Serial: The Above Average Investigations of Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary

Two big updates before today’s post:

First, Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller, and I will be launching a new podcast to cover all the new developments in Adnan’s case. The first episode of Undisclosed will be released on April 13th, so check us out then.


Second, Rabia and I were back on The Docket this morning, this time for a special on the Science of Serial. Clint Van Zandt and Dr. William Manion joined us to discuss the crime scene analysis and the autopsy report:

The Science of ‘Serial’ Part I: Crime Scene
Physical evidence is missing from the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee according to crime analyst Clint Van Zandt who states the murder, method of transportation and body disposal are not linked. Attorneys Seema Iyer, Rabia Chaudry, and Susan Simpson discuss.

The Science of ‘Serial’ Part II: Autopsy
Forensic Pathologist Dr. Bill Manion has problems with livor mortis when determining an approximate time of death of Hae Min Lee. Attorneys Seema Iyer, Rabia Chaudry, and Susan Simpson discuss.

The murder of Hae Min Lee was investigated by Detectives William Ritz and Gregory MacGillivary. To date, three four* defendants who were convicted of murder pursuant to investigations by either Ritz or MacGillivary have been found to have been wrongfully convicted and released from prison.

[*Edit: In May 2016, Malcolm Bryant was exonerated. Detective Ritz was the lead investigator in that case.]

Those defendants are Ezra Mable, Sabein Burgess, and Rodney Addison. As the civil complaint filed last week by Burgess aptly summarizes, the convictions in all three cases were

the result of the Baltimore Police Department’s policies and practices of pursuing wrongful convictions through reliance on profoundly flawed investigations. In a race to clear murder cases, the Department cut corners and rushed to judgment.

The problems in the underlying investigations ranged from simple incompetence — such as failure to interview obvious witnesses or to properly preserve forensic evidence — to intentional distortions of the evidentiary record — such as the fabrication of witness reports. In each of these cases, the investigators’ tunnel vision led them to either ignore or avoid evidence that contradicted their chosen theory of the case, and to withhold any exculpatory evidence they accidentally stumbled upon. Moreover, in both the Mable and Burgess cases, allegations have been made of deliberate wrongdoing by police officers who prioritized clearing cases over identifying the actual perpetrators of the murders they were investigating. Improving the detectives’ numbers became a higher goal than identifying criminals and building solid cases against them.


The prioritization of good statistics over good investigations can be seen not just in the resulting false convictions, but also in the resulting murder charges that were so unsupportable that they never resulted in prosecution by the State. Even though these cases were voluntarily dismissed by prosecutors who determined there was an insufficient basis to try the defendant, each charge was nevertheless recorded as a “cleared” case for purposes of the detective’s track record. For example, from 1998 and 1999, Detective Ritz was involved in at least 42 investigations which resulted in charges of first- or second-degree murder. Of those 42  murder charges, however, 15 were nolled or otherwise dismissed voluntarily by the State after it was determined that the evidence was insufficient to permit the prosecution to proceed. This “charge them all and let the prosecutor sort them out” style of policing was a major cause of a schism that developed between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the BPD. It was also a major contributor to each of the false convictions discussed herein.

Ezra Mable

In 2002, Ezra Mable pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. His plea was motivated by the State’s representation that two eyewitnesses had seen him fleeing from the murder scene moments after the crime, as well as by the State’s failure to disclose mountains of exculpatory evidence. For example, both those eyewitnesses had identified another man — a drug dealer who worked with the victim — as the killer. In 2009, after nearly a decade in prison, Mable wrote his own Petition for Post-Conviction Relief. In an unusual move, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office joined him in moving for his release, which was granted in 2010.

In 2013, Mable filed a civil suit against, inter alia, the City of Baltimore, the Police Department, and Detective William Ritz for their roles in securing his conviction. Mable’s complaint summarized the events that led to his incarceration in a way that could equally apply to Adnan’s arrest and conviction:

[T]he Defendants [ ] resolved to focus entirely on Mr. Mable and did not attempt to determine the actual truth in their investigation or to develop a case based on truthful facts. Motivated by a desire to quickly solve Mr. Dukes’ murder and make an arrest in this highly publicized case, the Defendants adopted a theory, and then abused their investigation and authority to construct a case to fit it.

As Mable ultimately did not pursue his lawsuit, there is no record of how the defendants would have responded to his allegations . However, the fact that the State’s Attorney’s Office joined Mable’s Petition for release makes the following impossible to dispute: something was very, very wrong with his conviction. If a jailhouse motion in a ten-year-old murder case was able to convince the State’s Attorney’s Office to join his petition and request his release, the facts must have been overwhelmingly unfavorable to the State. Such an event simply does not happen in the absence of extraordinary circumstances.

It is also telling that, shortly after Mable was freed, one of the lead detectives on his case left the Baltimore Police Department. That detective was William Ritz.

