Serial: How Prosecutor Kevin Urick Failed to Understand the Cellphone Records He Used to Convict Adnan Syed of Murder

This week, the Intercept released Part 1 of its interview with Kevin Urick, the prosecutor at Adnan’s 1999 and 2000 trials. Part 2 of that interview had been scheduled to be released on Thursday, but due to what appear to be some editorial issues over at the Intercept, it has yet to be published. Since I am tired of waiting for it to come out, however, I am going to go ahead and address Urick’s claims in the first part of the interview now.

Urick describes Adnan’s case “as pretty much a run-of-the-mill domestic violence murder.” When asked about whether he harbored any doubts as to the outcome of the case, he told the Intercept,

Urick: No. The reason is: once you understood the cellphone records–that killed any alibi defense that Syed had. I think when you take that in conjunction with Jay’s testimony, it became a very strong case.

Right away, we have a problem. “Once you understand the cellphone records,” Urick says, Adnan’s guilt becomes clear — but Urick himself never understood the cellphone records he used to convict Adnan of first-degree murder. His belief in Adnan’s guilt is based upon a false understanding (or, perhaps, a false professed understanding) of what the cellphone records shows in this case. Although he made numerous factual errors throughout Adnan’s first trial, perhaps the three of the most significant were: (1) his claim that Jay’s statements matched the cellphone records before the call logs and location data were shown to him; (2) his claim that Adnan “checked his voicemail” at 5:14 pm; and (3) his claim that the 7:09 and 7:16 pm calls are proof that the phone was in Leakin Park.

Let’s start with the corroboration issue. Here is what Urick said in the Intercept interview:

Urick: The problem was that the cellphone records corroborated so much of Jay’s testimony. He said, ‘We were in this place,’ and it checked out with the cellphone records. And he said that in the police interviews prior to obtaining the cellphone evidence.

That is simply a false representation of fact. As I discussed extensively in my previous post on the evolution of Jay’s perjured testimony, Jay’s statements to the police did not match the cellphone records before he was shown them. Flat out did not match, full stop. What Urick said in the Intercept interview is not true, as anyone can see for themselves, if they go through Jay’s first and second police statements. Particularly in the first interview, before Jay was ever shown either the call log or the tower data, when not a single call “check[s] out” with his statement.

Okay, fine, that is a slight overstatement. Jay did manage to get one call right  — he (correctly) said Adnan had called him in the morning “about 10:45.” That’s the only one he gets, though, and that one has nothing whatsoever to do with the murder. No other calls he describe correlate with the cellphone records.

(In fact, even at trial, it did not get much better, as Jay’s testimony failed to match the vast majority of the phone calls made that day. But that is for another post.)

Urick: Now the thing about the cellphone records [is that they] corroborate Jay, his statements that he got a call around 2:45 p.m. or around that time from Adnan to come pick him up. And the cellphone records show that there was an incoming call around that time. So there’s corroboration of Jay’s statements to the police and the cell records.

It is not surprising Urick got this one wrong, because he got it wrong over and over again at Adnan’s trial too. Because do you know who never ever once made a statement that he got a call from Adnan to pick him up at 2:45 pm? Jay. Jay said over and over again that Adnan’s call for a pick up came at 3:40 pm, and he has never claimed, in a single recorded statement, that the “come-and-get-me” call from Adnan came at 2:45 (or 2:36 pm) that day. Yes, there was an incoming call to Adnan’s cellphone at 2:36 pm, but there was never any evidence introduced at Adnan’s first trial to support the claim that it was actually the “come-and-get-me” call — and there quite a lot of evidence to contradict it. The 2:36 pm call was and always has been a figment of Urick’s imagination.

Urick: So, many of the material facts were corroborated through the cellphone records including being in Leakin Park.

The Intercept: Syed never testified. What would you have asked him if he had?

Urick: I would’ve gone through the cellphone records. You called this person at this time. Jay talked to this person at this time. And my very last question would be: What is your explanation for why you either received or made a call from Leakin Park the evening that Hae Min Lee disappeared, the very park that her body was found in five weeks later? . . . A lot of what [Jay] said was corroborated by the cellphone evidence, including that the two of them were at Leakin Park.

First of all, it needs to be said: objection as to the form, assumes facts not in evidence. What a wasted “last question” that would have been, because you cannot ask a witness a question phrased that way. Urick is trying to make a rhetorical point, but that approach would never fly in the courtroom.

In any event, however, Urick is simply wrong. His claim about the cellphone records establishing that the phone was in Leakin Park at 7:09 and 7:16 pm is not based on any sort of established fact. It is simply conjecture — that could be what the cellphone data is showing, but there is no reason to believe that is more likely than alternative explanations.

I will admit that I too previously bought in to the story about the 7:09 and 7:16 pings definitively proving that the phone was in Leakin Park at around the time of those calls. It made sense, based on the data we had, and it seemed like Serial bought it too.

But once this claim is compared to the actual phone records, it falls apart. The “Leakin Park calls” that Urick’s case was so dependent upon do not even show by a preponderance of the evidence that the cellphone was in Leakin Park at 7:15 pm that night, let alone show it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Rabia was kind enough to indulge my curiosity about the cellphone data, and sent me a copy of the subpoenaed cellphone records from the police file. The records show that on February 18, 1999, the Baltimore Police Department subpoenaed Adnan’s cellphone records. On February 22, 1999, the cellphone records were faxed over to Detective Ritz by AT&T, along with a copy of the cell tower locations showing the addresses of each tower that Adnan’s cellphone had pinged that day.

And on the very first page of the fax from AT&T, the following message was displayed:

Urick - ATT Cover Page

In case it is not legible, here’s what the second to last paragraph says:

Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.”

Well. That’s something I sure wish they had thought to mention in the podcast. Or, you know, at Adnan’s trial.

Because you know those two “Leakin Park calls” that Urick keeps mentioning over and over again? Both of them are incoming calls. There are no outgoing calls that ping the Leakin Park tower/antenna.  Which means that the phone calls that Urick’s entire case relied upon to show that the phone had been in Leakin Park were “NOT [ ] considered reliable information for location.”

As it turns out, though, it is not just the incoming calls we have to be skeptical of. The subpoenaed cell phone records demonstrate that the fact that a call pings L689B is not proof the cellphone was in Leakin Park at the time of the call, even for outgoing calls. Because here are a series of calls that took place two weeks after Hae’s murder:

L689C - L653

The important calls here are shown at lines 29, 28, and 27. At 4:44 pm, an outgoing call is made that pings L689B — the Leakin Park tower. This is the same tower and antenna as the 7:09 and 7:16 pm calls on January 13th, which Urick claims as proof the phone was in Leakin Park. Then, a mere 74 seconds later, at 4:45 pm, another outgoing call is made — and it pings L653C.

As a refresher, to help show the relevance of this data, below is an “idealized” map of L689B’s range:

L689B

And here is the same with respect to L653C:

L653C

So these two towers are close to one another, yes. But the implication of a call pinging L689B vs. L653C would appear to be very different. L653C covers the Edmondson Avenue area, facing towards several areas where Jay and Adnan were throughout the day on January 13. It is the same tower/antenna that was pinged for by the 5:38 and 8:05 pm calls that day — two times when neither Urick nor Jay have ever claimed that the phone was in Leakin Park.

But as the calls from the cell records above demonstrate, it was entirely possible for two phone calls made one minute apart from one another — at 4:44 pm and 4:45 pm — to hit both the “Leakin Park tower” (L689B) and the Edmondson Avenue tower (L653C). Which means that any assumption that a call pinging L689B must have been in Leakin Park is based on a false premise.

Because even though the phone was in the exact same location at the time of both the 4:44 and 4:45 calls (or within 100 yards thereof), the location data provides a false location for one of the two calls. Which means we cannot assume a call that pinged L689B was in Leakin Park at the time it was made, as it is every bit as likely, based on the data we have, that a phone that pings L689B is sitting instead out on Edmondson Avenue, or Jenn’s house, or the McDonalds, or Neighbor Boy’s house, or Patrick’s house, or… you get the idea.

Part of the issue here is the way L689 is set up awkwardly compared to nearby towers. For L689B, the territory that it is closest to it and to no other tower is very small and constrained, covering a very narrow strip. But its area of overlapping range with neighboring towers is much larger than what is shaded in on the maps. So if the phone is at a location south of Leakin Park and north of Edmondson — or even to the west of both — it is in a territory that is well within the overlapping ranges of both L689 and L653.

So let’s recap:

  1. Incoming calls are not reliable indicators of location, according to AT&T.
  2. Calls that ping L689B (Leakin Park) are also capable of pinging L653C (Edmondson Avenue, Jenn’s house, etc.).

Which means Urick’s glib confidence that the 7:09 and 7:16  calls are proof that Adnan murdered Hae is entirely misplaced.

Now, moving on to the next problem with Urick’s prosecution of Adnan, take a look again at the cover page from AT&T — specifically at the third paragraph from the bottom:

When “SP” is noted in the “Type” column and then the “Dialed #” column shows “#” and the target phone number, for instance “#7182225555”, this is an incoming call that was not answered and then forwarded to voice mail. The preceeding row (which is an incoming call) will also indicate “CFO” in the “feature” column.

What this shows is that Urick discredited Adnan’s alibi based on a false representation to the jury. Because the 5:14 pm call was not Adnan checking voicemail, as Urick repeatedly asserted at trial — it was someone leaving a voicemail message. Urick’s claim that Adnan must have had his cellphone at 5:14 pm was therefore untrue and deeply prejudicial to Adnan.

That the 5:14 call was someone leaving a voicemail message is something Urick should have known. He had the cover page from AT&T; he knew that when the cell records showed two calls in a row, with the same time and duration, and the second call showed Adnan’s cell phone number with a pound sign in front (“#4433539023”), what was being shown was a voicemail being left on Adnan’s cell phone. And yet he told the jury that it was Adnan checking his messages.

Here are some examples to demonstrate that what the cell records show is indeed a voicemail being left by someone who called Adnan’s phone. On the subpoenaed cellphone records, unanswered incoming calls to voicemail are displayed just as the cover sheet describes, as two calls with the same time and duration, with the first call labeled as “incoming” and the second call labeled as “#4433539023,” which is Adnan’s cell phone number. It looks like this:

Urick - Calls to voicemail

Calls from the subpoenaed cell phone records, showing an incoming call that went unanswered and left a voicemail message.

In contrast, calls made to check voicemail show up as just a single call to Adnan’s cellphone, without a pound sign in front, like this:

Urick - Call checking voicemail

Call from subpoenaed cell phone records, showing a call being made on Adnan’s cellphone to check voicemail.

So why does all this matter? Because on January 13, 1999, someone called Adnan’s cellphone and left a voicemail message at 5:14 pm. It looks like this on the cell phone records:

Urick - 514 pm Call

The 5:14 pm call, as shown in the subpoenaed cellphone records

Two calls, at same time, lasting the same duration, first call to “incoming,” second call to “#4433539023.” This is plainly someone leaving a voicemail message on Adnan’s cellphone, as the cover page from AT&T clearly explains.

At Adnan’s first trial, however, Urick informed a witness — Krista — precisely the opposite. He informed her that this showed Adnan checking his cellphone’s voicemail, and asked her to testify that Adnan was checking a voicemail left by her:

KU: Now look at the line immediately beneath that — line 18. And as you look at 18 and 19, you’ll see line 18 says #443-xxx-xxxx. Now if you look up at the top, you’ll see that that is the cellular phone number for Adnan Syed [indiscernible] and right beneath it, it says incoming call. If you go over to the time area they both occurred at 15:14:07 a[s] they both list 1:07. Now that is the means that AT&T uses to record someone checking their voicemail. . . .
Is that possible that when the Defendant is checking his voicemail at 5:14, that he’s checking the message that you left?
Krista: It could be possible. I don’t believe it is because usually I don’t arrive home from work till about 5:20 so it’s not likely that I would’ve been home on the phone at 5:14 — that early.
KU: If you check the entire evening you’ll see he never — there’s no other listing like that where the Defendant checks his voice mail. (12/13/99 Tr. 286-87.)

Urick is either a ridiculously sloppy attorney, or else a liar. It could go either way, but it is inexcusable regardless. He falsely represented to a witness what the phone records showed, in an effort to coax her testimony into fitting his narrative.

This was not an error Urick fixed in the second trial, either. Here is what he said in opening arguments, the second time around:

And you’ll see that there is a voice mail where the voice mail is checked at 5:14. Christy Myers will tell you that she called, left a message for the defendant to call her.

Well, the cell phone records indicate the voice mail was checked. And the very next call, which occurs at 5:38 is to Christy Myers. She’s not home at that time. Her voice — her answering machine comes on. You’ll see it’s a two second call, as soon as the answering machine comes on the person — defendant hangs up. (1/27/00 Tr. 108.)

Urick doubled down on his factual misrepresentation, wrongfully informing the jury that Adnan had been in possession of his phone at 5:14 pm, when in reality the cellphone records suggest just the opposite conclusion.

But when properly understood, in accordance with the clear directions from AT&T, the cellphone records support Adnan’s story, not Urick’s. Adnan says he was at track practice that day, and track practice ended at 5:30 pm. There is a 5:14 call to Adnan’s cellphone that goes unanswered (maybe from Krista, maybe from someone else), and at 5:38, there is a call (2 seconds, apparently unanswered) to Krista.

And what is this consistent with? It is consistent with a scenario in which Adnan did not have the cellphone at 5:14 pm — when the voicemail was left — but was picked up from track at 5:30 by Jay, and had the phone at 5:38 to make a call to one of his friends.

This is significant for another reason, as well. At trial, Jay testified that he received a call from Adnan asking to be picked up in “half an hour”:

Jay: Me and Mark went back downstairs. We played video games for like almost another hour. His sister came in and I got another phone call from [Adnan].
KU: What did he say at that time?
Jay: He said he was leaving school and wanted me — he wanted me to pick him up in about a half an hour. (12/14/99 Tr. 192.)

Jay claimed that this call came before the Best Buy trunk pop, but that does not fit the cell phone records at all. What it does fit, however, is a scenario in which the call Jay was waiting for was to pick up Adnan from track.

If track ended at 5:30 pm, as it usually did, then this would mean Adnan called Jay at 5:00 pm  to tell him to pick him up “in about a half an hour,” when track ended. While there is no 5:00 pm call in the call records, there is a call at 4:58 incoming call that is otherwise unaccounted for. So this call would appear to be Adnan — at track, like he has said all along — calling Jay to tell him to get him in “half an hour.” At 5:30 pm, Jay picked Adnan up from track, and at 5:38, Adnan had his phone again, and made a call to Krista.

