that’s what Cathy interpreted as panicked. I think we can all stipulate that Adnan was super stoned. He told me he had weed in the car and was worried the cops were going to find it if they came to talk to him. So, imagine for a second that Adnan is talking to Aisha and says something like [quoting Cathy] “What am I gonna do? What am I gonna say? They’re gonna come talk to me. What am I supposed to say?”4
Besides, it is very hard to take Cathy’s story as evidence that Adnan was displaying “guilty behavior,” when even Jay agrees that the reason Adnan was acting weird at her apartment had nothing to do with anxiety over the murder, and everything to do with a cigarette that Jay had given him:
Detective: What happens [at Cathy’s]?
Jay: We smoke again. Um, he’s feeling a little nausea from a cigarette that I’d given him prior to going in the house. So he sits away from the group. Um, we stay there for awhile until ah, we’re interrupted by a phone call. He wakes up and he answers his phone, he ah, it’s a Hae, Hae’s family, they’re looking for Hae. He tells them he has no knowledge were she is. (Int.2 at 25.)
So if Jay thinks the reason that Adnan was passed out and quiet while at Cathy’s house was due to the cigarette that made him sick, the prosecution’s argument that it was evidence that Adnan had committed a murder seems to be a pretty strained and contorted view of the facts. Why isn’t the simpler explanation that, regardless of whether he committed the murder, he was passed out on Cathy’s cushions because of how high he was?
And third, if the prosecution is going to argue that someone’s odd and uncharacteristic behavior on the night of Hae’s disappearance is evidence of their guilt, then they have chosen the wrong target. Because this argument fits perfectly when applied to Jay.
Here is how Cathy describe Jay and Adnan that night:
Cathy thought Jay was acting odd as well. She knew him as this super laid back stoner guy, like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. But now he was being conspicuously chatty. [Jay] [k]inda– dominated the conversation really. . . . [Cathy] does remember talking to Jenn and saying, “Jay’s here with some kid who’s practically passed out on the cushions.” And Jenn thought that was curious, like, “what’s Jay doing there?” She told Cathy that Jay had been acting weird earlier in the day too. The story Cathy is telling is pretty close to what she told the cops during the investigation. Detective MacGillivary interviewed Cathy in March of ‘99, after Adnan had been arrested. She told him back then, she remembered Adnan saying only one thing to the group: “how do I get rid of a high? [ ] I have to meet someone or do something and it’s really important.” And [Cathy] was like, “you just have to let it– just have to let it go.” (Episode 6.)
And in Jenn’s police statement, she also described how Jay was acting weirdly when he was at her house that day. So weirdly, in fact, that she became convinced something was very wrong:
Detective: [Y]ou were talking about Jay was at your house and he wasn’t acting the way he would normally act, I think hyper you used the word?
Jenn: Uh huh.
Detective: And he leaves in what you believe is Adnan’s car, and you knew something was wrong?
Jenn: Uh huh. (Jenn Int. at 32.)
So let’s recap: (1) Cathy and Jay both describe Adnan as being quiet and “practically passed out” at Cathy’s, and Jay believes that Adnan’s behavior is directly attributable to a cigarette, not anxiety about the murder; (2) Cathy’s memories of Adnan freaking out over how to get rid of a high are wholly consistent with his fear of the cops calling him, just as Aisha told him they were about to do; (3) Cathy describes Jay as acting really weird and out of character while he was at her apartment; and (4) Jenn describes Jay as acting really weird and out of character when he was at her house.
(5) Adnan’s Cell Phone Called Nisha When Adnan Claims He Did Not Have His Cell Phone, Showing That He and Jay Were Together Shortly After Hae’s Disappearance.
The “smoking gun” of the prosecution’s case against Adnan was “the Nisha Call”:
Think of it as a title, capitalized, The Nisha Call. Between noon and five pm that day, there are seven outgoing calls on the log, six of them are to people Jay knows, the seventh is to Nisha, someone only Adnan knew. Adnan’s story is that he and his cell phone were separated that day, from lunchtime all the way until after track at around five something. But The Nisha Call happens at 3:32pm. Smack in the middle of the afternoon. The prosecution makes much of this call at closing, and I can see why. (Episode 6.)
From Adnan’s cell records, we know that the Nisha Call lasted 2 minutes and 22 seconds, and was routed through L651C, which is the west-facing antenna of the tower closest to Woodlawn. It is also the same tower and antenna that the two previous calls had been routed through.
Here is what Nisha testified to at Adnan’s first trial, when asked about this call:
Nisha: Ummm, it’s a little hard to recall, but I remember him telling me that Jay invite- invited him over to a video store that he worked at. And, he basically well Adnan walked in with his cell phone and then like- he told me to speak with Jay and I was like ‘okay’ cause Jay wanted to say hi so I said hi to Jay. And that’s all I can really recall.
Prosecutor: What time of day did that occur?
Nisha: I would think towards the evening, but I can’t be exactly sure.
And here is her testimony from Adnan’s second trial:
Prosecutor: [N]ow did there ever come a time when the defendant called you and put a person he identified as Jay on the line?
Nisha: Yes . . . basically Jay had asked him to come to an adult video store that he worked at.
Prosecutor: No don’t– tell us the content of the call.
Nisha: Okay. He just asked me how I was doing, et cetera. (Nisha’s Testimony at Adnan’s Second Trial.)
If the call Nisha is describing is the 3:32 p.m. call from January 13th, then she has a lot of things about it completely wrong:
- She thinks that Adnan was walking around on foot, rather than driving around in a car.
- She thinks that Jay was working at an adult video store, when really he did not get that job until about two weeks after Hae’s disappearance.
- She thinks that the call happened “towards the evening” rather than at 3:32 p.m.
- She thinks that Jay invited Adnan over somewhere, rather than that Adnan and Jay were already together when the call began.
That is an awful lot of things to get wrong about a phone call. In fact, she is quite literally wrong about everything we know about the call from the cell records, except for perhaps the call’s duration, which she does not testify about.
In Jay’s first interview with the police, he does not mention the Nisha Call, and gives no indication that such a call ever occurred. By the time of the second interview, however, Jay suddenly remembered the call — because just like Detective MacGillivary testified at trial, “[o]nce confronted with the cell phone records, [Jay] ‘remembered things a lot better'” (Brief of Appellant at 12). Here’s what Jay had to say at the second interview:
Detective: How long do you think you were on the telephone?
Jay: Um, [Patrick’s] machine it’ll ring 4 or 5 times before the machine’ll pick up. There’ s a long song on there. Um, then his sister comes on , maybe like 4 minutes.
Detective: Where do you ah, what do you do then after.
Detective: The phone message.
Jay: We head to Forrest Park to see if we couldn’t find that corner salesman there um. We go down t here, we buy 2 dime sacks. Um, we turn around, I believe we s topped to get blunts on um, Rogers and Gwynn Oak, Gwynn Oak and Rogers on the corner of Gwynn Oak and Rogers. During the trip from ah, Route 70, over to.