The man Mable was convicted of killing, Kevin Dukes, was a drug dealer in the Cherry Hill neighborhood. Shortly before his death, Dukes had reportedly learned that one of his dealers, a man named “Eddie,” had been cutting the drugs supplied by Dukes, and pocketing the money from the extra sales. Relations between Eddie and Dukes devolved further, and

Mr. Dukes, thereafter, informed his friends that he was trying to procure a gun for protection because “Eddie was going to kill him for his drugs.” On the day of Mr. Dukes’ cold-blooded murder, he met up with his drug dealers for their weekly meeting. Immediately thereafter, Eddie was seen getting into Mr. Dukes’ motor vehicle where Mr. Dukes was found soon after, dead, shot multiple times at close range.

Detective Ritz, along with Detective Hastings, supervised the investigation into Dukes’ murder. After arriving at the crime scene, the officers quickly concluded that Dukes had been murdered while in the car. (As detailed in the complaint, however, the physical evidence is not wholly consistent with this theory.) Although the police did not find any witnesses at the crime scene, in the days following the murder they received numerous tips identifying “Eddie” as the shooter.

A few weeks later, two patrol officers ran into Eddie on the street. They determined that he was  the man whom tipsters had identified in the Dukes murder and picked him up for questioning. However,  when the officers got back to the station, their supervisors

advised [ ] that Eddie was not wanted as a suspect. Defendant Ritz was contacted and advised that Eddie had scars on his neck consistent with the reports the Defendants had received that Eddie was scratched on his neck just prior to murdering Mr. Dukes. However, Defendant Ritz, after acknowledging that there was a witness that stated that Eddie was scratched in the neck by Mr. Dukes just prior to the shooting, advised Defendant Roney to release Eddie. Eddie was never questioned and there was never any DNA test ordered.

Despite the reports that Dukes scratched his killer before his death, scrapings from his fingernails were not tested for DNA. In Mables’ complaint, it was noted that the Baltimore Police Department routinely ordered the crime lab not to conduct DNA tests:

In at least nine homicide, sex assault and burglary cases, Baltimore police detectives instructed crime lab technicians not to follow up on convicted criminals’ DNA found on evidence at crime scenes because they determined it was not relevant to their investigations, police said.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has requested a complete review of cases handled by the lab, saying that prosecutors and defense attorneys need to be made aware of all the evidence police collect. 

But if the State had no forensic evidence linking Mable to the crime, no witnesses who saw him at the crime scene, and no evidence that he had any motive to kill Dukes, how did the State end up convicting Mable of Dukes’ murder? By inventing eyewitnesses. Two of them.

The first witness was Ms. Frazier. Early in the investigation, another woman informed the police that Frazier might know something about Dukes’ murder. Two months later, they

contacted Ms. Frazier, but she was not interested in meeting with them.  In the days that followed, the Defendants repeatedly phoned Ms. Frazier and, when it became clear that Ms. Frazier was ignoring the Defendants’ attempts, they began to stakeout her residence.

Eventually, staking out Ms. Frazier’s residence, the Defendants were able to pull her motor vehicle over to the side of the road on a cold, pitch-black, mid-November night. Upon information and belief, they searched it for any incriminating evidence and recovered a quantity of illegal narcotics. It is, however, unclear whether the quantity of narcotics belonged to Ms. Frazier or whether the Defendants planted them in her motor vehicle during their illegal search.

On the side of the road, as the night was quickly turning into the next day, Ms. Frazier was presented with mug shots in a photo book full of black and white copies of black men’s faces. She was given a choice, either she could identify someone in the photo book as Mr. Dukes’ shooter or she would be arrested for the possession of illegal narcotics recovered from her motor vehicle. Upon information and belief, Ms. Frazier also had her children in her motor vehicle, which the Defendants seized upon by warning her that if she were arrested, the Department of Social Services would be notified and would take the children away from her.

Under this high-pressure, high-stakes roadside interrogation by the detectives, Frazier eventually picked a photo out of the book they provided her — a photo that turned out to be that of Mable. However, Frazier “signed the picture of another black man ten minutes later, who was noticeably lighter, was not chubby, had hair that extended beyond his ears, and was approximately ten years older than Mr. Mable. That second man was Eddie and she was sure he was the shooter.”

The following day, Frazier was interviewed again, and this time her statement was recorded. However, her “stated recollections were so basic that anyone who knew even the most minuscule amount about Mr. Dukes’ murder could have come up with her story.” She also stated that she had not clearly seen Dukes’ killer, informing the detectives that, “I saw the shooter get out of the passenger side of a gold vehicle but didn’t get a good look.”

Despite Frazier’s identification of Eddie as the shooter, and her statement that she failed to clearly see the killer, Detective Ritz

testified before a grand jury that two witnesses had identified Mr. Mable, one of which was Ms. Frazier. However, not only did Ms. Frazier not make a positive identification of Mr. Mable, but rather she stated that she didn’t get a good look at the shooter and identified Eddie nonetheless. These three exculpatory statements and others made by Ms. Frazier were never disclosed to the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, or Mr. Mable’s attorney.

The second “eyewitness” was Taylor, another local woman. There was no evidence that Taylor was even a witness to Dukes’ murder, but the detectives made her an offer similar to the one they made Frazier: make an identification in the Dukes murder and you will not be arrested for possession of narcotics.