However, since Urick falsely claimed at trial that Adnan was ‘checking his voicemail’ at 5:14 pm, the jury would have reasonably believed that Adnan’s alibi was a lie, and that he was not at track until 5:30 pm that day. While it is possible that Urick made an honest mistake when he misinformed the jury about the significance of the 5:14 pm call, that does not make the error any less significant. The prosecution discredited a defendant’s alibi based on information that it knew or should have known to be false, and an error of that magnitude cannot simply be shrugged away.

-Susan

p.s. If you like Serial and/or non-proliferation law, check out Arms Control Wonk’s latest podcast episode, in which they invited me on for a guest appearance to discuss Serial and the relevance of geospatial data.

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266 thoughts on “Serial: How Prosecutor Kevin Urick Failed to Understand the Cellphone Records He Used to Convict Adnan Syed of Murder

    • I know you mean “Awesome” as in “This is awesome in that it might help free Adnan,” but the only word I can think of is “disgusting.” Kevin Urick is human garbage.

      • Sorry for the confusion. I meant “awesome” as in awesome work. I don’t have a dog in this fight….but Susan’s work here is so powerful that it brought me to tears.

    • Wow. Very well reasoned. Without any predisposed bias. You should have been part of the Serial research team. Better yet you should have been part of Adnan’s defense team.
      NVC is providing a platform for other voices to be heard. Which isbgret. But her editorial is poorly researched. Her bias against NPR and SK as well sympathy towards people who agree to speak to her comes through loud and clear. She is doing all the things that she and her interview subjects are accusing the serial team did.

  1. I’m speechless. Amazing work. So thankful you take the time to do this, for nothing apparently. I am sad to think that an innocent (or at least, not guilty) man has been locked up all this time based on such terrible evidence. And for Hae’s family, who may never know what really happened to Hae. It doesn’t appear Jay is ever going to tell the truth, and if he did, how would we ever know?

  2. Wow, wow, wow. Do you know if the prosecutor’s cell phone expert addressed the accuracy of incoming calls when he testified during the second trial?

    • Even more than suggesting dishonesty or stupidity by the prosecution, this absolutely begs the question why, why, WHY didn’t the defense challenge this??

      • CG was in over her head, having a melt down, and just botched it. There was so much going on in this case and she clearly had her eyes on the wrong things.

    • The prosecution’s cell phone evidence was introduced only to prove that it was possible for the cellphone to hit the towers that the state claimed it did. The state’s case did not address whether it was likely to hit those towers, or if the phone could have been in other locations at the time of those calls. The court described it as “bordering on irrelevant”:

      THE COURT: Your testimony that you’ve presented has not indicated any of the factors that your own witness say affects the performance and thereby doesn’t the test itself become misleading to a jury, to give the impression that the phone that was the subject of this case performed in the same way. I mean granted, the weight of the testimony must be made, a weighing must be made by the jury, but my question is aren’t we bordering on irrelevant versus relevant because the weight is so tenuous here that it might not even weigh anything at all?
      MR. URICK: The State respectfully disagrees, Your Honor. What we were showing is that yes, it is possible for this system to respond in the way that the cell phone records indicate it in fact did. We are showing the possibility that it did. This is corroborative of other testimony, hence it has great relevance, it goes into corroboration.
      THE COURT: So you’re saying no matter how weak or tenuous this might be that it is yet — it is only one item to be weighed in the context with other items that it occurred in the fashion that you’ve presented?
      MR. URICK: Yes, it is corroborative, therefore it is [ ]relevant.
      THE COURT: That is with [Jay’s] testimony that the phone did ring while they were at certain places to corroborate the fact that he was in fact in the areas that you’ve indicated. (2/9/00 Tr. 19-20.)

      In other words, the cellphone evidence had no relevance, absent Jay’s corroborating testimony, because otherwise it was too tenuous of a connection to be admissible.

      • But Susan’s study show several calls where it’s not very likely the call was made where Jay said. It’ almost like you would want the evidence to be turned around. Phone calls where it would be possible (but not guaranteed) that the user is in a certain location, should not be admissible. Phone calls where it is very unlikely the user is in a certain position should be admissible.

  3. incredible work as always. One question on your second point. I get that a location can ping two towers but that doesn’t mean any location within either range could ping either tower, right? Just that there are some locations that could ping either – and those locations, that overlapping area does still look like roughly where the body is. What am I missing?

    • Correct. The problem is we have no idea of knowing exactly where those locations are. So for the 7:09 and 7:16 calls on 1/13, it is definitely possible that the phone was somewhere in Leakin Park. It is just also as definitely possible that the phone was somewhere on Edmondson. I list Jenn as an example because her place is well within the theoretical range of both, but there’s no reason to specifically believe that’s where it was (at any of those times). There are just too many possible locations to have a reasonable confidence level as to where it really was.

      But given that the L689B pings occur only 9 minutes after an L651A ping, and given that Jay repeatedly describes driving around kind of aimlessly looking for a place to bury Hae’s body, I think there is good reason to discount the possibility that the phone was actually in Leakin Park at 7:09 and 7:16 pm.

        • The key thing here about possibilites is to read what the evidence for AT&T read: incoming calls does NOT provide reliable location information.
          I think everyone facinated by this case has inadvertety been trying to find some key information that will crack the case or at lest support their case, regardless if who they think did it. But the truth is that all our information is simply worthless. We know nothing. Neither Best Buy or Park’n Ride may have featured in the true events, important calls may be irrelevant. The driving times between these “ghost” locations, irrelevant, phone booths existence or non existence, irrelevant, two car problems, no car problems, all irrelevant. Since now even the timing of the burial is completely open, maybe Jays latest version is right, it is all irrelevant?
          We have nothing connecting anyone to this murder, apart from Jay possibly knowing where Hae’s car was, and his ever changing stories that Adnan did. But when? At some point during the afternoon? Such aside margin means that alibis are almost meaningless. Alibis for the burial totally meaningless since that could have occurred whenever. So we can flip possibilities all year round and we’ll never find out what happened. But admitting that is SO hard. Saying I don’t know is among the hardest things to say. Admitting that the abundance of information, that we have been struggling to get an overview of, contains nothing of substance is SO hard. But the is truth that we have no evidence at all of what happened that day. None. Apart from an ever changing story, coached forth by the cops, from one guy. And all of his stories matches nothing and everything because we have nothing to match it to. Us wanting one of his stories, or our own preferred story, to match something, so that we can make sense of it all, doesn’t make it so. Adnan is in prison for life for simply being the ex boyfriend of a murdered girl, and that not OK.

          • This: “incoming calls [do] NOT provide reliable location information”

            The 7:09 and 7:16 calls were incoming calls, therefore the calls in question do not provide reliable location information. Full stop.

          • Applause Applause. I get deep in this then I’m like “what am I doing?!”. It’s fascinating and it’s awful but we’ll never know anything other than that man in jail has not been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt and that is a terrible injustice.

            What I can say from experience as a juror though, is that it is not always clearly communicated how guilty a person should be. The jury is left to find their own way. You just need even a tiny minority to either not care or not understand the fact that you have to prove guilt not innocence for a crazy decision to be made.

        • We absolutely cannot say just as good, because there is no comparison data available. All we know (or at least, all the expert testified to at trial) was that it was POSSIBLE for the call to have come from Leakin Park. That’s all he looked into:

          WARNOWITZ: I was asked to see if the test would be consistent with the locations and the phone records.
          THE COURT: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear the end of that.
          MR. WARANOWITZ: I’m sorry. The test — was asked to demonstrate or verify or test that the billing — do the billing records correspond with the cell sites and the locations. (2/9/00 Tr. 54.)

          • That’s more than “possible” so please stop saying “possible”. This is a good e ample where you twist the facts to support your narrative.

          • Pb9 –

            No. Susan is correct here. Read Urick’s explanation to the court in Susan’s comment above.

            Waranowitz went to the burial site, made a test (outgoing) call and verified that it was POSSIBLE to ping the tower in the park from that location. That DOES NOT MEAN (especially given AT&T’s statement about INCOMING calls) that Adnan’s phone ever WAS in that location, NOR that it was PROBABLY in that location. Because there are a lot of other places, including places outside of the park, from which it is also POSSIBLE to ping that tower. Waranowitz did not go to those places. Why? Because the prosecutor did not ask him to. So who’s twisting the facts to support a particular narrative? It ain’t Susan.

  4. I have a question about this: “The important calls here are shown at lines 29, 28, and 27. At 4:44 pm, an outgoing call is made that pings L689B — the Leakin Park tower. This is the same tower and antenna as the 7:09 and 7:16 pm calls on January 13th, which Urick claims as proof the phone was in Leakin Park. Then, a mere 74 seconds later, at 4:45 pm, another outgoing call is made — and it pings L653C.”

    and then:

    “Because even though the phone was in the exact same location at the time of both the 4:44 and 4:45 calls (or within 100 yards thereof), the location data provides a false location for one of the two calls.”

    Is it possible these two calls, 74 seconds apart, were made from a moving car, and therefore further apart than 100 yards?

    • 100 yards is a rough estimate, but with the traffic lights in the region, that’s about all they’re going to get.

      You would need at least five minutes to get from Edmondson to the burial site, so the phone certainly couldn’t have traveled that distance, at any rate.

        • Or it could be in the same place and pinging two towers. Either way, there is no possibility of the phone making it from the center of Leakin Park to Edmondson Ave. in 74 seconds.

          Compare with the 6:07, 6:09, and 6:24 calls. All were made from the same location — Cathy’s apartment — but they hit two separate towers.

          • Always enjoy reading your analyses and speculations, though I agree with commenters above that you weaken your analysis with the inclusion of unsubstantiated conjecture that fits your ‘belief’. In this case the peculiar ‘not more than 100 yards’ assertion. Can you point to any problems in the cell expert’s testimony?

          • I agree with Gdyoung1 that the analysis is weakened considerably by the ‘not more than 100 yards” assertion. I would go further and state that this statement, along with the defense of it in the comment sections, casts doubt on the credibility of the entire post.

          • It’s absolutely possible to connect to two different towers if the user is located at the cell fringe. If he is not in the fringe but more in the central part of the cell, not so likely. It could possibly happen is there’s a lot of traffic. The time of day indicates that the neighboring main road could be packed with cars, with heavy cell phone usage.

          • Go play around with Google maps yourselves, and see how far it is possible to travel in a minute can. It’s not far.

            But given that every single point in that area hits both L653 and L689 the travelling is really irrelevant. You could make a call on Edmondson, hit L689, and then drive a minute north, make a call, and hit tower L653.

            The important issue isn’t whether it’s 100 yards or 200 — it’s that the phone is absolutely not travelling a far enough distance to create any inference that distance is what causing the phone tower to change.

    • No, wait, the 4:44 and 4:45 calls were examples of outgoing calls made, according to Susan, 2 weeks after Hae’s murder!! Look back at what she wrote. She, I believe, uses them to make the point that even OUTGOINGS calls are not necessarily examples that show clear location.

  5. Hi Susan,

    I’ve followed your work on this story for a while and have been truly awestruck by your clear presentation. So I’m a little hesitant to suggest that you’ve made a fundamental error in logic here:

    But as the calls from the cell records above demonstrate, it was entirely possible for two phone calls made one minute apart from one another — at 4:44 pm and 4:45 pm — to hit both the “Leakin Park tower” (L689B) and the Edmondson Avenue tower (L653C). Which means that any assumption that a call pinging L689B must have been in Leakin Park is based on a false premise.

    Because even though the phone was in the exact same location at the time of both the 4:44 and 4:45 calls (or within 100 yards thereof), the location data provides a false location for one of the two calls. Which means we cannot assume a call that pinged L689B was in Leakin Park at the time it was made, as it is every bit as likely, based on the data we have, that a phone that pings L689B is sitting instead out on Edmondson Avenue, or Jenn’s house, or the McDonalds, or Neighbor Boy’s house, or Patrick’s house, or… you get the idea.

    Now, maybe I’m not clear on what exactly the cell tower data shows, but it’s my understanding that the coverage maps, while not perfect, show areas where the phone is highly likely to be at the time of the call. Another way to say that is that areas *outside* the coverage zone are highly unlikely places for the phone to be at the time of the call.

    So based on the coverage areas of L689B and L653C, it’s certainly possible for a phone inside Leakin Park to hit the latter, but it’s highly unlikely (not “every bit as likely”) for a phone outside the park to hit the former.

    Of course, the fact that incoming calls aren’t reliable as to location moots my point, but I think it’s a stronger argument to say “incoming call – not reliable as to location” than it is to say “every bit as likely … that a phone that pings L689B is [outside the park].”

    Again, great work and I’m really enjoying following along!

      • Exactly. Make a substantive argument if you can–and that’s a big “if.” This work is really persuasive stuff, and more riveting than the podcast ever was. This really puts CG and her team to shame. I assume she did not raise any such arguments in opening or during the cross of state’s cell tower expert. And apparently neither did AS’s appellate team.

    • You’re missing the big picture, Chester. There never would have been a Serial podcast if Adnan had an attorney as brilliant as Susan.

      BTW, this examination of how AT&T listed calls back then, and how Urick jumbled things, is beyond reproach. Susan used information that came directly from the fax AT&T sent to the Baltimore PD.

      • Agreed. This was a strong observation and analysis. I am shocked that it was missed by almost everyone who has studied the case.

        I have been really disappointed by the lack of professionalism that I have noted by others involved in this case. Gutierrez was not well and should have recognized her limitations; Urick was doing some unusual things in getting A friend of his to represent Jay; the police lost evidence and failed to test DNA; Jay’s lawyer set up an interview where he admitted perjury; the Intercept’s journalist is deeply unprofessional in her interaction with the public, does poor research and fact checking and generally fails to take her responsibilities seriously; then there is Rabia, who I respect greatly, but who is sometimes very hostile on her twitter feed (telling people to fuck off).

        I was starting to worry about the competence of those who hold some of society’s most important roles. I am glad to say that this blog is restoring my faith that there are serious and capable people who are also in these professions. Of course the Serial team also did a good job.

        Thanks for your strong work and I look forward to reading more of your work.

    • Because the evidence against him was weak to begin with and this probably never should have gone to trial. They address this in the podcast by saying “this case is a mess”. That was from detective Jim Trainum, I believe, not someone unqualified to make such a statement. Your question is almost rhetorical – it basically answers itself. You can draw your own conclusion from it, unless you have some real rebuttals or evidence to the contrary.

    • Because she is putting on the hat of a defense lawyer and looking for holes in the prosecutors case. And the more she looks the more holes she finds. It is unfair to fault her or SK for the fact that there are several holes in the case and that bigger conjectures were made by the prosecutor.

  6. I found this fascinating, thank you. One piece of reasoning I didn’t follow: the example of adjacent calls from 689b and 653c. Couldn’t this just mean the phone moved between the two areas between the calls? A second question: do you have any idea why locations for incoming calls would not be accurate?