Detective: Forrest Park where you ah, buy marijuana?
Detective: You made the phone call to your friend?
Detective: First .
Detective: And he wasn’t there. Did anybody else use the phone?
Jay: Yeah um, Adnan, I can’t remember whether he received a call or placed a call, but I do remember he was talking to a girl um, I can’t remember her name. He put me on the phone with her for like 3 minutes, I said hello to her.
Detective: Where did she ah, live?
Jay: Silver Spring.
Detective: Do you recall her name?
Jay: No I don’t.
Detective: Is there anything significant about this conversation that you remember?
Jay: No and.
Detective: You have any idea why Adnan would call this individual in Silver Spring after he had just.
Jay: No and.
Jay: I don’t and ah, I have no idea why he would call. And and their conversation didn’t pertain to anything that he had just done. So.
Jay: No I don’t .
Detective: Okay, um how long did that conversation last?
Jay: It was a pretty long conversation, maybe like 7 – 8 minutes, 10 minutes, something like that.
Detective: And he gave you the phone?
Jay: Yeah some point in the conversation, he gave me the phone, told me to speak to the chick.
Detective: And what did you say to her?
Jay: I said a couple of words, hey, who are you, how old are you, um, where do you live at. (Int.2 at 16-17.)
Which means that if the call that Jay is describing is the call that was made to Nisha at 3:32 p.m., his memory of the call is even more inaccurate than Nisha’s was:
- He says it occurred some time after the call to Patrick was made, but the Patrick call was at 3:59 p.m., while the Nisha call was at 3:32 p.m.
- He says that the call occurred after he and Adnan were returning from buying weed out at the corner of “Gwynn Oak and Rogers,” and as they were driving past Forest Park golf course, but the cell records show that the call was routed through the Woodlawn tower, just like the two calls immediately before it and the two calls immediately after (making it impossible for Jay and Adnan to be returning from Forest Park at the time of the call).
- He says that the call lasted between 7 and 10 minutes, and that for three of those minutes he was the one on the phone with Nisha, when really the call was only 2 minutes 22 seconds.
But even aside from the complete inaccuracy of Jay’s memory concerning the Nisha call, there is something much more troubling about this portion of the interview transcripts, which gives us strong reason to question the legitimacy of his statement. And that’s the fact that, when the detectives interviewed Jay the second time around, they knew precisely one fact about the Nisha Call: that it was made to a girl who lived in Silver Spring. So isn’t it just a little bit concerning that the single detail Jay remembers about the Nisha Call also happened to be the fact that it was made to a girl who lived in Silver Spring?
In any event, while the prosecution is not wrong about the Nisha Call being its “smoking gun,” because it really is the single strongest piece of evidence that they have against Adnan, the problem for the prosecution is that the Nisha Call doesn’t actually prove anything. Even assuming that Adnan really was responsible for killing Hae, then the best interpretation of the available evidence would still be that Adnan made a butt-dial shortly after committing the murder.
Because if there really had been a phone conversation with between Adnan, Jay, and Nisha in the minutes after Hae’s murder, wouldn’t we expect at least one of the participants have recalled at least a single verifiable detail about how that conversation occurred? And even if Adnan really had murdered Hae, is it more likely that, within a few minutes after the murder, Adnan would respond by (a) casually calling up a girl he had met a couple weeks ago so that he could casually flirt with her, or (b) intently focusing on the problem of how he is going to transfer Hae’s body to the trunk of her car without anyone seeing him, and in the course of doing so, bump the phone in his pocket, causing it to dial a number on speed dial?
With regards to the first point, the prosecution’s failure to find a single witness who remembers the Nisha Call occurring at the time and place where the cell records show that it occurred is, in itself, evidence that there never actually was a Nisha Call. Because what is the most logical explanation for when a phone call is made from a cell phone to a number on speed dial, but no one on either end of the line has any recollection of such a phone call being made? That it was a butt dial. So why would that logic not apply here?
And there was no evidence presented at Adnan’s trial to show that the Nisha Call could not have been caused by a butt dial. While Nisha testified that there was no voicemail on the number that was called, whether it did or did not is beside the point, because as /u/serialisgreat has pointed out, cell carriers in those days were billing by the ring, “send to end”:
Most of the nation’s big wireless calling companies begin billing their customers from the moment they press the “send” button on a mobile phone to the moment they hit “end.”
That means the cents are piling up even before the call connects.
Companies including AirTouch, AT&T Wireless, Bell Atlantic Mobile, Sprint PCS, BellSouth Mobility and Nextel Communications all begin their bills from “send,” not “hello.”
Unfortunately, it does not appear that the detectives investigating Adnan’s case ever looked into whether an unanswered butt dial would have shown up in Adnan’s cell records — or if they did, they did not publicize their results. But that fact is kind of interesting all by itself. Because if the prosecutors really thought the Nisha Call really was their “smoking gun,” don’t you think they would have taken some easy steps to bolster their evidence — and to preemptively rebut Adnan’s obvious defense — by confirming that the call could not have been recorded on the cell records unless it had been answered? So why didn’t they?
And on the second point, the prosecution’s theory that Adnan decided to call and flirt with Nisha immediately after he had killed Hae is starting to get a little too far out into Silence of the Lambs territory. Sure, that kind of detail makes Adnan sound callous and horrific, and that nicely supports the prosecution’s whole “Adnan is a cold-blooded killer who took out Hae in order to extract revenge for the slight upon his honor” theory. But while that might make for a good story on a late-night crime drama, it really pushes the boundaries of plausibility to think that, in real life, a 17-year-old that just strangled his ex-girlfriend and has her body in the trunk is going to respond by calling the girl he has been making out with, just so that he can have a casual chat. The prosecution’s theory is that Adnan is killing Hae because he is so distraught and enraged by their breakup, but their theory of the Nisha Call is far more consistent with him being a Ted Bundy-style serial killer.
(6) Adnan’s Cell Phone Made and Received Two Calls That Were Routed Through Leakin Park at the Time That Hae Was Buried.
After the Nisha Call, the second most important piece of evidence in the prosecution’s case consists of the cell records showing that the 7:09 p.m. call to Jenn’s pager, and the 7:16 p.m. incoming call, were both routed through a tower and antenna that is consistent with those two calls having been made and received while the phone was in Leakin Park. This is reliable evidence that the cell phone actually was in Leakin Park at the time of those two calls — because although tower records are not 100% reliable for identifying a cell phone’s location, the failure of any other calls on January 12th and January 13th to have routed through L653A make it exceedingly unlikely that it was nothing more than a freak coincidence for those two calls to have gone through that tower even though the phone was physically located somewhere else.
Which means that the cell phones are really excellent evidence for demonstrating that Adnan’s cell phone was in Leakin Park when Hae was buried there. This creates an extremely strong inference that the reason the phone was in Leakin Park at that time is because whoever was burying Hae brought the phone with them.
