Cellphone Maps for the Docket’s Serial Special – February 13, 1 p.m. EST

For those who have seen the Docket’s one-hour Serial special — available to watch online on Shift by MSNBC (part 1) (part 2) — you’ll find below the fold a complete set of the maps that we discuss during the show, to help you follow along with Jay’s non-chronological testimony concerning Adnan’s cell records.

And, courtesy of an anonymous commenter, here is a gif of all the maps combined:

001 Jay 1207 v3

002 Jay 1241 v3

003 Jay 1243 v3004 Jay 1436 v3

005 Jay 1515 v3

006 Jay 1545 no call v3

007 Jay 1521 v3

008 Jay 1532 v3

009 Jay 1548 v3

009 Jay 1548 v3

010 Jay 1559 v3

011 Jay 1612 v3

012 Jay 1627 v2013 Jay 1658 v3

015 Jay 1738 v3

016 Jay 1807 v3

017 Jay 1809 v3

018 Jay 1824 v3

019 Jay 1859 v3

020 Jay 1900 v3 alt

021 Jay 1909 v3022 Jay 1916 v3

023 Jay 2004 v3

024 Jay 2005 v3

025 Jay 2101 v3


p.s. A big thanks goes to EW for her stellar work in creating these maps!

41 thoughts on “Cellphone Maps for the Docket’s Serial Special – February 13, 1 p.m. EST

  1. To make sure I understand: The lighter areas represent the scope of the ping-ed towers, and the pink Jay icons represent the testimony given at trial? Someone should make a gif of this, I think it would be clearer.

    • Good point, however as the prosecution used these calls as evidence that Jay was speaking the truth about where they were and at what time, using the same tower ping evidence to show how the timeline was almost completely false can only lessen the integrity of the prosecution’s case.

  2. I watched the whole show. I have the feeling that Urick knew if he came on all he would be able to say is “uhhh, ummm, uhhh…” LOL

  3. I think you should redo the sectors on the incoming calls to illuminate the entire circle around the towers since we have learned that incoming calls cannot be used to determine which sector the phone was in…meaning it could have been in a 360 degree area around the tower that pinged….anyone agree? Also great job on these…

  4. People, that he incoming call locations are almost always reliable. The ATT message is CYA since in rare occasions they are not. And no, it would suggest 360 deg around tower.

    • I’m not a cell network expert, but I believe that the difference between location accuracy for outgoing vs. incoming calls has to do with how cell phones connect to the towers. Your phone periodically “checks in” with the network any time it is on so the network can record where you are to route incoming calls. When a call comes in, it tries the last tower your phone “pinged” and the call may connect thru that tower, even if it isn’t the closest/best one. When you make an outgoing call, the phone surveys the nearby towers to see which is the best and tries to use that one (not always possible if there is heavy traffic, blockages like buildings or hills, etc)

  5. Hi Susan, I’m a big fan of your work, I think it is brilliant. – I do have a question regarding how the cell phone data would have been treated as evidence. Do the cell phone records follow chain of custody requirements like physical evidence or are they exempt? And does the manner in which the records were shown by the detectives rather freely to anyone ( Jay, possibly Jenn etc. ) violate any of the chain of custody or other protocols? I can’t imagine in any murder trial that detectives would freely show the murder weapon to witnesses or suspects etc., So why where they so quick to show phone records, pretty much their only “evidence” to anyone willing to talk in this case?

    • Belated discovery + a little photoshopping = high conviction rate.

      I think this is actually a cool point. How do defense lawyers (or prosecution lawyers for that matter) verify the integrity of documents presented in court?

      Hmm, devious as I am, I’m already trying to dream up a cover story for what I would say if I were caught. (Not that I would since I am clearly not a lawyer.)

      • You bring up a good point about the integrity of the records. Every cell phone company has a “Subpoena compliance department” who is responsible for providing phone records when a court order or subpoena is received by the phone company.

        When an attorney wants to present cell phone evidence in court, the first person they usually call is the “Custodian of Records” from the cell phone company’s subpoena compliance department. They are shown the records and then asked to testify that the records are authentic (and complete) records of a phone’s activity and that the company keeps those records in the normal course of business.

        On that basis, other people can use those records as the basis of their testimony.
        When the records are turned over by the phone company to a true expert in cell phones, the first thing they do is verify that the records are authentic and complete as well. There’s no sense in an expert doing analysis with a set of bad data.

        An expert knows what type of data to expect from each carrier and the carriers produce those records as PDF files so that there is little chance that they would have been modified from the time they were sent by the phone company to the requester.

        From what we have seen in this case, the records appear to be incomplete. It is possible that the requestor (Baltimore Police) did not use the proper language in their request for records and therefore didn’t get everything they need.

        It also appears that the defense attorney never independently subpoenaed the phone records nor did she request that AT&T preserve the records in case she wanted to obtain them at a later date.