      • There’s significant overlap between cells in a cell phone network. You’re likeliest to get the tower with the strongest signal, which is usually the nearest one, but sometimes a building might block your signal, or there will be a noise source in the way. Even moving just a few dozen feet can get you into or out of the radio shadow of a building in a city landscape. Signals can also reflect off buildings toward towers you wouldn’t expect to use. SK didn’t make the point strong enough in the podcast: while you can narrow down the location of a person with a cell phone, you can’t know for certain where he is, or even which cell he’s physically located in. This is a huge area for very reasonable doubt.

      • The document referred to is an instruction to law enforcement on what they can expect in terms of evidence from a tower dump. The document is from 2010.
        I have some heartburn with this. It says that incoming calls from other operators have more reliable info in who called than if incoming call is from same operator. That sounds very strange. Of course they would have better information if both ends of the call belongs to them.

      • Yep. From what I can see of a satellite map of the current school layout, the track circled around the football field. Pay phones by the high school football/track fields were pretty standard for safety and convenience.

        • Also, since Adnan was fasting for Ramadan he probably wouldn’t have been running, or may have stopped early. He could have been sitting on the side waiting for the end of practice, so making a call would have been no big deal.

          • Yeah, but did anyone witness Adnan like actually fasting. Even if he didn’t strangle Hae, he was a bit of a bad boy (weed-smoker, stole from mosque, hooked up with girls) .. why the heck do we assume he was fasting? I feel like this is a common sense issue. Let’s think outside the box!

  7. So would that mean that the two outgoing call before the, ‘Leakin Park calls’, that both ping L651A show that they are near the Woodlawn area. Then the two out going calls after the, ‘Leakin Park calls’, ping L653A then L653C showing the phone to the East of Leakin park. Then the phone returns to the Woodlawn area for the 9:01p call. Would this be correct?

    That leaves the cell phone, calling Yaser at 6:59 then only calling Jay’s friends until 9:01p ,when Nisha is called. For the rest of the night only Adnan’s friends are called. Which leads me to believe that Jay had the phone From 7p to 9p, and traveled from the Woodlawn area to the Edmondson Ave area and back.

  8. Tl;dr Urick should be rotting in prison. Knowing what we do about him, Serials next and all future seasons should be investigating all of his trials to see how many other innocents he sent away.

  9. So many questions just answered! Thank you!!

    One lingering, do you have any idea why the 5:14pm call on 1/13/99 and the very-similar 9:32pm call on 1/12/99 do not show up on the AT&T bill Rabia posted to her blog? Even if it rings to vmail wouldn’t it show on the bill? Or are these straight-to-vmail calls?

    http://www.splitthemoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/ATT-billredacted.pdf

    I have such a dim view of lawyers in general, but your analytical and writing skills, not to mention your commitment to truth and justice, are noteworthy and appreciated.

    • The bill that Rabia posted was the user’s bill, the normal kind of bill that you get with itemized incoming and outgoing calls.

      The one that Susan Simpson is using is the actual phone records from ATT that were faxed to the police department. These are more detailed and note the various kinds of system calls such as voicemail and other special features, in addition to the regular calls. This is information that the phone company has but doesn’t put in the bills that are sent out to the user.

      • Thanks for your reply!

        Unbelievably, I still have my cell phone bills from ’98 and ’00, I’m still looking for ’99 out in the garage, my carrier was CellularOne and that is not the way my plan billed. Any incoming calls, whether they rang or were answered or went to vmail showed as incoming. And I got charged.

        It seems odd to me an incoming call would go unrecorded/uncharged, I guess it’s just a difference in carrier/plan?

        Regardless, keep doing what you’re doing, it’s commendable!

        • I have not actually seen anything that can confirm that incoming calls that are unanswered do not show up in the cell records, but I believe that to be the case based upon the portions of the AT&T contract that were read out.

          Although it is possible that only outgoing unanswered calls of short duration are unrecorded, while incoming unanswered calls of short duration are.

  10. Omg. It said right there about calls not definitive of location and urick misrepresented gat, he failed to look at calls the next day because, bad evidence, he failed to understand a call going to voicemail is not the same as calling voicemail.

    I feel sick.

    Thank you Susan. There is literally no evidence against Adnan Syed.

  11. If outgoing calls can indeed place someone in a general area then that means Adnan skipped mosque, placed a call northeast of tower 651, and entered the Edmonson/LP area 9 minutes later. Also, the confusion over the voicemail log is insignificant. Adnan could have killed Hae and made it in time for track practice.

      • Any lawyer people out there?!

        Given that CG actually stated that she wasn’t interested in the ‘phone evidence (or words to that effect) and didn’t follow up on all the issues that are now avidly being discussed, could this major oversight be regarded as ‘ineffective assistance of council’? Could that be a potential issue for appeal? It must, surely, have had a massive impact on the trial’s potential outcome.

        Also, could there be a legal remedy for Urich’s behavior?

        Thanks.

  12. You say that:

    “But as the calls from the cell records above demonstrate, it was entirely possible for two phone calls made one minute apart from one another — at 4:44 pm and 4:45 pm — to hit both the “Leakin Park tower” (L689B) and the Edmondson Avenue tower (L653C). Which means that any assumption that a call pinging L689B must have been in Leakin Park is based on a false premise.”

    I don’t follow your argument here. L689B and L653C are adjacent towers. It’s entirely possible that Adnan (or whoever had his phone) was driving through the area in a car, and crossed the boundary between L689B and L653C between 4:44 and 4:45. You can’t use these calls as evidence that the outgoing cellphone location data is unreliable.

    • There is no dispute whatsoever that a call made in between two towers can go to either tower. The movement is irrelevant, because you cannot travel a far enough distance in 70 seconds to move yourself from a zone where only one tower has coverage to a zone where only the other tower has coverage. Even if the phone was moving between those two calls, it could just as easily have been moving away from L653 and closer to L689.

  13. “It is consistent with a scenario in which Adnan did not have the cellphone at 5:14 pm.”

    Isn’t it possible that Adnan was in possession of his phone at 5:14 p.m. but didn’t want to answer it?

    • Both scenarios are possible. An accused is supposed to have the presumption of innocence though. So your scenario should be much more persuasive than just equally plausible.

      Do you have any further evidence to back up the idea that Adnan was in possession of his phone at 5.14pm apart from Jay’s testimony?

      • Sure, but this is just one dot of many the jury considered in finding Adnan guilty. Urick knew or should have known that Adnan wasn’t checking his voicemail at 5:14 p.m. but that alone is not so prejudicial to warrant a new trial because, as noted above, Adnan could have had the phone at the time the call came in and he didn’t pick it up. I should note that I’m on the fence and will remain so up and until I have access to the entire record, notably the transcripts and exhibits from the second trial. Given the immense interest in this case, I hope UVA (Innocence Project) will copy, scan, code, and upload all the materials to a web site for public consumption. The problem I have with Serial is that they should have but did not hire a legal consultant to work with them on the story. Susan would have been perfect for the job and the podcast would been a lot better.

          • I would tread lightly with your accusations, Counselor, because Urick could have simply been mistaken in reading the cell phone records and didn’t intentionally fabricate evidence regarding this call. Unless you can definitively prove that Urick is a liar, I’d be careful with your language. In any event, Adnan will never get a new trial solely based on Urick’s mishandling of the 5:14 p.m. call. All I pointed out is that Adnan could have had his phone in his possession when the call came in at 5:14 p.m. but chose not to answer it.

          • That’s completely fair, he could have screwed up in reading the records. I don’t think it had to have been intentional.

            But the result is the same. He got a conviction based in part on his incorrect representations to the jury, when he should have known that what he was saying was not correct.

        • Felizthecat – but each of the many dots the state presented was a bit shonky. For example the phone evidence was nearly not allowed because it was so weak but (unsurprisingly because he’d seen them) it strengthened Jay’s testimony.

          So Jay’s testimony is weak (because he is inconsistent with his stories) and the phone evidence is weak (because it is probabilistic) and together they should have made some very weak evidence (because Jay was shown the phone evidence by the cops before trial and while trying to work out his testimony) but the way the way the human mind works, suddenly Jay’s evidence seems strong, beyond reasonable doubt strong.

          As to on the fence. I have no idea if Adnan is innocent of Hae’s murder but I do know he is not guilty of the crime the State accused him of at trial for (the best buy murder scenario has been debunked on so many levels). He had an unfair trial and deserves a new one.

          The cops had so many leads in this case but were so focused on Adnan that they did not investigate thoroughly enough imo.

  14. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for amazing work on all this! These are truly amazing finds!! I have a question regarding the cell tower information that you say were provided in the fax to to police, could you post a screen shot of that so we can see exactly which information they had (or is it available somewhere in the any of the document dumps perhaps)?

    All the best,

    Frederic

  15. It is great that you’re finally getting a good look at the original data. Also, I’m glad that we now have a good timeline for when evidence became available to the police.

    Playing devil’s advocate, I have a question about this passage: (apologies if you’ve answered this already): “Because even though the phone was in the exact same location at the time of both the 4:44 and 4:45 calls (or within 100 yards thereof), the location data provides a false location for one of the two calls.”

    Isn’t the easy rebuttal to this conclusion that the caller may moving?

    The 4.44 call connects to L689B while he gets in the car in Leakin Park. He drives, hangs up, makes another call as he leaves the park which connects to L653C. Unless you’re certain that both the 4.44 and 4.45 call are made from the same location, I don’t see how this disproves that the Jan 13 call was made from Leakin Park.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you that no one can say with any degree of confidence that the 7 pm calls were made in Leakin Park, unless there is other evidence to corroborate the location. And given the last version with heard from Jay, it’s impossible to just pick a story just because it matches he timeline.

    At the same time, I can see that an appeals court may not be inclined to place that much weight on this, because the jury had the benefit of forming an impression of Jay’s credibility.

    The biggest single takeaway from all this is that the quality of the defence is crucial to the outcome. In absence of a more inquisitorial process that might ameliorate the effect of lacklustre defence, are defendants in cases with ambiguous facts kind of screwed?

    • See above re: why the phone moving for 70 seconds doesn’t impact this analysis.

      GUTIERREZ: So, your report to them said, well if I went and used a cell phone at this address you told me about either it would put a signal over here, correct?
      WARNOWITZ: Correct.
      GUTIERREZ: Or a signal over here. correct?
      WARNOWITZ: Correct.
      GUTIERREZ: And. in fact, as to each address they gave you, you reported similarly that it would trigger two different cell sites. one or the other, correct?
      WARNOWITZ: Correct

      For every site the cell expert checked, there were at least two separate cell sites it could trigger. There is no way to know which territory the phone is actually located in at the time. Also all the testing involved only outgoing calls, there was no evidence as to how receiving a call would affect it.

      • Incoming or outgoing doesn’t matter. The fact he got two cells from each position is also a just a coincidence. The cell can have many neighbors, and when you are approaching the fringe of a cell, the neighbors become legitimate choices. He could in some cases have 3 or 4 choices. The closer you are to the center of the cell, the stronger the likelihood that you will see only that cell as your choice.

  16. Very good analysis and introduces of lots of reasonable doubt. I admit was pretty sure the burial time was good and it was plausible both Adnan and Jay were involved although Adnan being involved in the actual murder has seemed sketchy to me since hearing of his alibi witnesses.

    Now all I’m left with is that Jay knows something – how big or small I can’t tell. I’m now waiting for the detailed and incisive Susan article that shows that even Jay might not be involved at all.

    Because that would be the last of any of my certainties about this case gone!

  17. I think your maps show that 689B and 693C overlap in the Leakin park. Your conclusion does not follow from the maps.

    Also, an ATT expert testified at the hearings. Did you manage to get hold of that transcript as it might shed more light on the issue at hand?

    • My maps show the idealized areas. The areas where we think, theoretically, each tower has the strongest probability of being the tower a call gets routed through.

      In reality, the cellphone expert testified that for every site he tested, there were two (at least) towers that the call could route through. He also only tested outgoing calls.

      • I’ve said it in another comment. To my knowledge, incoming or outgoing calls aren’t treated any differently from the mobile networks point of view, so not testing incoming shouldn’t matter.

    • The transcript of episode five and the statement of fact form the first appeal document have some info about expert testimony from Abraham Waranowitz. Only testing of outgoing calls mentioned.

    • The cellphone expert went to different locations that the prosecution asked him to go to, where he made outgoing calls and determined all the possible towers that the call could route through. Some of the locations that he tested were locations where incoming calls were received (like Leakin Park) but his actual test involved only outgoing calls.

      Additionally, of the four locations discussed at trial, for three of them the expert only identified possible towers that the prosecution asked him to identify. He was not asked, and did not say, what other towers those calls could also have hit.

  18. Pingback: #Serial: Maguffins | The Confluence

  19. I have worked with TDMA Cellular Technology for 15 years, and I can’t for my life understand why ATT is telling people that there is a difference in the accuracy of incoming or outgoing call in terms of which cell tower they connect to. The cell phone pings different towers all the time (how many can be set in the system). It constantly determines whch one is the best to connect if a call needs to be made or picked up. The issue that has been discussed in many other posts here and on Reddit, is the coverage of each cell tower can vary, or be difficult to establish, based on circumstances.

    Also, it’s important to know that the voicemails aren’t saved on the phone, but in a recording device somewhere within ATT’s network. This is why there’s two calls – one to Adnan’s phone number in the telephone switch, then a second call to the Voicemail recorder. The two calls are bridged, so that the incoming caller reaches the voicemail recorder. This is why it shows up as two separate calls. The same would happen if I have Call Forwarding set on my phone – the incoming caller thinks he is calling me, but the telephone system bridges his call to another call, connecting to the phone number I have forwarded to. The incoming caller pays for the first call, and I pay for the second. Both calls will show up in the call log.

    The third thing I would like to mention, is how sad it was that noone asked ATT for the Calll Data Records, CDRs, related to Adnan’s phone. I am quite positive that the CDRs show who the incoming caller is. Otherwise ATT couldn’t establish the proper billing. What have been given here is more looking like a billing record for Adnan, with celltower information added.

    • I am trying to figure out if there was privacy laws back in 1999 that limited what the operators could provide to Law Enforcement. We had just implemented a system called CALEA that gave them a lot of information.

        • I checked up the rules. ATT guarantees 7 years. Knowing these companies, they are Hoarders, and might still have them. It would be worth asking.

        • It doesn’t explain why I can’t get the incoming callers caller-id, it just says it isn’t always available. I am surprised that ATT would still in 2010 claim that they can’t always provide incoming caller-id. That sure doesn’t sound right. Every call I get has caller-id today, so ATT for sure does too. Also Tower-dump specifically relates to a situation when the police is looking for all traffic related to a specific cell site. That’s not the case here, we are interested in all traffic related to a specific phone, independent on what cell tower he is connected to. That might require a bit more work on the operators side.