But the problem for the prosecution is that we already know the identity of someone who brought Adnan’s cell phone into Leakin Park in order to bury Hae’s body: Jay. We know exactly why the phone was pinging off the Leakin Park towers that night, because Jay’s statements show that the phone came with him when he went there to bury Hae.
So there isn’t some great mystery to be solved here. We are not left with trying to figure out how Adnan’s cell phone could have magically transported itself across town and into Leakin Park at the precise time that Hae was being buried. We already know how that happened. The only question is whether or not Adnan was also with Jay at the time.
But the prosecution does not have any evidence to support this second inferential leap. What the prosecution does not have, and what the cell phone records cannot provide, is evidence that someone other than Jay was with the cell phone in Leakin Park that night. All the calls made from Leakin Park (as well as the calls immediately before and after those calls) were made to Jenn’s pager, a number which all parties agree that Adnan would never have called.
And how could Jay have possibly had Adnan’s phone if Adnan was not also at Leakin Park with him? I mean, without some kind of evidence to suggest that Adnan would be likely let Jay borrow his cell phone when he was busy attending some kind of event, there would be no obvious reason that Jay could have Adnan’s cell phone without being with Adnan.
Except the prosecution’s undisputed evidence shows that, for at least five hours on January 13th, Jay did borrow Adnan’s car and cell phone, while he went off somewhere without Adnan. Jay’s own testimony acknowledges that he had borrowed Adnan’s cell phone from 12 to 3:45 pm, and again from about 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. And if Jay was borrowing Adnan’s cell phone from 12:00 to 3:45 p.m. — while Adnan was in class — and from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. — while Adnan was at track practice — isn’t it reasonable to assume that Jay was also borrowing it from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., while Adnan was at the mosque?
At trial, the prosecution had no evidence, other than Jay’s own self-serving testimony, that Jay had not borrowed Adnan’s phone once again that evening. Which meant that the prosecution’s entire case relied on convincing the jury that it was completely ridiculous and unreasonable to think that Adnan might have let Jay borrow his phone for a couple hours on January 13th — despite the fact that exact scenario had indisputably occurred at least once that day, and at least twice according to Jay. How can you show beyond a reasonable doubt that Jay had not borrowed Adnan’s cell phone from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., when Adnan had let Jay borrow his cell phone every other time that Adnan was busy attending some event?
To be fair to the prosecution, its ability to disprove that Jay had borrowed Adnan’s cell phone that day was limited by pesky rules such as the Fifth Amendment.6 But Serial listeners are not so limited in the available evidence — and since Adnan has spoken on the podcast about what he remembers about what happened on January 13, 1999, we can consider those statements now in evaluating the evidence.
And Adnan’s story is pretty straight-forward. According to Adnan,
he’s pretty sure he was with his phone at that time after track. Again, his memory is vague, it’s full of I probably would haves. But he says that from what he can remember of the evening, after he got the call from Office Adcock, he remembers dropping Jay off at some point and then he says he would have gone to the mosque for prayers. It was Ramadan. He doesn’t say he lent his phone out or his car to Jay or anyone else that evening. (Episode 5.)
Which means that we do not have any testimonial evidence from Adnan demonstrating that Jay was borrowing Adnan’s cell phone. But Adnan’s statement is not itself persuasive evidence that Jay was not borrowing the cell phone, because it is wholly consistent with everything else Adnan has said about that day, which is that by the time he was asked about it six weeks later, he just did not remember what all went on. (Actually, if Adnan had a specific memory of loaning his phone out to Jay, but no specific memories of anything else that occurred that evening, that in itself would be highly suspicious, or at least not particularly credible. Adnan remembering nothing about that evening is plausible — Adnan selectively remembering a single exculpatory detail and nothing else is much less so.)
And Adnan’s statement is also consistent with his innocence in another major respect. If Adnan is a murderer who is willing to lie about everything he did that day, we would expect him to further lie about having the cell phone in his possession at the time that the pings show it was in Leakin Park. Him telling the truth about having the cell phone that evening is not consistent with the statements we would expect if in fact he were guilty. Remember, this is not a case in which Adnan gave a statement, only to later be contradicted by his cell phone records — because Adnan’s statement concerning his belief that he had his phone that night was made years after his trial, and with full knowledge of what the cell records show about Leakin Park.
As it turns out, though, we do have statements from another witness that provide circumstantial evidence that Jay borrowed Adnan’s cell phone at 7:00 p.m. on January 13th, while Adnan was at mosque. Because Jenn’s statements to the police strongly suggest just that. She told the police, during her interview, that on the night of Hae’s disappearance,
I believe that I got a voice message from Jay like um telling me to get him from the park and around, between seven and seven-thirty I think it was (Jenn Int. at 12).
The park Jenn identifies is located “off of Crosby and Chesworth,” but is not “the one that the pool’s on” (id.). The only park that fits this description is Western Hills Community Park, which is directly across the street from Adnan’s mosque, and only a three minute walk away from Adnan’s mosque if you cut through the back yard.
To put this information into context, here are two facts to remember: (1) Jay and Adnan had left Cathy’s at around 6:30 p.m.; (2) Jay and Jenn had plans to hang out at Cathy’s house at 7:00 p.m. So if Jay was supposed to meet Jenn at Cathy’s at 7:00 p.m., why does he leave Cathy’s at 6:30 p.m. and call Jenn with instructions to pick him up from next to Adnan’s mosque at 7:00 p.m.? Jay obviously knew, somehow, that he was going to be dropped off near Adnan’s mosque at around that time, and be left without a car he could use to transport himself, but why would Adnan think such a thing?
Jenn also tells the police that after receiving an initial message from Jay about picking him up from Western Hills Community Park, she received a second message from Jay, sometime between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., this time telling her to disregard his earlier instructions to pick him up at Western Hills Community Park. (Based on the cell records, it is a really good guess that the page Jenn is talking about is the same as the 7:00 p.m. call from Adnan’s phone to Jenn’s pager that shows up on the cell records.) Jenn states that
[Jay’s] message sa[id], “I’m going to be late don’t pick” you know “don’t pick me up at the park” or “I’ll call you when I need you” or something (Jenn Int. at 12).
So why would Jay initially tell Jenn that he needed her to give him a ride from Adnan’s mosque at 7:00 p.m., but then call her back at 7:00 p.m. to tell her to ignore the initial plan and that he would contact her later to let her know where to pick him up? One obvious explanation is that Jay had believed Adnan was going to drop him off at 7:00 when he went to mosque, which would have left Jay stranded and without a car. But then something changed, and he no longer needed Jenn to pick him up — indicating that he had figured out some other way of getting a ride. And why might that be? If anyone else has any alternative explanations for this series of events, please share them, but here is one obvious explanation that fits well with the known facts: the reason Jay let Jenn know he was no longer going to need a ride from Adnan’s mosque is because Jay was able to borrow Adnan’s car (with the cell phone in the glove compartment, like Jay has previously described).5 I am unable to think up any other reason that could explain both Jay’s requested locale for a pick-up and the sudden change in plans, and it seems unquestionably significant that the original rendezvous point for Jenn and Jay was immediately next to the place Adnan says he was that night.