    • Chain of custody wouldn’t apply here — what a party would need to do to get it in is to have a document custodian appear to testify as to the nature and authenticity of the records. Alternatively, both parties can stipulate to the documents, like they did in this case — that is, stipulate to their authenticity.

      The detectives’ free use of the cellphone records during interrogations is a different matter entirely. Goes to the credibility of the witnesses, not the admissibility of the records.

      • Got it. So the free sharing of the data doesn’t render it inadmissable evidence, instead it should render the witness testimony (jay) inadmissible or incredible since as a witness he should have independently corroborated the records, not built his story around them. How could the prosecutor in good conscious say the cellphone records were corroborated by witness testimony if the reality was witness testimony was constructed by the cell phone records (as evidenced by detectives admitting to showing call logs to the jay)? Could have CG made an issue of this? Were any rules broken?
        Thanks!!! for all of your great work and for taking the time to answer some of our probably very elementary legal questions 🙂

        • All really good questions that jurors ask everyday. Cell phone evidence is pretty objective and factual when analyzed properly and objectively. Too often prosecutors and defense attorneys alike seek to make cell phone evidence fit their theory instead of letting it speak for itself. Cell phone evidence is not DNA.

  6. I believe you have the 3:48 call out of order as all others follow a progressive timeline.

    As for the MSNBC webcast, I thank MSNBC so much but would like to remind them that this is not network TV. Webcasts should have the luxury of time; they aren’t required to fit into a time slot. People don’t watch these unless they are already quite interested and a bit geeky on the subject. The hostesses attempt to hurry the comments along in order to “cover everything” were a little irritating.

    In other words I would have loved to hear more and was so impressed with the interviewees, yourself included. The hostess a bit less so.

    Please pass on this viewer’s thanks to the cell phone engineer for getting involved in this project. He comes across as incredibly honest–a drawback for a career as an expert witness since in my limited experience the most popular expert witnesses have a bit of the scallywag about them.

    Thanks for your incredible work on this.

  7. Agreed the interviewing on the MSNBC show was dreadful. I felt really sorry for Rabia who hardly had a chance to say anything. I wanted to hear so much more from Susan and especially the engineer who seemed to bring some real clarity and insight into the technical situation back in 1999. This was the 1st time that I heard the fact that the tests done 10 months later could have been vastly different because of the improving technology.

    • Also, the expert indicated that cell phone companies are constantly tweaking their networks and that the call logs were incomplete (Susan pointed this out too in her blog). The logs should have shown the various towers that were pinged for the duration of each call.

  8. One other comment/question. Ben Levitan commented that the very brief call, dubbed the “come and get me call”, was most likely a call that was never connected. He postulated that this was because the cell phone was out of range. If the phone was out of range why does the record indicate the tower it pinged. (I believe him, by the way.) Does the recorded tower reflect the last tower pinged before the phone went out of range? If that is the case you may want to reflect this in your mapping. Jay was actually out of area.

    One other point. At one point in his testimony Jay’s states that in some later call Adnan had asked him about whether the phone was on. Odd to remember this so specifically. (Jay sure has a brilliant memory by the way. Not necessarily an accurate one but boy do the details flow forth.) It struck me as an odd thing to remember so distinctly and then to think important enough to introduce it into his narrative. I can think of two reasons to do so:
    1. Jay was telling the truth and Adnan did call him. (In which case his memory truly is good.) The phone did not connect, however, because Jay was out of range.
    2. The prosecutor knew that a 5-second call meant it likely never connected and coached Jay to cover for this problem but ensuring that the jury knew the phone was turned on and “available” to receive a call.

    • Yeah Ben’s theory was confusing to me, since that was an incoming call to the cell phone. If an incoming call isn’t picked up, and isn’t forwarded to voicemail, would it show in the cell phone records? I don’t remember seeing missed calls show up on my bill in this timeframe, and since I paid by the minute then I think I might have noticed! Ben, can you comment? (since you seem to be reading these posts)

      • Dan, why do you think that the cell phone companies gave you the first minute free in 1999? The duration of a call (incoming or outgoing) on cell phone records is not just the time from when you hit the SEND button to when you hit the END button. The clock starts when a certain file is created at the phone company computer and before the call gets out.

        Remember in 1999 you were real careful to keep your call under a minute and still got charged two minutes for some calls? Remember –

        1. People would make four calls, none of which went through and would have to pay $3 minute x 4. They got mad.

        2. Calls would come in and no one was there. The last part of the call connection didn’t complete and people got charged.

        3. The call did get picked up but when you answered you could not connect to the “radio link” and you got charged.

        4. You only need a weak signal to text or make a phone ring. To talk you need a higher quality signal.

        In the end, 3 seconds incoming or outgoing isn’t a call. In today’s cell phone records, AT&T shows the duration of “call set up” and then the duration of the “call”.