          • it doesn’t seem like you read the document very carefully.

            first, i’m not sure what you are talking about regarding caller id. the purpose for posting has nothing to do with caller id. it is in reference to the identification of tower information on the customer records that at&t provides. so if an expert witness can testify that ‘this phone could be in a certain place at a certain time’ based on the contents of the records provided by at&t, this document says that actually there is significant ambiguity regarding the location of a cell phone for an incoming phone call, which diminishes the argument of the expert witness.

            second, the document addresses tower dumps in general but also talks about ‘cell records for a specific target’ which would be in reference to requests for individual cell phone customers (not the metadata of a tower dump).

  20. It doesn’t matter. The court accepted the expert testimony, which was tested by the expert, and that does not support your theory here. The defense had access to the same information as the prosecution, and very likely saw the same note from AT&T. You’re making it seem like the damning cell phone information is found solely on the records, independent from the expert’s testimony. From what I recall, he was employed by AT&T, not the state or whatever, and conducted tests of the cell towers in question to come to his conclusions. They (Gutierrez and his other lawyer[s]) could have challenged it, and I think that they did.

    • Actually, the cellphone expert did not testify anything concerning the theory I’ve proposed here. All he testified to was that it was possible for the cellphone calls that were part of the state’s theory of the case to have triggered the towers shown in the records.

      Of course, the state only discussed four of those calls with the expert. And apparently discarded the parts of their theory (or had the opportunity to discard parts of their theory) that involved locations that they had tested, but which did not match the theory.

      • You’re ignoring my main point, and I stand by it. This is over, and there is nothing here that will help Adnan’s case. I truly don’t think that what you’re saying is enough to overturn the evidence. I don’t think that you can say definitively that the jury was intentionally misled or that Urick withheld evidence from the defense team. They had this information, too, and you know it. I don’t imagine that you care, though.

        • Anon, you’ve shifted goalposts on your main point from being 1) expert testimony in the trial not supporting Susan’s conclusions (which turned out to be incorrect) to 2) there being nothing in what Susan says that will overturn the evidence (what evidence are you referring to, exactly?).

          Susan has never claimed that this particular blog post was intended to help “the case”, whatever you meant by that (Adnan’s claim of ineffective counsel?). I thought she made the point of the post quite clear: “How Prosecutor Kevin Urick Failed to Understand the Cellphone Records He Used to Convict Adnan Syed of Murder”.

          One might take from that that title that she is making an argument that Prosecutor Kevin Urick failed to understand the cellphone records he used to convict Adnan Syed of murder, whether or not it helps “the case”.

          I certainly did.

  21. Hi, as so many others I’ve been really intrigued by this case for the past two weeks nows (hardly doing anything else in my spare time).

    My remark/question is rather simple : how is it possible Adnan is not getting a new trial if especially you have demonstrated there have been so many errors in this case. I mean,
    you have at least demonstrated there is ‘reasonable doubt’ in this case that Adnan committed this murder.

    Maybe one more question : have you confronted Urick with his blunders yet ? Especially the voicemail case is so striking.

    • Reasonable doubt is not enough to give Adnan a new trial. Post-conviction, the bar is (rightfully) much higher.

      However, a review of who had what evidence when, and when it was disclosed, could go a long way in assisting Adnan with that process.

      • Ok, thx for the reply. What if Adnan’s lawyer had been able to show ‘reasonable doubt’ in court ? In other words : should a jury plea ‘not guilty’ if ‘reasonable doubt’ is shown ? I’m asking because I’m from Belgium and not very knowledgable about US law.

        • Hi, Peter! I’m not a lawyer but I’ll attempt to answer anyway. Theoretically a U.S. jury should find the defendant innocent if they feel there is reasonable doubt of his/her guilt. This is defined as the doubt a reasonable person may hold, whether or not they think it’s “likely” that the person is guilty. So the defense team should only have to provoke reasonable doubt, not prove the defendant innocent or provide a plausible alternate theory of the crime.

        • Hi! I’m a lawyer and first generation Belgian-American so I’ll chime in. “Not guilty” is not the same thing as innocent. In the U.S. the government has the obligation to present evidence that the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If he or she does not do that, then the jury is supposed to find the defendant “not guilty.” During the process the defendant’s attorney will challenge the evidence presented and, usually, present additional evidence that either shows that the defendant is innocent, or at least that there is reasonable doubt as to his or her guilt. An important factor is that the burden is always on the government to prove guilt; the defendant does not need to prove innocence. I realize this is different than some other countries.

          “Beyond a reasonable doubt” does not mean with absolutely no doubt; the doubt has to be reasonable, but in this case it seems pretty clear that, if the case had been presented properly from Adnan’s perspective, there should have been reasonable doubt. As I’ve said the government’s burden is very high. In most civil (non criminal cases), the party suing only has a burden to establish their proof by the “preponderance of the evidence,” that it is more likely than not (over 50% chance) that what they are saying is correct. (Another burden in some cases is “clear and convincing evidence” which is in between the two standards.

          One of the problems here is that it is very difficult in the U.S. to “undo” a conviction, despite the evidence that there are a significant number of false convictions. I’m sure that is the same in most countries, including Belgium, but it becomes very difficult to “unscramble the egg.” There are ways to challenge the legal rulings, to attack the competency of the original lawyer, etc., but evidence of actual innocence is not readily accepted, other than in the case of later-tested DNA. You would probably know better how it works in Belgium and other parts of Europe in that regard.

          Let me know if you have any more questions.

  22. In my limited understanding of cell phone technology: a cell tower would “take a call” based not only on the location of the phone but on the volume of the calls. If one tower was “busy”, a call would be routed through another tower. All towers had (have) overlapping areas of contact. (This facilitates call “switching” from one tower to another mid-call in those traveling from one tower “region” to another during the course of a single call. In areas of overlapping tower coverage, calls might be “switched” from tower to tower a number of times during the course of a call based on signal strength and tower traffic. Signal strength, as has been noted, can vary due to local conditions.

    But ATTs disclaimer at onset clearly is critical. “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.” I suspect this has to do cell phone switching technology (far beyond my understanding.) Full stop. No more argument. They are telling us that the routing algorithm is such that the tower location bears no relationship to the location of the phone. (I suspect some limited info could be derived–say the phone was not in Florida– but only ATT knows the routing algorithm and only an ATT engineer familiar with the 1999 protocols could even speculate as to what that relationship was.)

    • Please excuse the dangling parenthesis.
      Also, a cell phone tower covering a large park would (most likely) have a lower call volume than those covering a more metropolitan area and might have calls “rerouted” to it due to call volume during times of peak use (like evening time when social calls are frequent.)

      Again this would only apply to outgoing calls. ATT has already pronounced about incoming calls. For this to have gone unchallenged during the trial is unbelievable. For this info not to have been included in any of the appeals is equally so.

      • In 1999, most cell phone traffic was business related. Peak hours were 10-11am and 3-4pm. Few people used their phones after work. If these calls are made near a busy highway around 4:30-6pm, there is risk for congestion, since many people use their pjone during commute (even back then). That could trigger a neighboring cell to pick up some of the calls.

        The switch to 8-9pm becoming the peak hour happended around 2003-2004.

        • Can you explain how you arrive at this conclusion. I assume the shift in calling patterns is closely related to when carriers began offering free non peak calling. At the very least, that insensitive extended the period when I was willing to use my phone. In fact I frequently time shifted my calls when ever possible so I could conserve paid minutes.

          • I am basing this on my access to call pattern charts between 2000 and 2006. Not exactly sure when free evenings and weekends was introduced by ATT Wireless back then, it looks from internet that likely time frame was 2002, so 2003-2004 seems likely when the traffic load in the network shifted to evenings. I do remember looking at charts that had that new peak established by end of 2004. This caused a lot of problems for operators, who hadn’t planned their networks accordingly. The previous call pattern needed capacity in business areas and highways, the new pattern required capacity in residential areas.

  23. When I began listening to the very first podcast of the SK’s excellent series, I was immediate struck by one thought: “This is that story”. I mention this because of KU’s assertion that this was not a particularly high profile case. His exact words are “At the time the case was going on, there was no local press coverage.” I am certain that assertion can be definitively discredited by a search of an index of news paper articles. Even more telling would be a count of the number of video clips that we related to this story at the time. It was one of the most compelling news items to occur when it did. Moreover, I am sure I am not the only person who what this story unfold and come to the conclusion that the whole thing “smelled funny” to use Jay’s term. The story of Hae’s murder was so prominent that I recall the news cover even now. An the dissonance between the information that was reported and the courts decision was so pronounce that I did not need SK to entice me into her story. I was already curious to understand how it was that Adnan was convicted.
    While this disparity between KU’s assertion and objective reality may not have a direct impact on the facts of Adnan’s innocence or guilt, I do believe it may offer insight to an element of KU’s approach to argument. When seen in light of how he dealt with inconvenient facts at the time of the trials and appeal, it paints a picture of a person with a tendency to confidently state incorrect opinions with a level of certainty that makes those assertions appear to be true when in fact they are false.

  24. Re: expert witness provided by ATT. Knowing his credentials would be critical. Did he know the routing algorithms used by ATT? The disclaimer made by ATT was there for a reason. And just because the defense didn’t ask why it was there (a woman ill with multiple sclerosis and probably with some mental health issues as well) doesn’t mean it should not have been asked.

    Why was that disclaimer there?

    • I have no clue. Maybe it was a statement that was put in back in the days of analog technology (which was around until mid-90’s) and no one dared to take it out.

      • There were a few “car based” phones around in the pre-cell phone era but those “towers” covered large regions. Doubt if “location” was even an issue. Cellular technology presupposes digital signaling. Analog technology would not have been used.
        (Disclaimer: I am not an engineer but did some medical research using cellular technology when I and the technology were youngsters.)

        • Cellular technology does not presuppose digital signalling. For the first 10 years, United States used a pure analog technology called AMPS. In the beginning of the 90’s, digital technology was introduced, called TDMA (actually, a competing technology was also introduced, called CDMA). 90% of ATT’s network in Baltimore was TDMA in 1999. AMPS was still around due to regulatory reasons. Adnan’s phone Nokia 6160 could connect to both AMPS and TDMA. The networks available in 1999, especially the digital versions, were fully capable of identifying which cell the phone was connected to. The bigger problem is, what area could that cell cover. That is where no one quite knows, since it’s dependent on so many factors.

    • I so hope that this witness is interviewed, because he is the best source for the answers these questions. All I can tell you is that his credentials were solid, he was highly knowledgable in the relevant areas. Adnan’s team tried to challenge his expertness in their appeals, but the judge rejected it because he was indeed qualified to testify. I cannot stress enough that he had no agenda, and that he did not conduct the tests on behalf of either the defense or the prosecution. He was cross-examined, and his testimony held up, and has held up through multiple appeals. The process is finalized, it most likely will never be successfully challenged. That disclaimer is there to protect AT&T, and then they tested the incoming calls and decided that they did point towards him being in Leakin Park. So, to the expert and the judges and the juries, that means that the evidence does not support Adnan’s innocence.

      • I don’t think anyone is questioning his expertise. However, he was an employee of ATT, which means the answers he is giving will not put the Company or their product and services in bad light. By admitting to some of the discrepancies, that could have been the result. It would have been good to bring in a Neutral expert, without ties to ATT.

        • My comment about expertness was a response to the first part of lastlemming’s comment. I responded that several courts have found that his testimony holds up because he is in fact qualified. That brief from January 2014 said something about how that type of testimony had been successfully challenged only when the court had allowed an unqualified police officer to to testify.
          If I’m not mistaken, Serial did hire an independent expert, and he confirmed the original results. Remember when Dana said that she believed that the calls had come from inside the park?

      • “That disclaimer is there to protect AT&T.” Protect them from what, though? I keep seeing people insist that this sentence isn’t a big deal because it’s “just a disclaimer” or “just there to cover AT&T’s ass.” But I’m not sure what they would have to fear or why they would need any ass-covering unless they knew their incoming call info was inaccurate. They’re the experts on the details of their proprietary algorhythms. If they just wanted to avoid legal liability, they could have claimed that none of their data was a reliable indicator of location.

        • From anyone faulting them for representing that data as an absolute indicator of the cell phone’s location when it isn’t, necessarily. In my opinion, what makes that disclaimer unimportant is that they then sent out an expert who proved that that data was most likely correct, and that is what convinced the judge and jury. I don’t think the defense teams or the courts were unaware of the disclaimer, it just wasn’t the most relevant information.

      • “they tested the incoming calls and decided that they did point towards him being in Leakin Park” — even if we accept this, this is a far, far, cry from KU’s confident assertion that the cell phone WAS 100% IN Leakin Park.

    • The expert was an RF engineer who designed and troubleshooted networks.

      His main purpose was to testify about how he went to 13 locations chosen by the prosecutor, made a test call at each locations, and recorded which towers each call could have routed through. The 13 locations were all locations chosen from Jay’s testimony, although only four locations were actually introduced into evidence. For those four locations, the expert affirmed that it was possible for the call to hit the tower that the prosecution says that call hit, but not identify the other towers a call from that location might hit. For the other 9 locations, the expert did not testify what towers they had pinged.

  25. Pamela Grim, yes, only an ATT engineer would know for sure. And I would argue that most likely only an ATT engineer from the telephone system covering the West Baltimore area would know, since cell networks were configured differently in the networks even within the same operator back then. However, the statement that incoming calls have less accuracy, doesn’t sound like a technical statement, but rather is based on ATT having to perform a deeper analysis on those calls, to be able to provide the information. The network knows all the time which cell a certain phone is pinging. Even when the user is not making phone calls. It’s just not stored, due the the large amount of data that would have to be collected.

    There is coverage overlap between cells, so that hand overs can be made when users are moving, or if the capacity of a cell is maxed out (or the cell is down, wich happens from time to time). Rarely if ever is a hand over taking place if the user is stationary. Also, my experience is that it is with high probability, the operator can say which cell area a certain user is in, if they analyze the CDRs correctly. And that was valid in 1999, as it is today.

    Urick’s claim in his interview, that the accuracy of identifying a certain cell area, was better back then compared to now, is totally false. Today’s cell technology is much more refined, we can use triangulation technology, the cells are much more well defined etc etc. yhis is why your iPhone can tell that you are in your house, even when GPS doesn’t reach the phone.

    • Perhaps this is simply naïveté, but could the AT&T algorithm have been written in such a way that outgoing calls always pinged the closest tower or prioritized the closest tower and incoming calls were routed through the least-trafficked? Would that have any impact on service/reception?