(7) Adnan Does Not Clearly Remember What Happened on January 13, 1999.
Adnan’s story about where he was and what he did on January 13, 1999 is straight-forward. Although he did not testify at his trial, one of his police statements was introduced into evidence, and is summarized as follows:
[Adnan] told the police that he and Hae used to date. He said that on January 13, 1999, a Wednesday, he had class with Hae from 12:50 to 2:15 p.m. Appellant said he went to track practice that afternoon. He did not see Hae the next two days at school, Thursday and Friday, because the school was closed for inclement weather. (Brief of Appellant at 5.)
Adnan also gave another police statement on February 26th, which the police notes summarized as follows:
On 13 January 1999, he had the occasion to be at school (Woodlawn Senior High), however doesn’t remember the events that occurred in school that day.
When asked if Syed had a relationship with Hae Min Lee, Syed replied in a soft voice “yes”, however he didn’t want his father to know.
Syed indicated that he had occasions to be a passenger in the victim’s auto, however not on the date in question.
Syed stated that he had no idea who would want to have hurt Hae Min Lee and that he could provide no information on suspects.
There is something extremely odd about this summary of Adnan’s interview, however. It should probably not be relied upon it to establish what Adnan actually said to the police on the date in question, because, as mentioned in Episode 9, the written summary of Adnan’s statement is dated September 14, 1999. There is no apparent explanation for why the detectives waited seven months before preparing their notes from the interview.
As discussed frequently on the podcast (and in discussions about the podcast), one of the common arguments for why Adnan is guilty is due to that fact that he does not have a clear and concise memory of the events that occurred on January 13, 1999 is evidence of his guilt. Koenig herself expresses frustration at Adnan’s vague memories, which are not so much memories as they are descriptions of what Adnan assumes he would have been doing on that night, based on what he can remember from that time period.
But to call that evidence of Adnan’s guilt is to misunderstand how memories work. Adnan’s memories of January 13, 1999, are utterly typical of how someone would try and describe a mostly average day that had occurred six weeks previously — and for evidence of this, take a look at Jenn’s testimony:
Jenn: I don’t know what time I came in that evening, probably pretty late, I usually come in pretty late, between twelve whatever, and than um the next day inaudible, I’m not sure what inaudible I’m assuming the next day I would have, the 14th I would have went to work, do my normal routine again um unless it was a Saturday or Sunday and than um I ah I I went and saw Jay later, sometime the next day on the 14th I saw Jay and he asked me to take him to take him to F & M parking lot or F & M, he had to go to F & M. (Jenn Int. at 4.)
So when asked to remember what happened six weeks ago on the day that she learned that Adnan had murdered Hae, and had helped Jay to dispose of evidence of the crime – an event that should have been a pretty significant one in anyone’s life – Jenn is nevertheless unable to recall even what time she would have gotten home that night, other than that it was “probably pretty late,” because she “usually come[s] in pretty late.” And when Jenn is asked about the phone calls made from Adnan’s cell phone to her house on the day of Hae’s murder, the only reason Jenn is able to remember that the calls were made on January 13th is because the detectives had specifically informed her of that fact:
Jenn: Well the only reason I know that is because last night um when I was being questioned or whatever you want to call it, um ah the question asked was had Adnan called my house on the 13th, um I remember the incident that Adnan had killed Hae and I remember that I had talked to Jay that day and Jay had been at my house. Adnan has never called my house before to the best of my recollection, um, not that I would remember, he never called my house and ah so the only time that he would called the house would have been on the 13th like I believe I said that I had those phone calls come to my house.
Detective: So you’re saying that you’re sure it’s the 13th, because we told you you had these telephone calls on the 13th?
Detective: Not because it’s the day after, his birthday or
Jenn: Right. I don’t, I wouldn’t remember inaudible. (Jenn Int. at 25.)
A lot of Jenn’s memories about January 13th are described in this fashion, based on bits and pieces she actually recalls, supplemented with her knowledge of what she assumes she would have been doing:
Jenn: I got a page and usually when get pages or things like that I go back to my room and use the phone just ’cause that’s where I feel comfortable and um that’s when I got the page that was a voice (Jenn Int. at 13.)
Jenn: He says um I said and we talked probably talked a little bit more about Hae and everything that happened and I might have asked him you know again what his involvement was, if he knew where the bodv was . (Jenn Int. at 19.)
Jenn: Um and then when I woke up the next morning I guess I went through my normal six-thirty to till nine routine, taking everybody to work, myself getting to work and I think I probably went to work the next day as long as it wasn’t a Saturday or Sunday (Jenn Int. at 23.)
Need more proof? Here is Stephanie’s police statement:
January 13, 1999 was a normal school day for Steph although it was her birthday. . . She could not remember anything out of the ordinary from first period. Second period was English class which she had with Hae and Adnan. She remembered Adnan bringing her a stuffed reindeer. [Stephanie] could not remember anything about Hae during second period. Lunch was at approximately 10:40 a.m. She believes Adnan was at lunch but she could not be certain. . . .
[Stephanie] advised that Friday, January 15th, they had a big snowball fight at her house. The following persons were present: Adnan [and redacted names]. [Stephanie] was then advised by her mother that the snowball fight was possibly the following week. This was remembered because on Thursday the 14th and into early the 15th, the power was out due to a power failure. (Stephanie’s Police Statement.)
Again, we have memories of what “probably” happened, or descriptions of when she “believe[d]” to have seen Adnan, but only a few details are actually remembered for certainty. The rest is based on what she normally did on Wednesdays. And, when trying to remember something like a snowball fight that occurred two days after Hae’s disappearance, she completely screws up the dates of when it happened — because while she remembered the specific event, when there is no additional context (such as the power outage) to logically orient the memory in time, trying to link the memory with the specific day it occurred is difficult or impossible to do.
Which means that Adnan’s memories of the day Hae went missing are consistent in every way with the memories we would expect someone to have of a normal day that occurred six weeks before. Yes, it is frustrating for us that Adnan lacks the memories that could potentially help us figure out what happened on the day Hae disappeared — but it’s not even the tiniest fraction of how frustrating it must be for Adnan.
(8) Adnan’s Lack of Alibi.
Another common argument for why Adnan must be guilty is his lack of a conclusively established alibi for the afternoon and evening of January 13th.
Before discussing the merits of this argument, it should first be clarified, however, that the very premise of it is based on a distortion of the factual record. Adnan does have alibi witnesses — it is just that these witnesses’ memories are fuzzy and unclear on the specifics of what happened on what particular days (for the exact same reasons that Adnan’s own memories of that day are fuzzy and unclear). Asia remembers seeing Adnan in the library at 2:30 p.m.; Adnan’s track coach does not remember Adnan being absent from track practice; Jay remembers Adnan’s teammate Will seeing Adnan at track practice; and Adnan’s father remembers seeing Adnan at mosque that evening. So the issue is not that Adnan lacks an alibi. The issue is that Adnan lacks an alibi that the alibi witnesses can conclusively prove, when they were asked to do so 6+ weeks later.