Taylor’s statement, however, did not match Frazier’s, and Taylor was unable to provide basic details concerning what she had witnessed:

Taylor stated that she was at a friend’s house, but had trouble indicating where it was . . . Taylor’s story started out with her looking out a window. Then, her story changed to her looking out a screen door that faced north on Round Road. She stated that she observed someone parking Mr. Dukes’ motor vehicle on Round Road and not drifting down a hill as was stated by Ms. Frazier. Then, Ms. Taylor stated that she left the screen door. Less than a minute later, she claimed to have heard a series of gunshots, which made her return to the screen door “and that is when [she] saw the guy in those pictures [she] had identified running away from the car. . . .

She was [ ] adamant that the shooter exited Mr. Dukes’ motor vehicle through the driver’s side door, which would have required the impossible task of climbing over Mr. Dukes, who was seated in the driver’s seat of the Vehicle, slumped over to the passenger side. In stark contrast, Ms. Frazier was sure that the shooter exited from the passenger side of the Vehicle.

[ ] Ms. Taylor’s identification of the shooter from the photo array should not be a surprise: “Mr. Dukes was killed, supplied him, the guy I just identified the photo of, Eddie, and the other dudes be on Bethune Road selling weed.”

Despite Taylor’s alleged refusal to identify Mable as Dukes’ killer, Ritz and the other officers falsely reported that Taylor had in fact positively identified Mable:

When Ms. Taylor still maintained that she did not see Mr. Mable exit Mr. Dukes’ motor vehicle, but rather Eddie, the Defendants resumed threatening Ms. Taylor with arrest and prosecution for the possession of illegal narcotics. The Defendants again suggested that Ms. Taylor could avoid arrest by saying that she had seen Mr. Mable with a gun exiting Mr. Dukes’ motor vehicle. When she repeatedly told the Defendants that she never saw Mr. Mable with a gun or at all, the Defendants continued to badger and threaten her, and became angry.

With a total disregard for the truth, the Defendants reported that Ms. Taylor told them that she did in fact see Mr. Mable exit Mr. Dukes’ motor vehicle with a gun. The Defendants deliberately suppressed the fact that they had apprehended her, had lied to her to get her to say that she had seen Mr. Dukes’ shooter, had pressured and coerced her to make an identification of the shooter, which unfortunately for the Defendants happened to be Eddie, and lied in their report that Ms. Taylor positively identified Mr. Mable.

In the face of the prosecution’s claim that it had two strong eyewitnesses linking Mable to the crime — and due to the State’s failure to disclose the volumes of Brady material that showed the case against Mable was an illusion — Mable pled guilty to the murder, likely on the advice of his court-appointed attorney.

Why did Ritz and the other officers go to such lengths to incarcerate a man against whom they had no evidence? The charges against Mable do not seem to have been personal. Rather, it appears he was selected as the suspect in Dukes’ murder because Frazier happened to pick his photo out of the photo book Ritz and Hastings presented her with, even though Frazier would instead identify Eddie as the killer a few moments later. Ultimately, as Mable alleges in his complaint, the detectives decided to go ahead and prosecute Mable because “[t]he most important criteria for [the investigation] was that Eddie not be prosecuted.” Although Mable does not outright state as much, what the described circumstances seem to be point at is that “Eddie” was a confidential informant — and a highly valued one at that.

Sabein Burgess

Sabein Burgess was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1995 and spent 19 years in prison before successfully proving his innocence in 2014. Last week, he filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims against members of the Baltimore Police Department involved in securing his conviction. Three of the defendants named in Burgess’ suit should be familiar to those following Adnan’s case: Detective Ritz, Sergeant Detective Lehmann, and criminalist Van Gelder. (It is worth noting that Lehmann was also involved in the Mable investigation.)

On the evening of October 5, 1994, Sabein Burgess left the home he shared with his girlfriend, Dyson, and her four children. When he returned, he found his girlfriend’s body in the basement. She had been shot multiple times. Burgess ran to tell a neighbor to call 911 before returning to try to assist Dyson by clearing blood from her airway. Minutes later,

. . . police arrived at the home in the 2700 block of Barclay St., and found the house’s basement door ajar with the smell of gunpowder wafting up the stairs, according to court documents. An officer ordered Burgess, who was downstairs with Dyson, to come out with his hands where the policeman could see them. Burgess was cuffed and his hands were swabbed for gunshot residue.

The crime scene technician “swabbed the inside of the palms of both of [Burgess’]  hands.” Burgess was then

taken to the police station where he was interrogated by the Officer Defendants. During that interrogation, the Officer Defendants told Plaintiff that he was going away for murder. When Plaintiff denied any responsibility for the crime, the Officer Defendants told him that they would find people to say that Plaintiff fired the gun that killed his girlfriend.

With no evidence linking him to the crime, Burgess was released. However, one month later, Daniel Van Gelder, of the Trace Analysis Unit, issued his findings from the  gunshot residue (“GSR”) analysis, and concluded that GSR had been found on Burgess’ hands. Based on this forensic evidence, Burgess was arrested.