      • It would, but I have never heard of any operator designing it that way. Why would you penalize calls in a certain direction? In the US, the operator is paid the same amount for incoming and outgoing calls. You could argue that outgoing calls are more important to connect, especially if there’s a 911 situation, which would mean you would give outgoing calls more flexibility to connect, i.e. Allow calls through more cells.

        • Definitely naïveté, lol. That last part was sorta my line of thinking, but tbh, I hadn’t even considered 911 calls. I was thinking in terms of customer satisfaction, like the customer may be more irked at their phone not completing a call they initiated vs one they received, or pinging those closest tower might enable the quickest connection. Thanks!

  26. Once again, I’m blown away by you’ve discovered. Thank you for taking the time to do such thorough, meticulous research. It’s amazing work.

    Would withholding or misrepresenting this information be considered a failure to disclose exculpatory evidence? Is there a case to be made that this is prosecutorial misconduct?

  27. Factors influencing the State Attorney’s office in 1999.
    • Immediately prior to his election as mayor, Kurt Schmoke was Baltimore’s States Attorney. This is no reflection on Mayor Schmoke, but goes to the essentially political nature of the States Attorney office.
    • During 1998 Baltimore experienced its second highest murder rate on records going back as far as 1975. (That record would slip lower in subsequent years, but it is 1998 that would have the most direct political bearing on political calculations in January of 1999.)
    • In Measuring Crack Cocaine and Its Pact, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2012.00506.x, the authors document, that in 1999 the impact of the crack cocaine epidemic was as much as 400% higher than other regions such as the Midwest. Major cities of the Northeast such as Baltimore were impacted at 10 x the rate of the rest of the state.
    What I am trying to say is the Hay was from the suburbs and everyone assumed that her death was a sign that drug related crime was beginning to impact the suburbs. The level of interest and concern that this story created cannot be minimized.
    When Jay refers to his involvement with “narcotics” and the corrects himself to say “marijuana” it is almost laughable. People were not getting murdered because of pot, the statistics just do not support such an assumption. However, it is undeniable that the body count was at an all time high, as competition for control of the “strips” was resulting in an ever increasing number of unsolved murders.
    While I cannot site a reference to document my belief, I am fairly certain that the city of Baltimore was under heightened scrutiny at this time because of the unacceptably low clearance rate for homicides.
    As the evidence leads away from the murder being tied to a lover’s spat, I suggest that people look at all the things that are NOT said in testimony. As I read about the van outside the Porn Shop, I have to ask myself was Jay worried about Muslim retribution or gang power politics. My gut take on the story when if first broke was, as follows.
    1. Baltimore City’s police force was stretched to the breaking point already.
    2. The State Attorney office was highly politicized
    3. Baltimore City is a typical of machine politics and the “good old boy” system.
    4. Hae’s murder was a bit like an orphan since it did not involve people from the city.
    5. Neither the South Korean nor the Muslim community in Baltimore County was a welcome ally to feared adversary in the city.
    6. A truly major center of power and influence, namely the drug gangs, has gone relatively unexamined.
    7. Whenever possible people followed the path of least resistance.
    8. Adnan was railroaded.

    • This is so helpful, and completely consistent with testimony of a friend who was young at the time but growing up in the area. Can you post your comment on Reddit? Thanks.

    • “The decline in Baltimore’s clearance rate began in the 1990s. At that time, a new police commissioner, Thomas C. Frazier, came to Baltimore from California and adopted a West Coast policing strategy. It involved rotating officers out of specialty units and putting veteran homicide detectives on patrol and in desk jobs, in part to open slots for women and minorities.

      His theory was to build a well-rounded and egalitarian department, but many detectives “jumped before they were pushed,” said Gary McLhinney, a former head of the police union.

      Amid the exodus of veteran detectives, the clearance rate plummeted to its lowest point in nearly three decades in 1998″

      http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2008-10-26/news/0810250187_1_homicide-cases-homicide-unit-homicide-detective/2

  28. I’ll respond to more comments when I get back later today, but for now, I did want to post a quick note about how I interpret the cellphone data in light of this information.

    The cellphone was never in Leakin Park. For once in his life, Jay actually told the truth — Hae’s burial took place sometime later in the night of January 13th, after 8pm.

    The “Leakin Park calls” were not pings from Leakin Park. After leaving Cathy’s apartment sometime after 6:30pm, Adnan and Jay drove around, perhaps so that Adnan could sober up before mosque, and a little before 7:09pm, they decide to make a second social call on someone.

    Someone who we know Adnan’s cellphone communicated with that day. Who was friends with Jay, and a potential a supplier of weed. Who was never contacted by investigators to make a statement concerning the events of January 13th, 1999, and who just happens to live directly south of L689, and directly west of L653. In the range of both towers.

    Adnan and Jay are at this person’s house from a little after 7 to a little before 8, at which point Adnan needs to get to mosque. Jay leaves Jenn a voicemail and asks her to pick him up from Westview mall, where Adnan drops Jay off on his way to the mosque.

    Thereafter, the phone goes with Adnan, and Jenn and Jay go their own way. Adnan was right — the phone was with him all night.

      • Mention what exactly? He has maintained he thought he had the phone, or at least he didn’t remember giving it to Jay that night. As for the other events, he was high and can’t recollect everything. That would be my guess.

    • There’s a complication.,,,,,,,,,, Jenn says at around this time she drove Jay back to the dumpster to retrieve the shovels.

    • Is this Pat or Phil? Pat is identified as living in the Forest Park area, so unless that’s wrong, it must be Phil. Or perhaps it is another person on the call list that has not been identified. In any case, this theory would mean the shovel dump and wiping didn’t happen as Jen said. I still think it is more plausible that Adnan dropped Jay off at the Park and Ride and Jay kept the phone without Adnan realizing it. He returned it to Adnan’s car after 8 with Jen’s help.

    • So are you now concluding that “Lyin’ Jay Wilds” killed Hae and buried her in Leakin Park because you believe the evidence shows that Adnan was with his phone “all night” or after 8:05 p.m. (1/13 Call Log, Nos 1-7) and that he nor his phone were ever in Leakin Park on Hae’s worst day of her young life?

      How do you explain No. 3 in the call log? This, as you know, is an outgoing call to Adnan’s friend, Yaser. This call evidently pings the 698B tower, which, according the Serial Tower Map, appears to be the closest one to Jay’s house. Then, according to Nos. 1-2, Adnan is apparently back near his house, as those outgoing calls ping 651.

      Do you have his cell phone records for January 14?

  29. This is a beautiful demonstration of professional expertise. It is also about fact vs opinion.

    Our culture, and sadly the media, too often equate opinion, speculation, and fact. What Lawyer Simpson proves is that an educated, intelligent expert acting in a professional manner and basing analysis on facts — can lead us to truth. (Reporter Koenig did the same thing.) Thank you!

    • Option 1: He just does not remember. No one ever asked Adnan what he was doing that night in the early days of the investigation — no one ever questioned him about post-Hae’s-murder events, just things earlier in the day. So even less chance for it to become cemented into memory.

      Option 2: If the particular theory I outlined above is right, this person is not going to corroborate Adnan’s story. They are going to call Adnan a liar. If they can find him — the police couldn’t.

      • How to now interpret Jenn’s testimony about the body having already been buried before she picked up Jay? Wouldn’t you now have to claim that she is flat out lying? And Adnan’s father testified that Adnan was with him at the mosque starting at 7:30

  30. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-your-cell-phone-cant-tell-the-police

    Here’s another case of an innocent person going to jail because of cell phone location data. Yes, it’s likely that the cell tower data is correct, but I wouldn’t put it down to being beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Cell phone technology was still pretty new, even in ’99. And people don’t always take enough time to read the small print (I wouldn’t have a job if other people read the manual!). Point is, don’t put down to evil intent what can be explained by simple incompetence.

    • We installed the first network in 1982, not sure if 1999 would be consider not mature. We used 2nd Generation technology, the first analog and this one digital. Radio propagation is the same for both, so the understanding of how cell propagation happened was pretty well established by 1999.

    • That article also highlights another possible similarity with Adnan’s case: a defense that maybe didn’t know enough, or try hard enough, to challenge the cell phone data?

  31. This write up is another layer that is devastating about this case. A huge layer. I truly hope the work you’re doing here and your other posts can assist Adnan and his lawyers. Thank you for sharing and being a surgeon about the facts. The cover sheet from AT&T is astounding.

  32. Always remember–cell phones are welded to their owners. There is some evidence that the cell phone was in the car and the car was with Jay–while Adnan was at the mosque. You know this case would be a lot easier if we were not dealing with a defendant who was scared, 17 years old and frequently stoned beyond his natural capacity.

  33. Wow you blew this whole Adnan Syed case wide open! You dug for the needle in the haystack and found that one paper that discredits Prosecutor Kevin Ulrich’s believe in ironclad cellphone records. Haha great work in so proud of you !!

  34. “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.” This is a very clear statement with both underlining and capital letters to draw attention to it.

    A few people have raised questions about whether the statement is technically correct, but if it is not technically correct, then why is it there?

    If, as Mikke and Pamela have suggested, a deeper analysis has to be performed to accurately locate incoming calls then perhaps the warning statement was, in fact, an alert that this had not been done.

    We know that the data was requested, by a police fax, on Thursday, 18 February, and that AT&T provided it, four days later, on Monday, 22 February, but, obviously, that did cover the weekend.

    Could it be that it was requested urgently so there wasn’t time for a detailed analysis of incoming calls to be done or, perhaps, an additional request actually had to be made for incoming calls to be accurately located and that request was not made? Would that explain the statement?

    • That would be my guess. Perhaps the generic Subpoena response is what we got here, but ATT could provide more detail for extra cost. I looked at some of the documentation, and each cell phone record Subpoena is charged a certain amount by the operators. There’s likely different levels of detail a prosecutor can subpoena, dependent on how much he feels he needs and is willing to pay.

      • Here’s an excellent account from Reddit that explains the issues with Ingoing V. Outgoing very clearly. Worth reading the whole thing, but this is a key paragraph:

        “An aside to the Adnan case, if the incoming call follows an outdated location update (especially is the last several location updates did not show movement outside of one sector) it could transit from the original sector and be picked up by the phone even if the phone had traveled beyond the normal area where handoff to a different BTS or BTS sector would have occurred.”

        http://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcast/comments/2s1nfz/reliability_of_cell_phone_data/

        I worked in customer service at Vodafone in 2001 and while it was on a GSM network (Australia), and wasn’t for very long, this reflects what we were taught at the time as this kinda business came up pretty regularly (complaints about variable reception, not murder cases).

        • When I read that text it says that Incoming calls are difficult to specify as from which cell tower they connect to, since they could be moving during the call. In our particular case that would be interesting information, but not key – initially we would like to know which phone number the incoming call is from.knowing from where that phone called would be interesting too, but not absolutely necessary.

          • That text is not saying that at all. The reddit user is discussing incoming calls and why they are less accurate than outgoing calls *for locating the same user*. The location of the person placing the call is not discussed at all, nor does it have any bearing on accuracy of location the person receiving the call.

            To put it as simply as I can, the cell phone network has to find you before it can route the incoming call to you. Sometimes it’s not sure where you are, or thinks you’re somewhere you’re not, and routes the call to a tower that is distant but still just about to connect.

            This is one of several reasons why the AT&T disclaimer was there in this case, and why this is extremely likely that it was the only tower data AT&T ever had.

          • If that is what it is saying, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. A call is not established like that. The Mobile phone” acts like a scanning radio. Searching through its list of forward control channels, it picks one with the strongest signal, the nearest cell or sector usually providing that. Just to be sure, the mobile re-scans and camps on the strongest one. Not making a call but still on? The mobile re-scans every seven seconds or when signal strength drops before a pre-determined level”. That means, the network knows every 7 seconds which cell the phone is in, and forwards the incoming call to that cell. That means the distance you can move is in average 3.5 seconds, which would be the worst possible location mistake the network can do on incoming calls. I assume that on an outgoing call it scans right after the user push send, so an average 3.5 seconds closer to accurate location. If that is what ATT is talking about, then it’s negligible. (Partly copied from http://www.privateline.com/mt_cellbasics/ )

          • “That means, the network knows every 7 seconds which cell the phone is in”

            Not if there’s a uplink failure. Not if there’s a downlink failure. Not if there’s a handover failure. Not if there’s a dead zone.

    • “A few people have raised questions about whether the statement is technically correct, but if it is not technically correct, then why is it there?”

      Yes, exactly. Some commenters have suggested it’s not accurate because it’s “just a disclaimer” or “just there to protect AT&T.” Well, the tag on your blowdryer that says “do NOT use in the tub” is just there to protect the blowdryer people from getting sued, but that doesn’t mean you should go ahead & use it in the tub.

  35. Very interesting observations. I have a simple question: You state you have the subpoenaed records of Adnan’s phone, which Rabia sent you. Could you please check to see how many times overall, before or after the crime, the phone pinged the Leakin Park tower? You state in your post that this happened at least once, at a later date. My point is: was pinging that tower a relatively common occurrence, or was is it rare? in the latter case, the fact that the phone pinged this tower twice in a space of very few minutes, on the very day Hae went missing (and was probably murdered and buried in Leakin Park) is too suggetive to be a mere coincidence. Thank you in advance for taking the trouble.

    • Thank you for posting that! I was thinking exactly the same thing. If you could look through the cell records and see if Leakin Park was pinged several times before the 13th or several times in following days, it could also help support the idea that it’s much less reliable that he was actually in Leakin Park supposedly burying Hae’s body.

      Great work Susan!

  36. Without seeing the source data or expert testimony, I think an obvious question is where exactly the cell record data was obtained from and what precisely is it telling us. I strongly suspect it may have been abstracted from the operator’s billing mediation system – this is data retained so a bill can be produced, it’s generally not intended for accurate location tracking.

    So, for example, apparently only one cell site is listed per call. It is a little implausible that none of these calls involved a handover to another site (especially any made whilst driving around). So the sites listed – are they where the call was originated or terminated ? What other cells were involved in any of these calls ?

    And what about all the data that we don’t have – all the time the phone is turned on it is periodically communicating with the network as the network needs to know the phone’s location to be able to route incoming calls. Even if the phone is stationary it will location update from time to time (typically every 30 mins or so).

  37. Things we know:

    Adnan’s lawyer CG didn’t pursuit known alibis, demanded cash for experts she illegally never hired and had a vile relationship with the judge and prosecution.

    The police provided the only witness (and only thing linking Adnan to the crime) with key information – that boosted Jay’s credibility and allowed Jay to increase the believability of his testimony.

    The prosecution falsely represented the legitimacy of the cell phone data and CG never bothered to call them out on it.