But let’s assume for the moment that there were not any alibi witnesses. No one specifically remembers seeing Adnan at any particular time that day, and no one specifically remembers him being absent, either. (Which is pretty much exactly what we would expect from alibi witnesses who have been asked to recall whether a specific person was present at a function or event on a particular day, when that person’s presence at said function or event was a regular and ongoing occurrence.) Would that do anything to prove that Adnan is responsible for Hae’s murder? No, it would not — because without additional context, the fact that a suspect lacks an alibi cannot tell us anything about whether that is evidence of the suspect’s guilt.
Here’s an example. Let’s pretend we could run an experiment where we attempted to verify a solid alibi for Adnan for every weekday afternoon, six weeks after that date. If we found out, after running this experiment, that we were unable to find conclusive alibi witnesses for 99% of those afternoons, then the fact that Adnan had no alibi on January 13th tells us nothing whatsoever. It simply is not evidence of Adnan’s guilt, because we would expect to find that exact same result regardless of whether he is guilty or innocent. Conversely, if we discovered, after running the experiment that, that Adnan could establish a solid alibi under those same circumstances 99% of the time, then the fact Adnan was unable to establish an alibi for January 13 would become a very significant data point.
Obviously, in real life, the odds that Adnan could establish an alibi for any given day, when asked to do so six weeks later, are going to be something less than 99% and something greater than 1%. But where exactly in that range would it fall? Although we are obviously working with an incomplete evidentiary record, the evidence we do have strongly suggests that it was actually pretty likely Adnan would be unable to come up with an alibi for that time period. We know that he had approximately an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and forty-five minutes to kill before track; we also know that if he lacks an alibi for any 42 minute period during that time, he could theoretically have time to have killed Hae and made it back to Woodlawn (assuming 21 minutes each way to Best Buy — a generous assumption). Since Adnan’s alibi would have been other students he randomly encountered at the library or around school, and since track practice did not actually take attendance, the odds that Adnan would lack an alibi witness who could conclusively prove that he or she saw him on any particular day seem to be pretty likely — and the odds are even higher that, even if he did have an alibi witness, it would still be insufficient to cover the entire 1 to 2 hour window in which we know Hae was killed.
Which means that, as far as the evidence can show us, Adnan’s lack of an alibi does not give us any reason to believe that he was more likely to have been responsible for Hae’s murder.
In any event, Adnan’s lack of an alibi is also of less evidentiary significance in this case because of the arbitrary and adaptable nature of the prosecution’s timeline. There is no “fixed” time for when Hae was killed — the timeline the prosecution went with at trial was chosen specifically because it was the one that best fit the evidence. And since the prosecution was able to pick and choose its timelines based on what is most consistent with its case, the prosecution had the power to render any alibi Adnan did have completely insignificant, simply by adjusting its timeline to put Hae’s death at a different time. If Adnan had been able to present a perfect alibi for where he was at 2:36 p.m., the prosecution would have just shrugged its shoulders and decided that Hae was really killed at 3:45 p.m., like Jay said.
(9) Adnan’s Fingerprints Were Found in Hae’s car.
This evidence is particularly insignificant, but I have included it simply because the show made a point of doing so:
Police recovered a page torn from a map in the rear seat of the victim’s, Hae Lee, vehicle. The page included the map area of Leakin Park, the location where Lee’s body was found. [Adnan’s] fingerprint was found on an identification card in the glove compartment of the car. [Adnan’s] palm print was found on the back cover of the map recovered from the car. [Adnan’s] fingerprints were also found on floral paper recovered from the back seat of the car. (Appellee’s Brief at 2.)
Why is it insignificant? Let’s assume for a moment that Adnan did kill Hae. Are the fingerprints found in Hae’s car evidence to prove that?
No, because it is undisputed that he was in her car on numerous occasions while they were dating, and that he was also in her car at least one time in January before Hae’s murder, when her car broke down and he went to help her figure out whether they could get is started again. So even if everything about the prosecution’s theory is 100% correct, which is more likely: (1) that the finger prints found in Hae’s car came from one of the many days that he was in her car while she was alive, or (2) that the finger prints found in Hae’s car came from the single day he was in her car after she was dead?
Obviously it’s the former. And this conclusion is further supported by the fact that none of the prints found were consistent with Adnan having been in the driver’s seat when he left them.
(10) The “I’m Going to Kill” Note.
The “I’m going to kill” note was found in Adnan’s house, following a search by the police. The note was written on the back of a letter that Hae had written to Adnan (see below for more on the Hae letter). Adnan had shown the letter to Hae’s best friend, Aisha, while the two of them were in health class together, watching a presentation on pregnancy, and Adnan and Aisha had then used the back side of Hae’s letter to exchange notes. At the very top of the note, written in Adnan’s pen, is the phrase “I’m going to kill.” Aisha testified at trial that the note had been written sometime in early November of 1998, and that the phrase “I’m going to kill” was written in Adnan’s handwriting (Appellant’s Brief at App 24-25). Aisha also stated, however, that “I’m going to kill” message had not been written on the page when she and Adnan were exchanging the letter back and forth in health class (Episode 6).
The prosecution introduced the note as evidence of Adnan’s homicidal intent. That is an awful lot of weight for one short note to carry, though, when the only thing we know about the note is that it was scribbled out by a high school student goofing off during class. Especially when the subject of the message is not even identified. In order for this to be evidence of Adnan’s guilt, the prosecution had to ask the jury to make two big assumptions, neither of which were supported by any additional evidence. First, the jury had to assume that Adnan had intended the message to be about Hae. Second, the jury had to assume that this note — unlike the overwhelming majority of all notes written by high school students which convey similar sentiments — was an expression of genuine murderous intent, rather than an expression of high teenage angst.
The first assumption is not an unreasonable one, but it is also only one of many possibilities. Because in the context of a note passed in class between two high school students, the phrase “I’m going to kill” can have any number of meanings: “I’m going to kill the teacher for assigning so much homework,” “I’m going to kill that student for reminding the teacher to assign homework,” “I’m going to kill myself,” “I’m going to kill him if he doesn’t shut up.” For example, the following comes from Hae’s diary, discussing her relationship with Adnan:
“I’ll probably kill myself if I lose him but I’ll go crazy with things complicating. I wish he’ll [sic] call back soon” (Appellant’s Brief at 56).
So even if we’re going to assume that Adnan’s note was about his relationship with Hae, the note could just as easily be read as an overdramatic declaration that he could not live without her. Just like Hae had written.
As a result, I find the “I’m going to kill” note to be one of the more dubious pieces of the prosecution’s case, because it could be used to prove so much. It could work as evidence of Adnan’s guilt for any murder that he had some sort of connection to the victim. What if, for example, Aisha had been the one to be murdered? Or Don? Or Nisha? If the police had then received an anonymous call saying that Adnan was involved in their deaths, and if they had found this note in Adnan’s house following a search, the prosecution could have introduced it as evidence of Adnan’s guilt for any of their deaths. It’s creepy ambiguousness lets it fit whatever narrative the prosecution wants to present.