Van Gelder’s forensic findings and trial testimony were inaccurate and misleading for two primary reasons:

First, Defendant Van Gelder’s falsely reported that GSR swabs were taken from the “webbing” of Plaintiff’s hands – between the back of the thumbs and forefingers. But the “webbing” of Plaintiff’s hands were not swabbed; instead, the technician swabbed the inside of the palms of Plaintiff’s hands. That lie was important because Defendant Van Gelder used it to falsely state that the GSR results showed that Defendant either fired a gun or was adjacent to a gun that was fired. According to Defendant Van Gelder, there could be no other reason for GSR to show up on that part of Plaintiff’s hands.

Second, Defendant Van Gelder also falsely stated that any positive GSR finding from Plaintiff’s hands could not have been the result of the transfer of GSR particles from Ms. Dyson to Plaintiff when Plaintiff was cradling her in his hands after she was shot. That statement was not only patently false, but also had no legitimate basis in science.

The Burgess complaint notes that, in other cases handled by Van Gelder, his results had been similarly distorted so as to strengthen the significance of his findings:

[I]n the case of Tyrone Jones, the Laboratory misrepresented the findings of GSR testing. Defendant Van Gelder stated that he found 17 unique particles when in fact only one particle was found.

These issues go far beyond Van Gelder, however. In 2004,

[Baltimore Crime Laboratory] director Edward Koch, Sr. stated that only people who have fired guns will have unique gunshot particles in the web of their hands, an organizational belief that finds no support in legitimate science.

Even after GSR testing was moved to headquarters [and away from stations that had live firing ranges] an internal audit showed that the cleaning bucket, floor in the testing room and a police officer’s handcuffs all had GSR particles on them.

Unless that cleaning bucket had recently fired a weapon, the Trace Analysis Unit should have known that its expansive conclusions about the significance of GSR residue were not scientifically sound. Nevertheless, even in 2005, Detective Massey was still repeating the false claim that “the presence of gunshot residue [is] proof that [a defendant] fired a gun [or] was in close proximity at the time [a] weapon was fired.”

Because the detectives failed to find any evidence other than the GSR test that linked Burgess to the murder, the State’s case against Burgess ultimately boiled down to two facts: (1) Burgess was the victim’s boyfriend; and (2) he had the greatest opportunity to commit the crime. In other words, the prosecution’s theory of the case was “of course the boyfriend did it, who else would have?” A key component of the State’s success in securing Burgess’ conviction was its disregard for due process and Brady, by withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense. Although an eyewitness — Dyson’s son — had told police on the night of the murder that Burgess was not responsible, the police falsely reported that all of the children were  asleep at the time of the offense:

Notwithstanding their threats to Plaintiff, as early as the night of the murder, the Officer Defendants knew that Plaintiff was innocent.

That night, the Officer Defendants spoke to Ms. Dyson’s children. Ms. Dyson’s son came out of his bedroom after he heard someone at the door. Ms. Dyson’s son told the Officer Defendants that he then saw someone barge into their home right before his mother was killed. The Officer Defendants asked Ms. Dyson’s son if that person was Ms. Dyson’s boyfriend. Ms. Dyson’s son told the Defendants that it was not Plaintiff.

Despite the obvious exculpatory value of this statement, it was never disclosed to the prosecutor or to Plaintiff or his criminal defense lawyer.

Because Ms. Dyson’s children had just lost their mother, their grandmother did not let them see or speak to Plaintiff or his criminal defense attorney.

Instead of disclosing the exculpatory information provided to them by Ms. Dyson’s son, the Officer Defendants fabricated police reports stating that all of Ms. Dyson’s children were asleep at the time of the shooting and therefore did not see anything. Based on the Defendants’ false statements, the prosecutor repeated that false narrative in her opening and closing statements at Plaintiff’s criminal trial.

Following a two-day trial, Burgess was convicted of Dyson’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. Two years later, in October 1998, one of the real perpetrators of Ms. Dyson’s murder, Charles Dorsey, wrote a letter confessing to the crime. Dorsey stated that Plaintiff was doing time for a murder that he had committed. Dorsey repeated that admission several times in letters to Plaintiff’s criminal defense attorney and acknowledged that by doing so, he could face charges for first-degree murder.

Eventually, Detective Ritz decided he ought to interview the man who kept confessing to Dyson’s murder:

Nearly one year later, Defendant Ritz and another Baltimore police detective interviewed Dorsey but did no additional follow-up because, according to their report, Dorsey’s confession lacked details that the real killer would know.

That claim, however, was patently false. For example, Dorsey not only told the Detectives about the caliber of weapon used, but also the correct number and location of the gunshot wounds sustained. Dorsey also correctly told Defendant Ritz that he removed a safe with money and personal papers from a second-story bedroom.

According to Dorsey, he and another person, Howard Rice, were the sole perpetrators of the Dyson homicide; Rice forced his way into Ms. Dyson’s home with Dorsey following later behind, and they both shot and killed her in her basement.

Detective Ritz was either so incompetent that he could not catch a murderer who was confessing to the crime, or else so corrupt that he believed Dorsey’s confession but decided to sweep it under the rug because he did not want to have a successful (albeit false) conviction reversed.