    This makes me think that the process used to convict Adnan was sub par at best. Sadly that almost makes me hope he did do it…. or an innocent man has been rotting in prison for 15 years .. While the real killer has remained free.

  38. To Susan and any other knowledgeable folks in this thread:

    One of the things that has bothered me about the trials’ use of the call log has been that neither the prosecution nor the defense, that I’ve seen, tried to determine what incoming calls belonged to whom. If the phone was one day old, Jay and Adnan could have provided the names of all of the people that had the number and the police could have gotten the phone numbers of the phone that Jay and Adnan say that Adnan called the phone from.

    So, my question is what reasons could there have been for neither side to have done this?

    I can understand the prosecution’s confidence that they didn’t need them, or their fear of bad evidence. But what about the defense? Would not the call records for the phone Adnan used to call Jay have put paid to when his “come get me” call actually was?

    Is there some legal reason regarding when warrants would be issued? Am I overthinking this, is this not something legal teams would consider doing?

    Anyways, like I said, it’s just been bothering me. Wonder if I’ve missed something in all of the episodes, posts, or other commentary.

    • I’ve had the same thoughts. I suspect that somewhere there is a record that this was done. It would be a very limited number of people to contact, given the phone was so new.
      Wait…was this phone supposed to be a “secret” phone for calling girls, that he was hiding from his parents? Wasn’t there allegedly a call to or from his mother?
      It seems also that any calls that were for Jay had to be someone he had just called that day, right? There would be no reason Jay’s contacts would know he had Adnan’s phone and/or know Adnan’s brand new phone number unless he had just called them.

      • Was not a secret phone to call girls. One of the mosque teachers co-signed for it (this is from one of Rabia’s posts with notes of the grand jury statement) and this same teacher had counseled Adnan about what was and was not OK about dating girls under Islam.

        • Thanks. I think it was in the appellant brief that I read testimony of one of his friends that he got it “to call girls”. I made an assumption that it would have been secret.

          • It was a secret phone that he got to call girls. Many of the incoming calls during the day were probably from Jenn, she testified to calling Jay (on Adnan’s phone) several times.

      • “It seems also that any calls that were for Jay had to be someone he had just called that day, right?”

        This was my thought, yes. And that should be a short list to check.

        I’ve seen in the transcripts that the police asked Jay about the outgoing calls, but I only recall seeing questions (while the recorder was on) about the incoming calls that fit their narrative.

        I’d be pretty disappointed if, in fact, CG did not try to get proof that Adnan called the cell from a school phone when he said he did. That would seem to me to be a better alibi than “Jay’s not reliable, so don’t believe him.”

  39. Excellent factual analysis– all of it resonates with me a ton, and one part of Jay’s multiple stories you hit on makes a lot more sense now: he claims he played video games with Mark around noon, which makes you immediately wonder why is Mark home at noon on a Wednesday? It doesn’t make much sense to lie about the video games with Mark, but it makes perfect sense if this is going on around 5 p.m.

    Some questions I have, as people mentioned before, is there anyway to track down the numbers for the incoming calls, and is the Innocence Project at UVA aware of your work? Keep it up!!!!

  40. Susan, I just wanted to express appreciation for your thorough, thoughtful ongoing analysis of this case. Stellar work!

  41. I have been following this blog from almost ‘day 1’. Great work! Susan & Collin are by far Jay Wilds and Kevin Urick’s worst nightmare.

  42. Susan, your new theory is one I have had since I found out how close Patrick was to Leakin Park. You may not remember this but that is why I wrote to you asking for any source info that went to any unaccounted for time on the part of Jenn and Jay that night.

    According to JENN, before police ever interviewed Jay, it is JENN who places the burial before 8:00 PM. A time when Jay and Adnan are still together. According to Jenn she and Jay immediately go to wipe down the burial shovels.This is a huge problem for Adnan because many people find Jenn to be (mostly) credible, as you did in your earlier analysis. And apparently the jury found her credible too.

    The fact is for our theory to be true, that the burial was after 8:00PM, then Jenn lied about material facts in a VERY damning way.

    I personally think she did in fact lie, to police and to the jury. That’s why I have said for awhile now the key to this case is JENN recanting the lie about the burial time.

    • I agree completely. Jenn’s the key to the entire thing. Listening to her first interview, I got the clearest sense that while her statement was doctored to support Jay, she was trying to relate what she actually saw that night because she honestly believed that Jay didn’t commit the murder; and that her bringing out more facts would be a good thing since they would help clear her friend. It would be *so* interesting to to hear what Jay asked her to change in her story. What was he worried about?

      Even before he gave it, I’d have traded Jay’s interview for Jenn’s (by SK, with follow-up questions!) in a heartbeat. The only thing that surprised me about Jay’s interview was that he mentioned *2* new trunk-pops instead of only one! Even if Jay told the absolute truth today, we couldn’t believe him. He’s changed his story too many times. But Jenn, I could believe.

      • I also think that back in 1999 Jenn believed Jay when he told her Adnan did it. For whatever reason she still became his accomplice in getting rid of evidence even though Jay already had an accomplice (Adnan according to Jay).
        To me it’s obvious Jay fed her so much BS. Like being scared for Stephanie, being coerced by Adnan to get involved, and who knows what else.

        My own personal speculation is that Jenn and Jay were not only loyal friends, but I also think Jenn had a thing for Jay. I say that because I think her feelings for Jay despite the fact that he had a girlfriend (who Jenn didn’t like) made her more vulnerable to his manipulation. She *wanted* to believe him and please him. When police asked her if Jay was her boyfriend her response was “not really”. That’s not the same as a clear NO.

        Sigh. If we are right, I wonder if Jenn will ever do the right thing and recant?

  43. Susan,

    Your work is amazing. It’s pretty clear to me that Adnan should not have been convicted based on evidence, but I’m finding it hard to believe he didn’t do it due to nagging issues. If you can provide reasonable explanations, I’d appreciate it.

    First, with Adnan’s life on the line after his conviction and Jay’s obvious involvement, does it not seem reasonable that Adnan’s family and the Muslim community he was part of would not have spent whatever it takes to find the real killer, if they were confident he didn’t do it? With Jay’s admitted involvement, finding the real killer was Adnan’s only salvation.

    Also, when Jay admitted to police he was involved at some level and knew where Hae’s car was, does it not seem like a high-risk move to point the finger at Adnan if he wasn’t pretty sure Adnan would have no alibi?

    I also find it hard to reconcile that everyone talks about Adnan being a really caring kind of guy, and he had contacted Hae at midnight the night before her disappearance, was contacted by police to see if he knew where she might be within hours of her disappearance the next day, and then doesn’t bother to try to contact her. Huh? I understand Don didn’t try to contact her either, but Adnan’s reaction makes no sense given his supposed character.

    Also, Adnan says he can’t remember details of the day because in his mind it was just like any other day, except that it was Stephanie’s birthday and he gave his car and phone to Jay so he could get her a gift. But it wasn’t like any other day. At 6 pm that night, the police called him to see if he might know where his ex-girlfriend might be. Adnan is way too sharp for bells to not be going off in his head. Don certainly understood the implications when the police contacted him.

    Adnan seems like he genuinely believes he did not kill Hae. But it’s pretty hard to imagine how he wasn’t involved. I don’t know why Jay’s story continues to keep changing, but the nagging issues to me suggest Adnan had to be involved.

    Again, I am awed by your diligence and clear thinking. Great work.

    • I wouldn’t have called her. I’d have done just like Adnan says he did: I’d have checked with her best friends every day to see if there was any news. But he’d just broken up with Hae, and there were probably still hurt feelings. Calling her puts your heart on the line a little. If she’s OK but she chooses not to respond, even to you, you’ve been rejected all over again.

      Heck, Don didn’t call her, and he’d begun dating her. If she was okay, and wanted to talk to either of them, she could have.

      • I see where you’re coming from. It’s possible. But he had just called her the night before to give her his new cell phone number and talked to her in school that day, and the police were trying to locate her. To me, it seems he would have tried to page her at least, but maybe not. Do you have any other thoughts on the questions I raised? I’m having a hard time getting beyond Jay fingering Adnan if he didn’t know he wouldn’t have an alibi because if Adnan did have an alibi, all roads lead to Jay, Jenn and others. And after Adnan’s conviction, it seems like there would have been an all-out attempt to find the real killer. I mean, obviously Jay and Jenn were involved on some level. Why wouldn’t Adnan’s family go full-out to find out who really was involved with them? Those questions, in particular, gnaw at me.

        • I’m not Muslim but am South Asian who was born and raised in America. I can tell you this – South Asian communities are not as together and community minded as it may seem to ordinary Americans. Sure, we pray, dance, eat, and gossip together, and there is an element of closeness in these activities you won’t easily find in the larger American community. But someone gets in trouble, especially with the law, and much of the community will do the opposite of help – they will go out of their way to disassociate themselves with that person, even if they think s/he really didn’t do anything wrong. It’s actually not easy to get a lot of our parents to help our neighbors in crisis – even something as simple as getting adults to donate blood, agree to be on the bone marrow registry, etc., is kind of difficult to accomplish in our community. I remember one of my friends was orphaned as a teenager because his father killed his mother in a murder-suicide — and not one member of his supposedly close South Asian community offered to take him in. But their white next door neighbors who barely knew the family agreed (and turned out to be fantastic). This is not unusual. So i wouldn’t read too much in why the community wasn’t trying hard to help Adnan.

          Additionally, especially before 2001, we tended to have a positive view of the American justice system, especially as it was such a massive improvement compared to the overtly corrupt systems in South Asian countries. Adnan, his family, and even his community probably trusted law enforcement and Gutierrez to figure out this crime. Once Adnan is convicted, it would be very difficult to motivate the community members to help find the real killer, and I imagine any family member’s first priority would be to get Adnan out. Sounds like Rabia and Adnan’s mother have been trying for a break in their case and this is why they approached TAL in the first place.

          • “It’s actually not easy to get a lot of our parents to help our neighbors in crisis”

            That’s interesting. Do you have an explanation for that?

          • Really appreciate your thoughtful comments. Here’s what Kevin Urick says in the Intercept interview with him:

            “Early on in the Syed case, the defense sent us a disclosure of about eighty names stating that these were witnesses that were going to testify that Syed was at the mosque because it was Ramadan. He was praying all evening and that’s where he was [Ed. note: We have corrected this in the introduction]. If they called those eighty witnesses, they would’ve obviously been testifying falsely, because the cellphone records in conjunction with all the evidence we gathered about the cellphone towers, who made the calls, who received them, place him everywhere but at the mosque. The best defense an attorney can put on is the defense the client is telling them. But attorneys still are not supposed to put on fabricated evidence. And that would’ve been fabricated evidence. And I think once Gutierrez recognized that fact, she did not put it on. Which I think was the right call for her.”

            So, assuming Urick is telling the truth, apparently the religious community was at least initially willing to step forward for Adnan. I understand it is possible that they later decided to distance themselves from Adnan’s fate.

            I’m still hung up on the finger-pointing if Jay and Jenn weren’t confident Adnan had no alibi. Since Jay admitted to helping Adnan and Jenn admitted to helping Jay dispose of shovels, and Jay knew where Hae’s car was, it really seems high-risk to identify Adnan, if they weren’t certain he had no alibi. Anyone who has thoughts on how this might have happened please share. I’m thinking Jay may have been more involved than he’s ever admitted, but I can’t see how Adnan is not involved.

          • Dennis

            Urich is lying. The Defence letter (shown on the Intercept website) actually said “These witnesses will testify as to the defendant’s regular attendance at school, track practice and the mosque and that his absence on January 13 1999 would have been noticed.”. Yet another scandalous slur on Adnan and his fellow muslims.

          • Dennis.

            Recall that Jay told many people that Adnan had strangled Hae. One of those people, it seems, told the police. When the police pulled Adnan’s cell records, they saw the calls to Jenn.

            Once the police were interested in Jenn, Jay and his entire family were at risk.

    • I agree with this. I think he MIGHT have been involved due to a few reasons as you have suggested however there is no actual evidence to link him. Remember Jay has now said in his latest interview that the burial happened around 12pm.
      I think there may have been a third party involved which might explain Jay’s change in story.
      Maybe they planned it between 7 and 9pm (scouted out area) and then undertook around 12pm when less people around. Maybe initially Jay didn’t want to tell this years ago as it shows he was involved even more heavily.
      The murder may well have been planned but I’m sure Jay didn’t want to discuss this as it shows he knew what was going to happen and he did nothing about it. Also explains why adnan never took the stand and you never hear him talking about Jay in a bad way.
      Could be nothing, but on the serial podcast we hear adnans reaction to opening new evidence – testing for new dna on some of the evidence. His reaction doesn’t seem 100% for someone who is meant to be innocent. His voice breaks up a bit and I would have thought he would respond by saying ‘I have no issues with testing etc..’. The innocence project lady said she gave adnan 45mins to make up his mind on whether he wanted the evidence retested. If he was innocent it would be a no brainer and he should respond ‘please go ahead, I have nothing to hide’
      At the end of the day there isn’t any evidence and Adnan shouldn’t have been convicted (if he had a better attorney).

        • You can’t imagine that Adnan might have heard of instances where contamination of DNA occurs, due to many reasons but sometimes because both the DNA from the crime scene are in the same lab as the DNA from the suspect? And that doesn’t even cover the possibility of outright corruption, which Adnan, if innocent, would be likely to be wary of. He may think his best chance is getting the trial he should have gotten in the first place.

          One of many articles about the problems with DNA testing:
          http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/opinion/high-tech-high-risk-forensics.html

      • Listen more closely to the narration in that episode of Serial. Adnan now has two legal teams. Deirdre’s team recommended applying for the DNA test now, while his other legal team, led by thelawyer whom he has trusted for many years, advised not to make the application at this time (while the other proceeding for post-conviction relief in the Maryland appellate court is still pending). That’s the reason for what you interpreted as “His reaction doesn’t seem 100% for someone who is meant to be innocent.” He was getting differing legal advice on the best procedural step at the present time, and he was choosing not to take the advice of the lawyer he trusts and has known for longer, of course he would have some hesitation.

    • Dennis, remember what people said over and over in the podcast – you can’t tell someone’s guilt or innocence based on what you think you would do in that situation, or how you think you would feel. The truth is, none of us have been in a situation like this. We can’t say how we would actually react. And even if we would have reacted one way, another person would react a different way. Guilt or innocence should be decided by facts, not by suppositions about how someone should or shouldn’t behave.

      • I couldn’t agree more that guilt or innocence should only be decided by facts however we are entitled to have an opinion on those areas, esp when this is just a forum and not a courtroom.