But let’s assume that we have a crystal ball which could show us, as established fact, that Adnan had been writing “I am going to kill Hae,” but that he was interrupted by the bell and the note was put away unfinished. If that were the case, how useful would the note be as evidence that Adnan had an intent to commit murder?
The prosecution can definitely get some mileage out of it by arguing it shows that it shows Adnan had a creepy and possessive side. That is a pretty effective tactic, because rebutting a charge of being “creepy and possessive” is pretty hard to do. But without some sort of context that establishes a connection between the note and Hae’s actual murder, it is unreasonable to conclude that the note is actually evidence of Adnan plotting out a homicide. Because how often do people who have no homicidal intent write or say things like, “I’m gonna kill him for this,” or “I will kill her if she doesn’t stop doing that right now”? Well, if a search through my own personal gchat and e-mail history can provide an example, the answer would seem to be “fairly often.” And I don’t think it is an unreasonable guess that high school students say such or write such things at a higher frequency than the general population.
Adnan is just lucky he did not keep a diary like Hae had. Otherwise, just imagine the amount of teenage angst they could have pulled out of it to show that Adnan was a murderer in the making.
I do wish we had more evidence to go on, though, about the nature of the “I’m going to kill” message. The note could potentially be significant if we could show, for example, the context in which it had been written, or how it had been kept, or whether anything remotely similar was found in the rest of his notes. But right now, we do not have any of that. All we know is that the cops found it in Adnan’s house. There is no indication that it was found any place significant — for instance, the cops do not seem to have found it in a pile of letters about Hae, or in a notebook which made other references to any plan to commit murder, or anywhere else that might help show whether the note has any deeper meaning. Moreover, even though the cops went through however many hundreds of pages of notes and letters found in Adnan’s room, the only thing they could find to provide any support for their case was a single four sentence message scrawled out inexplicably on a note that he had been passing in health class. What were in the rest of Adnan’s notes? Was the “I’m going to kill” note unique or unusual compared to the rest of his documents, or did his notes tend to have lots of odd scribbles like this?
If anything, the surprising fact is that the investigators were unable to find anything else of significance in Adnan’s possession — after all, following the breakup of a high school romance, the odds are really high that at least one of the partners will have, somewhere in their possession, some kind of note/letter/e-mail/card expressing some sort of anger or hostility towards their former partner.
(11) Adnan’s Failure to Contact Hae.
In Episode 6, Koenig discusses another argument that has been raised as evidence of Adnan’s guilt:
If you look at [Adnan’s] cell records from that day forward, neither Hae’s home number nor her pager shows up again, which suggests he never tried to contact her after she went missing. They were supposedly such good friends. Hae’s friend Aisha said that she was paging her like crazy.
Koenig: Did you ever try to page her and just be like, you know, see if you could find her, raise her, see if you could get a response from her?
Adnan: Well, I know that we would always, I-I can’t remember if I did page her or not but, we would always talk about it at school. I would always like get my information first hand from like Aisha who would usually be in contact with obvi-, if I can remember she was like in contact with Hae’s family. So it was kind of like I would always, if not Aisha or Krista or or or it I mean it wasn’t like I was just sittin’ around, like not even thinking about her. You know, not paging her or whatever, but I used to always get my information from them first hand, you know, it-it’s not it- I don’t remember if I ever paged her or not.
And this seems to be a pretty popular explanation for why Adnan must be guilty. The idea is that Adnan’s would have paged Hae if he thought she was missing, so therefore his inaction is proof of his guilt.
But the claim that “Adnan never tried to contact Hae” is based on an empty factual record. We don’t know if Adnan ever tried to page Hae, because we don’t know who paged Hae at all. For all we know, Adnan very well could have paged her, only from any phone other than his cell phone.
It isn’t as if this evidence would have been particularly difficult to obtain. If subpoenaing Hae’s pager records would have been able to show that Adnan never paged her from another line, why didn’t the investigators do that? Hae’s pager records would have been invaluable evidence for so many aspects of this case, not just for the question of whether Adnan tried to contact her after her death — so why don’t we have any records suggesting that the prosecution ever did try to pull them? Have they simply not been made public yet?
All we know right now is that Adnan never once called Hae’s pager from his cell phone after her death. (Actually, it does not appear that he ever called her pager from his cell phone before her death, either. It looks like all of his calls from his cell phone were to her home’s landline.) But why is that surprising? He had only gotten the cell phone the day before — although Hae had written Adnan’s cell number down, it is extremely unlikely she would have had it memorized. So seeing a page come up from Adnan’s cell phone would have been meaningless to her — it would make sense if Adnan had tried to page her from his home number instead, since she would actually be able to identify that one as coming from Adnan. But if Hae really had run away, it seems improbable she would have responded to a page from an unfamiliar number, from someone she does not apparently know.
But let’s assume again that the prosecution has the evidence they think they do, and that we could conclusively prove that Adnan never once paged Hae. What does that prove? Well, about as much as evidence that Adnan had page Hae would prove. Because proof that Adnan had paged Hae would not be evidence of his innocence. A guilty person would have a specific reason to be concerned about appearances, and think, “Oh, I must be able to show I have no idea Hae is dead, what can I do to maintain that appearance?” An innocent person, of course, would never think of that.
And the assumption that Adnan would certainly have paged Hae if he had not killed her is based on another mistaken factual assumption: that anyone had realized she was missing or not responding to pages. From Stephanie’s statement, we know the following:
[Stephanie] advised that Aisha [ ] first mentioned that Hae was missing on Wednesday or Thursday of the following week. [Stephanie] did not realize Hae was missing until Wednesday of the following week. She was advised that Hae had run away. . . . [Stephanie] was quick to point out that none of Hae’s best friends were initially worried about Hae’ disappearance. She advised that Hae’s best friends were Debbie [ ] and Aisha [ ]. [Stephanie] advised that a lot of time elapsed before anyone did anything about her disappearance. (Stephanie’s Police Statement.)
So if even Hae’s best friends were not concerned until a full week after she went missing, why is it odd that Adnan was similarly unconcerned? And once it did come out that something was wrong, how many people actually attempted to page her at that point? They all know that she is not at home, and they all know that she stopped responding to pages, so what evidentiary significance is to be had from the fact that any particular person failed to send her even more pages?
But even aside from the factual context, the very premise of the state’s argument on this point is flawed. Why is it reasonable to assume that a person who fails to page a missing friend after they go missing is evidence that the person is the murderer? It seems like such an approach would identify more suspects than it would exclude. Trying to determine someone’s guilt or innocence based on their post-crime reactions is based on unreasonable assumptions about human psychology, and how predictable such reactions are.