The fact that Ritz already had evidence implicating Rice in Dyson’s murder — a fact corroborated by Dorsey’s repeated confessions — suggests that the latter explanation may be the more accurate of the two:

Even before Dorsey confessed, the Defendants were well aware of Howard Rice’s involvement in the Dyson murder. In fact, the Officer Defendants knew of Rice’s culpability before Plaintiff was even convicted.

For example, in 1996, the Officer Defendants questioned an unrelated witness about whether Rice was responsible for the Dyson shooting.

Of course, the police never disclosed to Burgess’ defense that they suspected Rice’s involvement in the murder, just as they failed to disclose the exculpatory statements made by Dyson’s son.

Rodney Addison

In 1998, Rodney Addison was convicted of the murder of Lewis Jackson, who was shot while sitting in his car in October 1996. MacGillivary was one of the detectives responsible for the investigation into Lewis’ murder.

Addison was identified as a suspect when a witness who claimed to have seen the shooting through her apartment window picked his photo out of a photo array.  He was released in October 2005, after nine years’ imprisonment, when it was discovered that the State had withheld exculpatory witness statements:

[T]hree witness statements contradicting the testimony of the state’s sole witness, Frances Morgan, were obtained by Baltimore police during their initial investigation. Yet they had not been released to Addison prior to his trial. A Public Information Act request for all police documents in Addison’s case led to disclosure of the exculpatory statements. In October 2005 Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Edward Hargadon ordered a new trial. He said the state’s failure to disclose the three exculpatory witness statements “undermined the confidence of the entire verdict.” Two months later, the Baltimore State’s Attorney Office dismissed the murder charge, stating they did not have the evidence or witnesses to pursue another trial. The dismissal resulted in Addison’s release. 

Although the State’s Attorney’s Office has insisted that “that the ruling for a new trial did not represent exoneration,” the State’s only witness recanted her testimony against Addison at a post-conviction proceeding:

[The court] ruled that the state did not disclose three witness statements that contradicted the sole witness they put on the stand – Frances Morgan, who testified that she saw the shooting through a window in her apartment. . . .

But she couldn’t see the Springhill Avenue murder scene from the window, and she didn’t see it, she would acknowledge years later, first to defense attorneys and then in court.

Addison suspected this all along. He raised this point at his 1998 trial. “I think I can prove that the witness was lying on the stand yesterday when she said she looked out her window,” he blurted out to Judge Roger W. Brown on March 23, 1998, two days before he was convicted.

Defense attorneys visiting the scene years later would evaluate the window and determine that it was not physically feasible to see the car from that window.

Morgan and her mother testified in a post-conviction hearing that she did not see the murder and was getting high on cocaine at that time.

In addition to Morgan, two out of three witnesses whose original statements were not given to the initial defense attorney were interviewed and testified in post-conviction hearings.

One man, Ernest Green, testified to witnessing the shooting, asserting that Addison was not the man he saw that day.

And yet, despite the fact that the State’s only evidence against Addison was an eyewitness who did not actually see the murder, the State’s Attorney’s Office still went on the record stating that the dismissal of the charges against Addison “did not represent exoneration.”

Similarities Between the Investigation Into Hae’s Murder and the Mable, Burgess, and Addison Cases

The investigatory practices that were employed in the Mable, Burgess, and Addison cases are strongly reminiscent of those in the Hae Min Lee investigation.  In each case, the police decided on a suspect on the basis of flimsy evidence and prior assumptions and then conducted an investigation aimed at proving that suspect guilty, even in the face of exculpatory evidence that should have alerted investigators to their errors.

Failing to Test DNA and other Trace Evidence

As highlighted in Mable’s civil complaint, the Baltimore Police Department regularly instructed the forensics lab not to test evidence that the police feared might “complicate” their investigation. This practice of failing to test seemingly relevant DNA evidence was also followed in the investigation into Hae’s murder. At the burial site in Leakin Park, investigators found a brandy bottle a mere 8 inches away from Hae’s body and a rope only 5 inches away. Despite the presence of human epithelial cells on the brandy bottle, the DNA was never tested. Similarly, although the rope was a potential murder weapon, the police ordered it held without testing. Later, that rope seems to have gone missing, as it failed to turn up during an evidence review, and it is unclear if it was ever located thereafter.

When a body is found in a wooded area that is isolated from foot traffic, and a rope and a liquor bottle are found within inches of that body, testing any DNA receovered from those items should have been common sense. Especially so in this case, as it did not involve a situation in which there was so much trash around the crime scene that police were unable to sort what was relevant from what was not. There is no record of any other trash found within 120 feet of the body; everything else collected from the Leakin Park crime scene was found along the roadside.

2b. Burial Site - Diagram

Although Urick — through the use of leading (and misleading) questions — tried to create the impression that the burial site was a trash-strewn rubbish heap, this is belied by the evidentiary record. The only pieces of trash in between the “no dumping” sign and the creek that are shown in the record or identified by any witness are the brandy bottle and the rope. There is no record of any non-organic materials anywhere in the vicinity of the body that were not collected either by the BPD (the bottle, rope) or the military team (trace evidence).