      • Simple solution BTW. If you want to know if the call went through, pull the phone records of the person who was called and see if they got an incoming call. That would have settled the issue.

        • Ah yes, the good ole days! Very interesting stuff Ben. Clearly evidence like this (as well as phone records from numbers that made/received calls to/from Adnan’s phone that day) would have been incredibly important to a fair trial. What do you theorize the 5-second incoming call was then? Did someone call but hung up while it was ringing?

  9. It would be nice if every chart noted all the different locations. They will clearly show where the call/phone is NOT from at the same time.

    • Yes, I was thinking the same thing. I am constantly going back and forth to the other maps to see where the other locations are, in relation to the spot that is being discussed on each particular map. I think it would be easier to keep things in context if I could see the location of all the “players”. Just the names (Jenn’s, Patricks’s, Best Buy, etc) in a small font.

      I certainly don’t expect Susan to do this, as she has done more than enough already. I might try to do this myself and post them as gifs. Does anybody have any suggestions on this?

  10. Just a general comment – my first ever. So when I attempt to explain Serial and the story behind the show to those whom have never heard about it, I find myself saying; “This is a case where a high school student was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. There were no eye witnesses, DNA evidence, suspect’s dirty clothes or a clear motive, but only the testimony of a drug dealer who admits to burying the body, helping hide the victim’s car (and showing the cops where it was), throwing out his dirty clothes and the shovels used in the burial and who by the way, had the suspect’s car and brand new cell phone most of the day of the murder.” Then I realize just how ridiculous all this is, and still can’t understand how 12 people bought this story.

    • The next time you are waiting at the DMV, look around and imagine that you are falsely accused of a horrible crime, and the twelve people sitting closest to you make up the jury you have to trust to correctly filter out the truth and exonerate you. Terrifying, isn’t it?

  11. I was looking forward to the webcast, but it’s unwatchable. Seema Iyer is not qualified be an interviewer. You don’t invite people to be on a panel only to endlessly interrupt them.

    • Was wondering about that myself. If not, is that unusual? Does it suggest that Hae was wrapped in something? Perhaps left in the backseat? Certainly, if you had something with which to cover the body, there wouldn’t be much need to drag it into the trunk and risk someone seeing you. Not sure how that fits into Jay’s trunk-pop stories. I suppose that detail could’ve been added to somehow minimize his involvement or simply as a dramatic flourish. Basically, my thinking on this is that after the murder took place, whoever was responsible would’ve wanted to get as far away from the car as quickly as possible. I don’t buy that Adnan drove the car around a bunch. Certainly, Adnan would’ve been taking an unnecessary risk hanging around the car in a public place, driving it to Jay’s house, etc. I think it was stashed where the murder took place, the perpetrator called Jay from a payphone somewhat distant from the site, and the scene was only returned to in the panic that ensued following Detective Adcock’s call. The cellphone pings and Cathy’s account of the abrupt departure make it seem likely that the burial site was at least scouted around 7 pm. Which would make sense if Adnan were the killer and he had just learned that Adcock was aware of his ride request — someone with a tangential connection to Hae could’ve just as well let the car sit where it was at. The purpose of the burial was to keep it a missing persons case for as long as possible in order to degrade memories/physical evidence. Someone with little/no connection to the victim would likely have been taking a bigger chance returning to the scene.

  12. What Mosce did Adnans father go to? When I check for Mosces in Baltimore I got one hit on the Masjid-ul-haqq that could be in the towers range for the “Burial event”. Couldn’t this prove Adnans story of delivering food to his dad, if that is the Mosce he goes to?

    Or that he is travling to/from the Mosce?

    If you look in Google-maps and the Mosces is in the same place now as it was 15-years ago. Then it could be quite plausible.

  13. So, I check around with different topography-maps and check on GSM-cell-tower-technology and I believe Jays description don’t make sens. I think the 7 pm calls is more consistent with someone traveling along US-40-W then being at the road around Leakin-park?

    The 8 pm calls is more consistent with someone traveling from Jays grandmother towards Jays, Jenna or Adnas.

    The road/the burial-site should be somewhat in a radio-shadow from L689 and L651? If I have correctly identified where the burial site is, it should be at around 200 yards or meters sea level? The cell at L651 should be blocked because the road/burial site seems to be at a deep slope(340 yards or meter), so I wonder if this cells had any coverage there.

    The calls is more consistent with someone driving from Cathys house, towards Jenns house, from Jenns house to Patrick and then up to the grandmother. Then from the Jays grandmother home to Adnan, Jenn or Jays.

  14. Susan, on episode 8 of Undisclosed, the cell phone expert says that overlap could be a problem, i.e. a call from one location could ping different towers, if the first tower was busy, etc. However, I believe Ben Levitan said that overlap wasn’t a likely event. Please correct me if i’ve got this wrong and/or explain the difference in opinion between the two experts. Many thanks!

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