This is the kind of “evidence” that has no real predictive value, but has the benefit of being impossible for a defendant to effectively rebut. Each of their post-crime actions are dissected, and any perceived aberration from a “normal” reaction is seized upon as proof of guilt. Remember, the prosecution did not just argue that Adnan was guilty based on evidence that supposedly showed he was callous and unconcerned. The prosecution also argued he was guilty based on evidence that he was too concerned and too distraught, such as through the testimony of the school nurse who though Adnan was ‘faking a catatonic state.’
But innocent people don’t make an effort to react or to grieve in carefully calculated amounts, so that they avoid running too hot or too cold in their reactions. Innocent people react to dramatic and traumatic events in wildly disparate ways. Trying to read Adnan’s post-disappearance reactions to determine whether he had any involvement in her death is as effective as trying to read tea leaves.
(12) Hae’s Diary (Should Not Have Been Admissible at Adnan’s Trial).
Hae’s personal diary was admitted into evidence at Adnan’s trial, with selected excerpts read into the record. It is about as boring as you would expect. Like Koenig said, it is “such a teenage girl’s diary.” And while it shows that there was some drama in Hae and Adnan’s relationship, there is nothing in it to suggest that Hae feared Adnan in any way. The opposite, in fact — when talking about Adnan, she says that, “I feel secure and comfy with him.”
But boring or not, the diary never should have come into evidence at Adnan’s trial. As discussed in greater detail at the EvidenceProf Blog,
in a case in which a defendant is on trial for murdering the victim, entries in the victim’s diary regarding her state of mind have no relevance to any issue at trial and are thus inadmissible.
But since it was admitted, over defense counsel’s improperly preserved objections, does it show any evidentiary support for the prosecution’s case? Well, it at least provides evidence that Adnan and Hae had been in a romantic relationship, and had broken up several weeks before the murder, which is significant for purposes of bolstering the prosecution’s motive theory.
But beyond that, there is nothing in it to suggest that Adnan and Hae’s relationship was anything other than the usual mundane high school fare. There is no evidence that Adnan was abusive, or violent, or potentially homicidal. Certainly no one who read Hae’s diary without knowledge of her fate would have concluded that she was at risk of being killed by Adnan. Other than allowing the prosecution to invite the jury to speculate about whether Hae’s diary was somehow suggestive that Adnan had a dark and dangerous character, it does not suggest that Adnan was more likely to be homicidal than any other teenage boy in a hot and cold relationship.
(13) Hae’s Note (Should Not Have Been Admissible at Adnan’s Trial).
Hae’s note is the note written on the other side of the page that Aisha and Adnan passed back in forth in health class, and which had the “I’m going to kill” written on it. It says, in part,
I’m really getting annoyed that this situation is going the way it is . . . Your life is NOT going to end. You’ll move on and I’ll move on. But, apparently, you don’t respect my decision . . . I NEVER wanted to end this like this, so hostile and cold . . . Hate me if you will. But you should remember that I could never hate you.
And while it was admitted into evidence at Adnan’s trial, once again, as discussed in greater detail at the EvidenceProf Blog, this was evidence that “should have been deemed inadmissible.”
In any event, its evidentiary significance is limited. The amount of relevance that it has for Adnan’s case probably depends, more than anything, on the reader’s beliefs as to what notes written by high school students typically look like. But as far as high school relationship drama goes, this is pretty tame stuff. It does show that Adnan and Hae were still having drama in November 1999, so to that extent it is more relevant than the diary, but again, there is nothing in it that would have suggested Adnan was more prone to homicidal rage than any other high school student after a breakup.
(14) Jenn’s Testimony (Should Not Have Been Admissible at Adnan’s Trial).
At trial, Jenn was, for some undisclosed reason, permitted to testify about Jay’s hearsay statements concerning Adnan’s involvement in Hae’s murder. She testified that after Jay messaged her at around 8 p.m. on the night of Hae’s disappearance, she went to Westview to pick him up. Jenn arrived there first. She said that, when Jay and Adnan arrived, approximately 15 minutes later, “[Adnan] was . . . driving, and said hello to [Jenn]. [Jay] got in her car and said . . . ‘[Adnan] strangled Hae in the Best Buy parking lot. [I] saw her body in the trunk.’ . . . [Adnan] used [Jay’s] shovels to bury her and [Jay] wanted to make sure there were no fingerprints on them.” (Brief of Appellant at 13.)
The significance of this evidence depends on the credibility of Jay’s testimony, since he was the only source of Jenn’s information, so there is not much to re-hash here. But it is also worth noting that it was hearsay evidence that lacked any apparent basis for its admission under any exception to the hearsay rule.
Review of the Prosecution’s Case
So that’s the entirety of the prosecution’s case again Adnan, plus a bit more evidence that was either inadmissible or unknown at the time of his trial. Based on everything we know now, is there any way to reconcile the state’s evidence with Adnan’s innocence? How convoluted or improbable would such a factual scenario need to be, in order to account for both?
As it turns out, not convoluted or improbable at all. In order to explain the state’s evidence, only the following four events needed to have occurred: (1) Adnan’s ex-girlfriend was the victim of a homicide; (2) her murder was later covered up by Jay, an individual whom both Hae and Adnan knew; (3) Jay had often borrowed Adnan’s car and phone, and had had done so on the day of Hae’s death; and (4) on the afternoon that Hae was killed, while Jay was in possession of Adnan’s phone, Jay butt dialed a number that was saved on speed dial, but the call went unanswered on the other end.
That’s it. There doesn’t need to have been some series of statistically unlikely coincidences, or some overly complicated conspiracy theory. All that needed to happen was that Adnan let Jay borrow his phone, and that Jay later assisted in the cover-up of the murder of Adnan’s ex-girlfriend. And the fact that the same person Adnan let borrow his phone also turned out to be the same person who helped cover up his ex-girlfriend’s murder was not itself some bizarre or unlikely coincidence, it was just a result of the existing relationships between all the people involved.
Because the central nexus that links all of the relevant players in this case isn’t Adnan — it’s Woodlawn High School. Jay and Hae were connected to one another independent of their respective connections to Adnan. They had attended the same high school, sat next to each other in biology class, and knew the same people. Jay’s girlfriend, Stephanie, was one of Hae’s good friends — and in fact, Stephanie, Aisha, and Adnan were all together at Aisha’s house on the day that they learned of Hae’s death. There was even something of a mild love triangle (love quadrilateral?) going on between Stephanie, Adnan, Hae, and Jay. As one of Hae and Stephanie’s mutual friends, Debbie, testified at Adnan’s trial, “Stephanie [had] confided to Debbie that she was interested in [Adnan]. At the [Woodlawn High School] prom in 1998, when [Adnan] was voted prom king and Stephanie was prom queen, they danced. [Adnan], however, left Stephanie during the dance and went to get Hae to finish the dance with him.” (Brief of Appellant at 14.)