Any reasonable person who observed the crime scene should have concluded that there was a high probability that both the rope and the brandy bottle were related to Hae’s murder. And yet, in conjunction with State’s Attorney’s Office, Ritz and MacGillivary decided that the rope and brandy bottle — much like Dukes’ fingernails in the Burgess case — should not be tested, even though it was conclusively shown that DNA samples were present on at least one of the items, and possibly both:

On Monday, 29 March 1999 at 0900 hours, this investigator continued with the above captioned investigation and met with supervisors and technicians from the Trace Analysis Unit and Latent Print Division. During the meeting with each respective unit, all of the evidence was carefully reviewed. During the afternoon hours, a meeting was held at the Violent Crimes Division of the States Attorney’s Office. Those attendance were A.SA Division Chief, Mr. Mark Cohen, Team Captains, A.SA Ms. Ilene Nathan, A.SA Donald Giblin and AS.A Ms. Vickie Wash. The purpose of the meeting was to review and discuss all facets of the investigation, past, present and future in preparation for the indictment phase of the criminal proceedings against defendant, Adnan Syed.

Similarly, the investigators recovered at least three hairs from Hae’s car that were never even used for analysis, or examined to determine if they might be suitable for DNA testing. They likewise failed to conduct any forensic tests to determine whether or not Hae’s body had ever been placed in the trunk of her car or Adnan’s.

Although there does not appear to have been any fabrication of forensic evidence in Adnan’s case, the crime lab’s handling of the evidence was still concerning. Take, for instance, the testimony of the criminalist with the crime lab who performed much of the forensic analysis that was presented at trial:

Bianca: I inadvertently got some fibers mixed in with my hairs, and when I wrote the report, because somebody said, hey, hurry up and get this report done, we are going to trial soon, I had all my hairs separated which I needed some extra time to do, separated. I didn’t have any fibers other than the red fibers that I found in the body bag that I gave to Mr. VanGelder. When I looked, I thought, oh, I have all my hairs to do, and in there I had fibers. That’s why I needed to correct my initial report. I had hairs and I had some fibers mixed in with my hairs. When I cleaned them up to do my comparison, I realized, oh, darn, I wrote down I didn’t get any fibers but I have fibers. So I wrote a report. I could have tossed them away but that’s not the right thing to do. So I wrote a correction and said, look, I have to correct the initial report, I found some fibers. (2/01/00 Tr. 183-185) (emphasis added).

I suppose the criminalist should be commended for deciding against the casual destruction of evidence, but his testimony, combined with the series of other errors and inconsistencies in the other laboratory reports, does not inspire confidence in the forensic analysis that was performed in this case.

Offering Deals That Can’t Be Refused

When asked why he agreed to help Adnan bury Hae’s body, Jay told the Intercept that it was “[b]ecause at the time I was convinced that I would be going to jail for a long time if he turned me in for drug dealing, especially to high school kids.” Jay’s explanation is nonsensical; someone that you know committed murder is not going to turn you in on a drug charge. His answer makes sense, however, if understood as an explanation for why he told the cops he helped Adnan with the burial: he was convinced he would be going to jail for a long time if he was prosecuted for drug dealing.

Jay was forthright about this fact in his Intercept interview. He explained that he only agreed to talk once the police assured him that he would not be prosecuted for any drug-related offenses:

Well first of all, I wasn’t openly willing to cooperate with the police. It wasn’t until they made it clear they weren’t interested in my ‘procurement’ of pot that I began to open up any. And then I would only give them information pertaining to my interaction with someone or where I was. They had to chase me around before they could corner me to talk to me, and there came a point where I was just sick of talking to them. And they wouldn’t stop interviewing me or questioning me. I wasn’t fully cooperating, so if they said, ‘Well, we have on phone records that you talked to Jenn.’ I’d say, ‘Nope, I didn’t talk to Jenn.’ Until Jenn told me that she talked with the cops and that it was ok if I did too.

I stonewalled them that way. No — until they told me they weren’t trying to prosecute me for selling weed. . . That’s the best way I can account for the inconsistencies. Once the police made it clear that my drug dealing wasn’t gonna affect the outcome of what was going on, I became a little bit more transparent.

Jay’s account is a familiar one; it closely matches the description of the witness-identification (and witness-intimidation) techniques that Detective Ritz employed in the Mable case. In that case, you’ll recall, it  was alleged that the detectives “contacted Ms. Frazier, but she was not interested in meeting with them. In the days that followed, the [detectives] repeatedly phoned Ms. Frazier and, when it became clear that Ms. Frazier was ignoring the [detectives’] attempts, they began to stakeout her residence.” After staking out her home, they were able to make a traffic stop, where Frazier was given a choice: identify a murderer, or be arrested for narcotics.

Following Jay’s agreement to talk on February 28th, it appears that Jay did receive favorable treatment with regards to pending charges against him. On January 27, 1999, Jay had been arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but on March 5, 1999 — just five days after giving his first recorded statement to Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary — a stet was entered. A stet is, in effect, a conditional dismissal of a charge; the prosecutor agrees not to prosecute, but reserves the right to re-open charges at any time within the next year should the defendant fail to abide by the conditions imposed by the stet.