      • Grace, as I said at the beginning of my original post, it seems pretty clear to me that Adnan should not have been convicted based on evidence, but I’m finding it hard to believe he wasn’t involved. Whether or not someone is convicted is not the same as guilt or innocence. I think we saw that in the original O.J. Simpson trial. If anyone reading this can address why Jay and Jenn would point the finger at Adnan if they weren’t confident Adnan had no alibi, I’d appreciate it. Again, since Jay admitted to helping Adnan and Jenn admitted to helping Jay dispose of shovels, and Jay knew where Hae’s car was, it really seems high-risk to identify Adnan, if they weren’t certain he had no alibi. As stated earlier, I’m thinking Jay may have been more involved than he’s ever admitted, but I can’t see how Adnan is not involved.

        • Agree. The other thing is if adnan had been at the library and checking/sending his emails for over an hour then there would have been digital proof of that. I’m tipping that they may not have used Asia’s alibi because adnan wasn’t there and had no digital record of checking his emails etc. I think there are a few things that CG could have answered on this should she still be alive, may actually be in Adnans favour that she isn’t around.

          • You think CG was diligent enough to check up library records (but not to note it in her file) but not to actually bother to call the girl claiming to have the alibi? You speak to the witness first and then you check up on her story. Not the other way round.

        • You have no idea what Jay’s risk tolerance level is. Maybe if you were in Jay’s situation, you would not point the finger at Adnan unless you were 100% certain that he could not prove his innocence. But for the actual Jay, maybe his best option, or the best option he could think of, was to point the finger at Adnan and hope that Adnan could not find someone weeks later who could vouch for his whereabouts at a specific time.

    • Hi Dennis,

      My thoughts (for what they’re worth) on your points. (Personally I can’t rule out Adnan’s involvement but I think on the balance of probabilities I find him the less likely culprit – just on my own reading. Don’t think there’s any legit way he should have been found guilty on the evidence and I’m deeply uncomfortable with him being in jail for life).

      First, in relation to Jay’s riskiness – if Jay is the actual culprit, he panicked and needed help from friends to help get rid of evidence after he killed Hae. He went to Jenn but didn’t want to admit to the crime (obviously) so fingered the guy whose car he had and who he’d been hanging out with throughout the day (he must have seemed the most plausible alternative villain if Jay had to think of one in a hurry, being Hae’s ex. Also, we can see from the interview he just gave that even now he’s deeply resentful of the Magnet kids – he might have sold drugs and borrowed stuff off Adnan, but I don’t think he held him in any affection). Once he had told Jenn that, he was stuck with it – the police got to her first and she repeated the story. As to the alibi – he was with Adnan on and off throughout the day. He took him places, got him more stoned than he’d ever been before, and possibly took the phone and car again without Adnan’s knowledge after he went to mosque. He got around the potential alibi issue simply by constantly changing the story and the ‘facts’ until they fit a narrative the cops offered. They (the cops and prosecution) only had to find a short window in which Adnan didn’t have an alibi and then Jay could work his supposed story around that narrative. Jay had the benefit of having BEEN Adnan’s alibi for part of the day, and then having the information the cops fed him about both the weaknesses in HIS story and Adnan’s verified movements.

      As to the contacting Hae – well, she didn’t have a cellphone. All he could do would be to page her (not like he could leave her a heartfelt message or anything!) and if she wasn’t responding to her best friends and family, why would she respond to her ex? Besides, no-one, including him and their other friends, was initially worried about Hae. He’d have no reason to be paging her if he thought she was just hiding out with her new boyfriend or her Dad or whatever. Also, if he had killed her and was capable of the kind of mass scale deception and manipulation that you have to accept in order to buy Jay’s account (ie fooling every single person he knew into thinking he genuinely cared about Hae before and after) then he’s smart enough to appear caring by phoning her. Continuing to call a person you know is dead seems to me to be a simple way of adding to your cover up with zero downside. So, I guess what I’m saying is I wouldn’t find it persuasive of his innocence if he’d called her frantically and I don’t find it persuasive of his guilt that he didn’t. Not paging her is consistent with his story of not being worried and being a recent ex, so I basically see it as a nothing issue, one way or the other.

      And for the ‘ordinary day’ thing – I know this gets a lot of attention. But again, I don’t find it persuasive. His actions are consistent with a person who heard from the police and was not, at that time, worried about Hae (only about himself being caught on/with drugs). Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not, but it’s consistent. An innocent person who genuinely wasn’t worried wouldn’t immediately put the whole day into sharp recall because at that point (cf later, when the body was found) it’s not that suspicious. And it’s consistent with the reactions of every other one of Hae’s/Adnan’s friends except Don, at least based on what we know. Many of them also learned about Hae’s disappearance that day (certainly Aisha did, and if she and Hae’s brother were calling round about the cops presumably they called others) and none of them were able to recall that day with special clarity when interviewed by the police later. It’s only Don who immediately thought he would be a suspect (and I read somewhere, though can’t remember where, that Don had police in the family, so he might have had more experience with this sort of thing) and then started cataloguing things he said or did that day. People who knew Hae MUCH better and longer than Don reacted like Adnan did.

      If he was guilty, Adnan had plenty of opportunities to ‘remember’ things about that day which would help him. Eg, “I remember giving my car and phone to Jay once while I was at mosque. Maybe it was that night.” Or that he just might have given the phone over but was too stoned to remember. Or that he doesn’t remember lending it to Jay but he usually left it in his car and didn’t bother to lock the car (or left the keys somewhere Jay would know). But he didn’t. When he said he didn’t remember (except in generalities) he stuck with it, even to his detriment. If he’s this brilliant manipulator I don’t understand why he couldn’t have added in a few lies (particularly as, if guilty, despite Jay’s changing stories Adnan knows which are the critical times that he needs to be parted from his phone to have his story be believed – plus at the very least between trials he knew exactly what the prosecution’s argument and timeline was) to shore up his story.

      To me, the critical thing I have to ask myself is, are his action/explanations consistent with what an innocent person who genuinely doesn’t remember specifics about that day would assert about it. That is, whether you think it’s likely or not that he doesn’t remember, memories are bloody tricky things and you can’t dictate how they work. You certainly can’t infer that because you think you would remember something that a completely different person would also remember it. So you have to ask yourself OK if he wasn’t involved, but he DOESN’T remember, and he wasn’t worried at first, how would his behaviour be noticeably different? What about his actions is actually inconsistent with being that innocent (possibly naive) person?

      And to me, there’s nothing. He might well be guilty, but I don’t think he said or did anything that is incompatible with the story he told. Maybe the story’s bullshit – I doubt we’ll ever know. But if I weigh up the options I know which smells better.

      On one hand he’s a master manipulator who has fooled everyone he ever met from childhood all the way through 15 years in prison into thinking he’s a nice, caring, genuine person but actually he’s a completely cold brutal murderer (because to buy Jay’s story you have to buy the Adnan he portrays, who is not remorseful or panicked or freaked out or anything but cold and a bit proud of himself when he murders someone), and he’s so incredibly clever at using his intelligence and charm and playing everyone he meets. But he’s stupid and clumsy enough to involve a loose tongued petty criminal with whom he shares no particularly strong bond and leave key parts of his plan to him (disposing of the evidence? Really, you’re leaving that to your accomplice without instruction?) and to make stupid unnecessary mistakes in your plan (loudly asking for a ride with your intended victim multiple times in front of witnesses? Announcing that to the police? Failing to make fake ‘concerned’ calls to Hae? Being seen by third parties (Jenn) with your accomplice that night when you didn’t need to? Not making a specific effort to make yourself seen at the places you’re supposedly using as an alibi? Not testifying because your lawyer tells you not to even though if you’re this amazing manipulator you’d have found it dead easy to be more convincing to a jury than my-story-changes-more-often-than-my-underwear Jay?).

      On the other hand, he’s actually that guy that everyone who knows him says he is. A genuinely good guy whose generosity with his possessions and involvement with low level drugs got him in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time. A 17 year old sheltered kid who got railroaded by his lawyer and the system because he trusted it to work out OK given he was a good person and innocent of anything. Maybe whose friendship with Jay’s girlfriend, his seeming ‘having it all’, made him a patsy. And whose character led him to consistently tell the truth about parts of his day he doesn’t remember with useful clarity.

      You have to believe he was very unlucky in the second scenario (though wrongfully convicted people are ALWAYS unlucky). But it still smells better to me than the first.

      Well that went on too long, sorry. 🙂

      • Sam,

        I appreciate the time you took to discuss my concerns. Here’s something else to consider: Hae was supposed to pick up her cousin at 3:30 and was seen at school until about 3, according to a few witnesses. She’s in her car. She’s responsible about being on time to get her cousin. So are you suggesting it is likely that Jay has Adnan’s car, gets her to stop, somehow gets into Hae’s car, disposes of her car and drives away in Adnan’s car? Again, and somehow he knows Adnan does not have an airtight alibi for that time period? (the police and prosecutor actually argue Hae was murdered earlier, but that doesn’t make sense). It makes more sense to me that somehow Adnan gets into Hae’s car as she’s leaving school (sweet talks, hides, I don’t know, but he would have known her routine). As I’ve said, I think it’s entirely possible Jay was more involved than he’s admitted, but I have a hard time believing that Adnan isn’t involved. An active, social, good guy doesn’t have an alibi at exactly the time his ex-girlfriend goes missing but the guy he gave his car and phone to earlier in the day admits to being involved in the murder and wants to point the finger at him. That would be amazingly crappy luck. Again, I don’t think the Adnan should have been convicted based on evidence, but that’s different than whether he is guilty or innocent.

        • The problem is we just don’t know anything about what Hae was doing that afternoon. The note to Don, the refusing to give Adnan a lift (if that did happen), her seeming rush to leave the school after talking to Inez, potentially the credit card charge at the petrol station… it’s all confusing and unhelpful as none of it seems consistent with her going anywhere with anyone who wasn’t already in her plans. And we’ll never know. The only person, it appears, who might know something of her plans is her killer.

          Do I agree that, in isolation, it’s more likely she’d stop to talk to/go with Adnan rather than Jay? Absolutely. But it’s meaningless to choose one part of the sequence and evaluate likely guilt only based on the most likely of two people to be involved in that one particular segment of the plan. Does Adnan seem more likely than Jay to get into her car? Sure – but so do dozens of other people: her family, friends, Don… they all seem more likely than Jay IN ISOLATION (and most more likely than Adnan, arguably). Literally the only reason to separate out Adnan from any of those people is to believe Jay’s story. Which means you can’t look at just this part – you have to look at his WHOLE story, and that just doesn’t hold up, to me. There’s just no reason to accept him as credible.

          If Jay is the killer, was it risky to point the finger at Adnan when he could have an alibi for the entire period between school and track? Sure it was. But unless he wants to admit to the crime, he had to point the finger at SOMEONE (I don’t buy any scenario that involves Jay preplanning this crime to any extent) when he asked for help from Jenn, and that risk was something he had to take as a consequence as any person he chose could potentially have an alibi. He just gave himself the best possible chance of getting away with it by making that person Adnan – he had Adnan’s car so he knew Adnan was hanging around at school or thereabouts til after track during that period. Who else could he have picked?

          Like I said, I still think there’s a possibility that Adnan did it. Can’t rule it out – can’t really imagine anything doing that at this stage unless Jay or Jenn recant, and what possible reason would they have to do that? But I just don’t see a compelling reason to believe Jay’s everchanging story and if you don’t believe his story you have no reason to think Adnan is a killer.

          I said before that Adnan’s story was consistent, I think, with the behaviour of an innocent person who didn’t really remember the day and wasn’t initially concerned with Hae’s disappearance. But I don’t think everything Jay did or said was consistent with a person who had nothing to do with a murder but then was shown a body and asked to help. Very little of it, in fact. Nor is it possible to explain the inconsistencies with any of the varying excuses that have been made for them. His behaviour that we can either verify or he has admitted (phoning his friends after the crime and during burial, disposing of evidence, continuing to hang out afterwards with this guy who supposedly murdered someone in cold blood, lying repeatedly to the police about things that did not incriminate him further if his later stories are to be believed) IS, however, consistent with the actions of a person who killed someone and then panicked, tried to get help, pointed the finger at the most convincing ‘other guy’ they could think of, and then worked with the police changing his story until it fit a narrative that they proposed for Hae’s murder. Which doesn’t mean that he IS lying – he might really have been a complete idiot who helped out with something terrible and then did a whole bunch of stupid things afterwards, and couldn’t stop himself blabbing to other people and lying repeatedly to the police and everyone else about the details, or has the worst memory ever. That’s certainly possible. It’s just that on balance, his story is worse than Adnan’s. It’s less believable and consequently so is he.

          • Sam,

            Jay’s story is worse than Adnan’s, no doubt, mostly because there are so many of them! But there’s no evidence he was with Hae while she was alive, either. I’ve seen speculation on why Jay would do it, but it seems less plausible than his being involved with Adnan’s involvement as well. You commented that in isolation there are many others who could have gotten into the car with Hae, including friends, Don and her family. But no one mentioned them as suspects (okay, maybe Don). Jay mentioned Adnan being involved in Hae’s death, and Adnan unfortunately doesn’t have an alibi. If Adnan is truly innocent, it really is incredible that he could have so thoughtfully insisted that a drug dealer he really didn’t know very well get a gift for his girlfriend, even lending him his car, and be rewarded with a murder rap.

          • My point being, the only reason to view Adnan as being different/more likely than any of the other plethora of people who could have gotten into her car is because Jay said so. Which is meaningless if he’s the alternative killer. There’s no other evidence that Adnan was involved in her death without Jay’s story. Nothing. Sure he doesn’t have physical proof that conclusively rules him out, but I bet there were plenty of people in her life who also wouldn’t be able to offer that proof.

            So my point is, it doesn’t matter if one isolated part of Jay’s story looks more likely to put Adnan as the killer than Jay, on probability (likewise with the other ‘likely’ factor ie that he’s an ex boyfriend so statistically he’s in a more likely group). To believe Adnan is the killer you have to believe Jay’s story, which means weighing the whole thing up, not just one tiny part.

            I guess what I’m trying to say is that while trying to work out who is guilty is a bit of a fool’s errand in a way, the only thing it comes down to is whether you believe Jay or not. There’s literally nothing else tying Adnan to Hae’s murder. If Jay’s story’s worse than Adnan’s in terms of logic and consistency (internally and over time, as well as with their respective behaviours over the day in question and afterwards) then it seems to me he’s more likely to be the one lying. It doesn’t matter that the fictional speculative scenarios we make up to fill in the unknown factors (like the motivation for the murder, how the killer trapped Hae etc) might seem to fit Adnan better. You believe Jay or you don’t. 🙂

    • “Does it not seem like a high-risk move to point the finger at Adnan if he wasn’t pretty sure Adnan would have no alibi?” Perhaps, but if Jay believed he was already implicated and in danger of being charged (or if he was trying to throw police off the trail of a third party), it may have seemed better than nothing. He probably knew that police were suspicious of Adnan, and may have thus inferred or assumed that Adnan didn’t have a great alibi. Or if an alibi turned up for a certain portion of Adnan’s day, he could have gone back and changed the timeline of his story. He was already in a high-risk situation once the cops started questioning him, and at a certain point he clearly decided he had to admit to knowing something. Pointing the finger at Adnan may have been his “safest” option.