So the prosecution’s assumption that Jay could only have been involved in Hae’s murder if Adnan were also involved isn’t supported by the evidence. Because the prosecution’s whole theory of the case is that Adnan chose Jay to be his accomplice for Hae’s murder due to Jay’s status as “the criminal element of Woodlawn” — but wouldn’t that exact same rationale apply to everyone else at Woodlawn, too? If Jay is the kind of person that Woodlawn students are likely call when they need help burying a body, then why are we assuming it must have been Adnan who made the call that day, rather than any other Woodlawn student?
Actually, in addition to the four events listed above, there is a fifth event that must also have occurred in order for Adnan to be innocent. The investigators who prepared the case against Adnan must have provided Jay (whether intentionally or unintentionally) with assistance in crafting a story that both implicated Adnan in Hae’s murder, and also fit the rest of the known evidence. Because if Jay had been required to stick to the story he gave in his initial interview, Adnan could never have been convicted. It was only after Jay’s story had a chance to be crafted over the course of three more interviews and a mistrial that Jay was able to tell a story that was even passingly consistent with Adnan’s cell records. Because Jay’s story completely changed once the detectives informed him his story could not be true — or rather, as Detective MacGillivary tried to claim, “[o]nce [the detectives] confronted [Jay] with the cell phone records, [he]’remembered things a lot better.'”
But regardless of whether this sort of coaching by the detectives was likely or unlikely to occur, the transcripts from Jay’s interviews show that something like that did indeed occur here.
And other than those five events outlined above — Hae’s murder, Jay’s involvement in the cover-up, Jay borrowing Adnan’s phone, and the detectives coaching Jay’s story — there is nothing in the prosecution’s case that requires explanation. Because everything else that the prosecution had against Adnan wasn’t evidence that he was involved in Hae’s murder, it was just an assorted collection of facts that the prosecution used to spin together a compelling story at trial.
The diary, the notes, the statements from Hae’s and Adnan’s friends; the details of these individual bits of evidence don’t matter. The pieces themselves are interchangeable, so long as the prosecution has enough to prop up its narrative of a cold and vengeful ex-boyfriend determined to eliminate the stain upon his honor. Adnan and Hae were a high school couple that had just broken up after an off-and-on relationship — it was all but certain that the prosecution was going to be able to find something it could use to support the claim that Adnan had been upset about the breakup. If you took any high school couple that had just broken up from a serious relationship (that is, “serious” by high school standards), and then searched their residences and interviewed their friends, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor that you would find the following:
- Some kind of note, diary, or journal indicating that one of two students felt upset, gloomy, unhappy, depressed, or furious about the break-up;
- Phone calls and other communications that were sent and received between the couple, both before and after the break-up;
- Friends who will express a negative opinion about how one or both students behaved while they were in the relationship; and,
- Friends who will describe how one or both students were distraught or expressed negative emotions about the break-up.
Which is what the prosecution did here. Out of the thousands of chance conversations, events, writings, or occurrences that went on in Hae’s and Adnan’s lives, all the prosecution needed to find was a handful of instances that it could pick out and use to build a narrative that Adnan had been so “distraught” and “vengeful” about the breakup that he killed Hae.
By using anecdotes about how Adnan reacted the “wrong way” to the news of Hae’s death and disappearance, or about how Adnan was upset about Hae ending their relationship, the prosecution was able to convince the jury that Adnan was the kind of person who “just wanted control,” and who “felt betrayed [when] his honor had been besmirched” (Episode 10). And by using racial stereotypes, the prosecution was likewise able to convince the jury that Adnan came from a “culture [where] women are second class citizens” and where “men rule, not women” (id.). And once you conclude that Adnan is the kind of person who would commit a murder in order to repair a stain upon his honor, it is not difficult to conclude that, despite the complete lack of any physical evidence tying him to the crime, he must have been the one to murder Hae.
FN*. [Edit: Yes, I am in fact aware that this is not how statistics actually work. That’s what the “/s” signifies.]
FN1. Jenn also tells the police that Jay told her the reason he had Adnan’s car was to buy Stephanie a birthday present. She is, however, a little contradictory concerning when Jay told her this. She initially states that:
Jenn: [Jay] he said “I need to tell somebody”, he’s like “I’m the only person that knows and I need to tell somebody. ” And then the information that he told me was that Adnan had killed Hae and I was like in complete shock at this point, not knowing you know what to do or what to say or anything… I questioned Jay about his involvement and Jay told me that he had no involvement. All he had done all day with Adnan’s car was, he needed the car ’cause it was his girlfriend’s birthday, to go get her a birthday present. That’s why he had Adnan’s car, well, that’s what he told me, Adnan’s car was to get his girlfriend a birthday present. (Jenn Int. at 2.)
Jenn later clarifies, however, that Jay only told her this information the night before, after her first police interview and before her second:
Jenn: Jay told me like last night that it was Adnan’s car that he was in… that he brought to my house ’cause he wanted to know if I told you all about last night and um he said well then he didn’t even want… he was like, “well the only reason I had his car was because I wanted,” that’s when I found out that he had the car to go get his girlfriend a birthday present. (Jenn Int. at 7.)
It is interesting that Jay apparently told Jenn that the reason he borrowed Adnan’s car was because he wanted to do so.
FN2. Notably, at the time of Jay’s first interview, Adnan’s phone call with Officer Adcock was the only phone call that Jay remembered Adnan making or receiving from his cell phone. In fact, at that first interview, Jay only recalled three phone calls ever occurring: the call from Officer Adcock, Adnan’s “come-and-get-me” call, and Adnan’s call to be picked up from track.
FN3. There is also an additional point of interest to consider — why did Becky not testify at trial about Adnan asking Hae for a ride? The prosecution did not even call Becky as part of its case, she was called as a defense witness. But the prosecution does not appear to have raised the issue of Adnan asking for a ride in its cross (assuming there was one). Why not? Why did the state not want her testimony on this point? This could have simply been because her testimony seems to indicate that Adnan did not succeed in getting a ride that day, so it very well could mean nothing at all. But on the other hand, the lack of documents related to Becky’s statement makes me wonder if there is some additional wrinkle at play here. Is there something about Becky’s police statement, or some other conflicting evidence, which made the prosecution shy away from it?
FN4. We also have Jay’s second interview, in which he states that the call from the cops occurred as he and Adnan were walking out of Cathy’s apartment. To whatever extent this can be relied upon, it would suggest that Cathy never even overheard Adnan’s call with the cops — what she heard was his call with Aisha.
FN5. Incidentally, there is also anecdotal evidence from the internet that Adnan frequently let classmates borrow his car and cellphone. While anonymous, at least one person who was able to provide proof that they were in the same high school class as Adnan and Hae has noted the following:
I remember leaving school with Adnan he drove to my house so that we could smoke weed. We were hungry so he offered me his car to get food. I also took his phone just in case he needed to call me.
And as far as I know, the prosecution has no evidence whatsoever that Adnan did not regularly let friends and classmates borrow both his cell phone and his car. In fact, there is one witness — Will — who has said that Jay borrowing Adnan’s car was a common event.