Following Adnan’s trial, Jay’s continued imperviousness to criminal charges is remarkable. In all, since he became a witness in Hae’s murder, 25 different charges against him — including a half dozen assault charges — have been nolled or otherwise dismissed by the prosecution. Moreover, despite repeatedly violating the terms of his probation for  the charge of  accessory after the fact to murder, the probation violations were dismissed. (In fact, his conviction for accessory after the fact is oddly absent from the records checks performed in connection with later arrests.)

Concluding that Witnesses Are Irrelevant Without a Legitimate Basis

In the Burgess case, Ritz interviewed Charles Dorsey, one of the men responsible for the Dyson’s murder. Although Dorsey confessed to the crime and provided a detailed description of how the murder had been committed, Ritz wrote up a report that dismissed Dorsey’s statements as irrelevant. Ritz “did no additional follow-up [with Dorsey] because, according to the[ ] report, Dorsey’s confession lacked details that the real killer would know.”

In the Mable case, Ritz did not directly interview the man that numerous witnesses had identified as Dukes’ killer. However, when other officers brought Eddie in for an interview, Ritz ordered the officers to release him, even though the officers had informed Ritz that Eddie had injuries consistent with witness reports about the events leading up to Dukes’ death:

Defendant Ritz was contacted and advised that Eddie had scars on his neck consistent with the reports the Defendants had received that Eddie was scratched on his neck just prior to murdering Mr. Dukes. However, Defendant Ritz, after acknowledging that there was a witness that stated that Eddie was scratched in the neck by Mr. Dukes just prior to the shooting, advised Defendant Roney to release Eddie. Eddie was never questioned and there was never any DNA test ordered.

It does not appear that Ritz ever provided an explanation for why he ordered Eddie to be released without being interviewed, even though: (1) Dukes’ family believed Eddie was responsible; (2) a witness told police that Eddie was bragging about the murder; (3) “[numerous sources reporting]  that Eddie’s neck was scratched in an altercation with Mr. Dukes just prior to when Eddie murdered him in cold blood”; and (4) an anonymous caller told the police, “I know who shot someone in Cherry Hill and his name is Eddie.”

This unexplained (and inexplicable) dismissal of relevant witnesses is a pattern that was also present in the investigation into Hae’s murder. For instance, on the day it was announced that Hae’s body had been found, a potential witness — Mr. A —  walked into the Woodlawn police station and told them he had seen a young man acting suspiciously near concrete barriers in Leakin Park. Detective Ritz and Sergeant Lehmann were sent to interview Mr. A, but failed to record the substance of Mr. A’s statement. Instead, their report provided only a few sparse details about the witness interview, and then concluded — without any explanation whatsoever — that what Mr. A had seen “[wa]s not connected to the murder of Hae Lee.”

In several instances, Ritz interviewed witnesses who were materially relevant to the State’s case, but then failed to disclose any details of what those witnesses said. For example, after receiving a witness report on April 28, 1999 about “Neighbor Boy” — and how he had informed his neighbor Laura that he had “personally s[een] Hae Lee’s body in the trunk of a vehicle” — the detectives waited over three months before interviewing him. They then dismissed Neighbor Boy as having no relevance to the case, even though Laura’s report about his statements included details about the case that were not publicly disclosed at that time.

In still other instances, the detectives inexplicably failed to interview witnesses who should have been a top priority to the investigation. For instance, although Jay and Jenn told the police that they had informed five different individuals about Hae’s murder prior to their police interviews, only one of those individuals — Jeff J., Cathy’s boyfriend — was ever interviewed by the police, and the notes from that interview, like the notes from the Neighbor Boy interview, were not preserved in the case file. The other four individuals that Jay and Jenn claim to have told about the murder — Chris, Tayyib, Nicole, and Josh — were never interviewed at all, or if they were, no record of those interviews was kept. Similarly, although Debbie reported that a classmate, ‘Takera,’ had asked Hae for a ride on the afternoon of January 13th, the police records do not indicate that Takera was ever interviewed by the police. Ritz and MacGillivary likewise failed to contacted anyone who lived near (or parked in) the vacant lot where Hae’s car was found, even though those witnesses could potentially have had valuable information concerning how long the car had been parked there, or perhaps even who had left it there in the first place.

There is good reason to be skeptical of these odd lacunae in the investigatory records. In the Burgess case, for instance, the police fabricated a police report which falsely claimed that there had been no witnesses to Dyson’s murder. In fact, there had been a witness to the murder, and the witness said the killer was not Burgess. The police notes concerning that witness statement were disappeared, however, and a false police report was written that claimed the witness was asleep at the time of the murder.

As a result, with Adnan’s case, that leaves us with two possibilities. It is possible that, in investigating Hae’s murder, the police simply did not bother to take notes when they spoke to Jeff J., Neighbor Boy, and Patrice (Patrick’s sister, whom Jay claimed he spoke to when he called Patrick after the murder). If so, that was inexcusable police work. It is also possible, however, that notes of those interviews were taken — in which case those notes were withheld from the defense, presumably for the same reasons that the statements of Dyson’s son were withheld in the Burgess case.