      • And keep in mind the way Jay spread the story of Adnan. Before he was ever questioned, he told different stories to different friends. Why? If Adnan really was guilty, why not tell one consistent story to several people, so they’ll back you up if needed. But with all of these different stories, Jay could choose the one that might work for him, and tell the police to just go ask the person he told it to. It left him flexible. If something didn’t pan out, he could say that he told the *real* truth to someone else, just ask *them*.

        • Does anyone know, were there really verified stories of “Adnan did it” going around before the anonymous phone call to the police? Not just “trunk pop” stories but Adnan stories?

          When the police got the call and pulled Adnan’s phone records, they called in Jenn, and that led them to call in Jay. At that point, I don’t see it as being a case of Jay pointing a finger at Adnan; the police suspected Adnan and wanted to know Jay’s involvement with the case based on his use of Adnan’s phone that day. Why would Jay care if Adnan had an alibi that day or not? The police were asking him very specific questions about the day and phone, not asking him to come up with a suspect.

        • Does anyone know how much time Adnan and Jay spent together in the six weeks AFTER the day Hae disappeared and before her body was discovered? It may be telling. Prior to that day, it sounded like they’d get together to get high, though I don’t know how often that was, and I’d figure since they were close enough that Adnan offered Jay his car to get a gift for Stephanie for her birthday that they’d be in contact with each other through their connection to her. If Adnan is truly innocent, I’d imagine his relationship with Jay wouldn’t have changed unless Jay wanted it to change, and he’d be surprised if it did. I seem to recall Jay said he spoke with Adnan the day before he talked to the police and Adnan made a comment he interpreted to be threatening to Stephanie if Jay snitched, but I don’t remember how often they spoke prior to that.

  44. What i don’t understand in all of this is the reference to Jay’s third police interview in April. Why would he even bring up the scenario where Adnan pays him to help kill or bury Hae? And why wouldn’t this be brought into question?

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  46. I am new to this case, and I am wondering what Jay’s motivations might be.
    Was Jay pressured by the police to help them make their case? Was Jay threatened
    with being an accessory to the murder if Jay didn’t cooperate? Any info would be helpful….txs.

    • Peter, if you are asking questions about motivation, you are in the wrong place.

      Susan’s excellent analysis is devoted to picking apart the prosecution’s case based on evidence alone (or lack thereof), not conjectures. Any speculation about motives would be pure conjecture. You’d be better off on Reddit.

    • Actually, Jay was already linked to the situation, so he was better off being Accessory after the Fact. Second, take a look at his plea bargain that is posted on Rabia’s website: he was a regular snitch on drug deals; there was motivation to keep him out of prison and he was well-connected within the police department, from what we know. He had a family in the narcotics “business” and Jay wanted to avoid their house from being searched. Plus the police — with an awful murder-clearance rate — could use him to wrap up a case, while giving him 2 years’ probation for a crime that would have at least merited jail time under other circumstances.

      And there has been significant speculation that a third party was involved and that Jay wanted to protect that party and feared for his own safety.

      If you are interested, read this blog, read Rabia’s blog (his best friend’s sister who is an attorney, and who is working on his appeal), etc.

  47. Thank you for your articulate and lucid posts. I have one question. Why did the state and police go to all the trouble of pinning it on Adnam? Surely, it seems to me, that you get J in and you get A in and you start to investigate … And even if you only do 25% of what you have done and 25% of what SK did, you very quickly get to the conclusion that J is (at the very least) neck and neck in the suspect stakes. From there, why go through the agony of having to suggest and coach and coerce J through hours of interviews and then a potentially gruelling public trial? Why take all those risks – professional and practical – to crow bar the evidence and the story into this elaborate framing of Adnam? Why force the facts into the far more complicated story of Adnam’s guilt – the two cars, the phone call timings etc etc? Surely, even if you are ‘lazy’ and somewhat ‘incompetent’, it is actually easier to simply charge J and avoid (a) all the risk to your professional reputation and (b) the complexity (trunk pops etc etc) of bending and twisting what you have into a very unconvincing story. Sure, the jury convicted, but state and police and later KU don’t know that in advance. So, to put it another way: it seems – even for the lazy, even for the lame – a far simpler and more straightforward strategy to pursue Jay than frame Adnam. Indeed, surely this is what busy people would do! So my question again: why did police, state and KU go to all this tortuous effort and take all those professional risks to go for the much harder conviction? This is the only question that gives me pause. Be grateful for any thoughts ??? Thanks again to Susan for her fine thinking and writing.

    • Not an expert, but I would speculate that some reasons the police/prosecution acted as they did are as follows:

      — Having a witness who will claim that the killer confessed to them & showed them the body is a huge deal. If they could make Jay seem like a semi-credible witness, they might have enough evidence for a conviction, whereas if they tried to pin the murder on Jay, they had no witnesses and no chance of convicting anyone.
      — Everyone involved genuinely believed Adnan did it (after all, he was the ex-boyfriend, and no one else had any semblance of a known motive). So from their perspective, they’re not “framing” anyone, just doing what they have to do to nail the real killer. They probably figured Jay was fibbing to minimize involvement, and knew he was getting off too lightly, but that’s common in cases like these.
      — The “professional risks” just weren’t that great. Most cases aren’t scrutinized that carefully, and these guys didn’t do anything obviously super-illegal like planting evidence or beating people.

      Busy people do dumb, inefficient stuff sometimes because they commit to a course of action and fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy. I agree the prosecution ran a big risk of losing their case, and should have tried harder to get definitive evidence. It was both unethical and impractical to investigate so sloppily.

  48. So I’ve listened through the podcast twice now and have enjoyed it. I have also found some of the threads on the reddit website thought provoking. My biggest question that I can seem to find an answer to is what type of phone did Adnan have? And was it even possible to have “butt dialed” the girl in Silver Springs? Something is amiss with a lot of what I’ve heard and read but this seems to be quiet an obvious thought. I just don’t remember “butt dialing” being a problem back then.

    • I’ve had Nokia 5110 as my first cell phone back in 1999, which was essentially the same design as 61xx series which Adnan had. I can tell you it was fairly easy to butt-dial someone if you had their number on speed dial (e.g. assigned to one of the numeric keys), and were carrying the phone out of holster.

  49. This was an excellent article, written so that anyone can understand it. Urick should have been one on those to understand it, but it does not surprise me that he was not. I’ve been following Serial and the discussion, and, having had to be involved with court myself for the past several months, sadly, the inept handling of this case seems to be the rule more than the exception. Lawyers, judges, etc., all are just people, too. They get bored; they make mistakes; they have egos; they don’t like to admit they may not understand something, and work to get it right; they’re under pressure resolve one case and get on to the next. The courts are overbooked, and often — present company excluded, it would seem — it’s much less about what’s “right,” and more about what’s easy and fast. And I work in a very male-dominated industry, a good ol’ boys club, and I cannot even tell you how many times a day I’m subjected to their blustery, lazy, misogynistic, egotistical attitudes. Urick sounds like just like one of them — the confidence based not on evidence, but just on sheer ego, the authority, the unwillingness to admit or understand being wrong, and the complete lack of self awareness, much less self examination. … No, putting a man away for life based on flimsy “evidence” without thinking too hard about it is not shocking at all.

  50. This is overstating the case:

    “Because even though the phone was in the exact same location at the time of both the 4:44 and 4:45 calls (or within 100 yards thereof), the location data provides a false location for one of the two calls. Which means we cannot assume a call that pinged L689B was in Leakin Park at the time it was made, as it is every bit as likely, based on the data we have, that a phone that pings L689B is sitting instead out on Edmondson Avenue, or Jenn’s house, or the McDonalds, or Neighbor Boy’s house, or Patrick’s house, or… you get the idea.”

    Because, unless the geo coordinates of the phone are known for the 4:44 and 4:45 calls in this post, and they are known to be on Edmonson Avenue, you can’t conclude from anything in that call log that “…a call that pings L689B is every bit as likely…[to be] out on Edmonson Avenue”.

    The best you can say is that there is sufficient overlap between the regions covered by L689B and L653C such that there are some areas where it is possible to transition between the two coverage areas within 1 minute. In fact, it is very likely that these calls were received as the phone is travelling along Winan’s Way, heading SW towards Cook’s Lane, away from L689B into L653C:

    https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Briarclift+Rd+%26+Brookwood+Rd,+Baltimore,+MD+21229/N+Franklintown+Rd/@39.299372,-76.7003785,16z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c81c7644c06a2b:0x542f0519f1c2b860!2m2!1d-76.7028791!2d39.2963636!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c81b8642667d0f:0x9478cf1f77f2bc8e!2m2!1d-76.6971055!2d39.3013177!3e0

    …but you don’t know, without measuring it, where all the areas with these same properties are.

    The argument cuts both ways. It doesn’t on one hand establish that the phone must have been within the park boundaries, but it ALSO can’t on the other hand establish that the phone was “equally likely to be on Edmonson Avenue, or Jenn’s house, or the McDonald’s, or…”, unless you’ve measured it (and, apparently, if you know whether the incoming call is coming from another ATT cell phone). In fact, physics will most likely make many of these other candidates impossible.

    This post is also overstating the likely inaccuracies of incoming calls, even when considering the complete incoming call history from these same call logs. This has been illustrated in some detail here: http://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcast/comments/2s50un/debunking_the_incoming_call_controversy/

    Irrespective of whether or not the prosecution should have known about ATT’s disclaimer, the actual, real-live, physical truth about the likely inaccuracy of incoming calls to Adnan’s cell phone is a lot less boat-rocking than is suggested by this post.

  51. Susan,
    So I am trying to completely erase all of Jay’s testimony, cell phone records and the state’s theory. There are at least 2 witnesses as well as Adnan that agree to the fact that Adnan asked for a ride from Hae. My question is where exactly would this ride take him? I graduated high school in 1999 and ran cross country at a public high school, had my own vehicle that could possibly have been leant to somebody when I got out of school, had a cell phone that somebody else could have borrowed and I still can’t come up with a plausible place/reason/excuse to need a ride. For the record, I have signed Rabia’s petition and just want to exhaust all possible conclusions.

    • Long story short: witness statements establish that Adnan’s car was regularly (at the time period before Hae’s death) in the shop, and that he regularly had to ask for rides for others. Some witnesses stated that they saw Adnan in Hae’s car just about “every day.” Hae also frequently drove Adnan to the doctor after school when he had an injury. There’s also at least one witness statement that says Adnan regularly went home to change for track.

      I am also very distrustful of witness testimony in general, so combined with the fact that Adnan asking for rides was a regular thinking, I just don’t see the significance of it. Maybe he asked for a ride that day, or maybe the witnesses were remembering another day. Maybe the night before Jay and Adnan *had* agreed for Jay to borrow Adnan’s car to get Stephanie a present, so he knew he wouldn’t have his car.

      But since all witnesses say Hae left the school alone, that’s the more significant fact for me, unless and until there is different information to call that into question.

      • I just find myself wanting Adnan (from my own experience with after school basketball/tennis/track/crosscounry practice) to have no reason/previous pattern of leaving school/library in between school and practice in order to create this doubt of his alibi. It just seems unreasonable/hard to reconcile why he would need Hae to take him somewhere on any given day when he has track practice(while i totally concede that there a infinite possibilites) an hour later. While I realize there is no way to confirm this one or way another this seemed to be the crack that the prosecution was able to expand/exploit. The track coach/other track team members seem to me to be an alibi opportunity that was not adequately persued. If he was even half way decent at track which from all accounts he was not a scrub then the coach or other runners would have noticed…it seems hard to believe that it was just some halfass/intramurals style team that had zero accountability and come and go as you wish setup.

        • Btw, thanks for the reply. Obviously even if Adnan did ask for a ride and did leave campus in between the end of school and pracice then it in no way directly implicates him in anyway in Hae’s death. I am just trying erase any and all doubt which obviously is not the burden of proof…

        • Track coach has a memory of speaking to Adnan on a day that seems to match January 13th (temperature in the 50s so could run outside, near the end of Ramadan). He just could not be certain that had definitely been on the 13th, when asked about it in March.

  52. Pingback: Serious About Serial | Craig James

  53. Can you show us the relevant lines on the 13th of the records? With the actual phone numbers redacted, of course. We can match it up with the names by comparing it with the log on Serial website.

    I am mainly interested in what the INCOMING call towers look like.

    I know in your most recent analysis Urick and AT&T guy basically tested two with real data (that demonstrated test parameters), then did the rest orally (so they don’t have to give it to the defense except a summary?) and Leakin Park was one of those they tested (at the burial site, no doubt) but have no written records. I was wondering if the cell tower log for the 7:06 and 7:19 calls showed L689 at all. I know it’s not to be relied upon, but would be interesting to know if the call log shown by Serial was sanitized by Serial or by Prosecution.

    • You mean this one? It’s linked in a different post — this is what AT&T sent Ritz.

      As for the expert’s testing, all of the testing was done the same. They just chose to save the computer’s records for only two of the sites. The testing equipment displays the results in real time, that’s what Waranowitz was reading out.

  54. I like all of Susan’s great work and agree that it is at a minimum very sloppy work by the prosecution but it is unconscionable, grotesquely bad work by the defense to not challenge the statements made by Urick with the simple-to-read-on-page-one-of-cell-phone-bill conclusions that Susan has made. Why all the focus on Urick and none on the defense who had, obviously, much more incentive to read the phone bill correctly for what it sad? Simply concluding “she had a lot going on” is no excuse…CG was a seasoned defense attorney. I think the story here is much more about CG than Urick, sloppy (is the most we can really say) as he was.

  55. Pingback: Serial Podcast; Cellphone Data Shows How Jay Acted Alone

  56. Great work. SK was very dismissive of this in her Oct 15 post. And sort of gave her and her team credit for finding it though I heard no mention of it in Serial. What phone was Adnan using at track practice to call Jay? Doubt there was a pay phone on the field and if he borrowed another persons phone that would corroborate him being there.

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  58. Hi Susan
    Has the pay phone Adnan would have called for his pickup from track practice been verified? Also, was Adnan not practicing that day because of Ramadan? If he was practicing, it would seem kind of odd (but not unlikely) to make a call in the middle of practice.
    Thanks,
    Ravi

  59. Pingback: Patrick Urick | dinozer

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