105 thoughts on “Serial: The Above Average Investigations of Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary

  1. I’m floored. I hope you get this post to The Baltimore Sun, Mayor Rawlings-Blake office, and whoever else can address the problems within BPD, as well as force the detectives to face as much punishment as possible. A great piece of writing. You should be incredibly proud.

    As an aside, my estimation of the chances the detectives fed Jay the location of the car just went from unlikely to “Jay ‘knowing’ the location of Hae’s car is now meaningless.”

    • It is such a headache figuring out who is credible and who isn’t. I do not envy the people trying to sort out the truth.

      Police may have coached Jay as to whereabouts of car, But then Neighbour Boy and Hae’s car location near Patrick’s house (who he happened to call around the time of Hae’s disappearance) does seem to suggest that Jay knows more than what he is being coached, no…? And how did they find it, if not through Jay?

      The legal system is terrifying.

      • Jay and Adnan called a bunch of people all over a ~3 mile radius of Woodlawn High School. The fact that Hae’s car was found “near” the location of where one of those calls was received isn’t strong evidence that Jay or Adnan ditched the car there.

        “And how did they find it?” It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to imagine a neighbor complaining about the car being abandoned there or a policeman noticing it–possibly because they were told to be on the lookout for that Silver Sentra or because he noticed it parked in the same spot after many days and when going to write a ticket (Baltimore’s “abandoned car” violation is draconian. A car is considered “abandoned” and a $300 fine given if your car is parked on public property and not moved within 3? 5? days) and the plates came up in the computer as something like “contact homicide unit immediately.”

        • The question of whether her there is evidence that Jay wS actually involved is an interesting one and would be great if this question is addressed in a blog postdown the road.

          Now, I am not saying that anything zi wrote in my previous post is proof of his involvement, just that I wouldn’t let him off as a coerced witness just yet. Jen was also the one who originally pointed police to Jay as a witness to Hae’s murder and gave a preliminary version of events. She did so with a lawyer (?) and her Mom present, if I recall, so less likely a possibility of coercion I would think. Plus, in that first statement and thereafter she consistently gave Jay an alibi at a time when there is evidence suggesting that he was not actually at her place (he called her house), presumably to protect him. This is all before Jay was even in direct touch with the police and before he could have been coached (unless this was all well -orchestrated in the days before statements were formally taken).

          Add to that phone call to a person who lives very close to where Hae’s car was found, around the time at which there is consensus she was killed….? Meh. I just can’t discount the idea that Jay had no involvement at all.

          Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to work through it myself.

          • When did Jay call Nisha from porn shop using Adnan’s cell phone? Did it happen before police called Jenn? That call could have been a deliberate attempt to frame Adnan. If so, Jay (or someone else who asked Jay to make that call) must have known about the cell phone records before that. If you think about it, that supposed call to Nisha was the only ‘evidence’ that showed Adnan was with Jay at the park. All other calls only prove that Jay had the phone and doesn’t necessarily mean Adnan was with him. My hunch is that Jay knew about the general outline of the ‘conspiracy’ by then.

    • Thank you for doing this and sharing it with us all. I “enjoyed” the Serial Podcast (it is weird to say that when people’s lives have been so horribly affected) and I have appreciated your thorough investigation. I find the questions you are asking, how you are searching for evidence, and the way you explain it all more satisfying than the Serial Podcast. I am appalled by how shoddily this whole case has been handled and I am very concerned that this happens more often than not. Again, thank you. I hope that what you and others are doing will have a satisfying, just, fair result- that Hae Min Lee’s true murderer will be found and prosecuted. And, will get a fair trial too.

    • Could not have said it better myself. After reading this, it’s clear to me that feeding Jay the car’s location in order to bolster his credibility as a witness–such a move wouldn’t be remotely out of the ordinary in the day-to-day repertoire of investigative tactics these detectives used. I’m absolutely floored.

  2. This is infuriating. Seriously, a cold blood murderer is more honest than 3 guys from the police department? What the fuck is wrong with these people? It’s like they don’t care about anything or anyone! Honestly, they’re like a team of villains. How do you justify such behavior to yourself? Are the sadistic psychos or what?! I am besides myself with rage.

    • Given the record of the BPD as outlined here (and elsewhere, if you’re willing to look), I don’t know that I’d tout their credibility over anyone’s.

  3. Is any of the physical evidence from Hae’s murder still available for testing.? The hairs,fibers, bottle? I know from Serial that The Innocence Project is testing the PERK, but is any of this other evidence still around? I also keep going back to Jim Trainem (sic) sayimg he was surprised that the police never searched Jay’s house. In my experience (granted, I live in NY) the cops are ready to search anything and everything they can, regardless of the legality of the search.

    With this blog, you have gone above the question of Adnan’s guilt or innocence, but rather exposed the depth of the very real fear that all of us should have of these authorities and their very real power to use that authority against the people. Who watches the Watchmen?

    • I haven’t heard anything about whether the evidence in this case was ever located. I know it was reported by the police in about 2010 that they no longer had it, but that doesn’t mean it really isn’t there somewhere. Hopefully it’s still hanging out on a shelf somewhere, and can be located.

    • The police may not have searched Jay’s house out of fear that it could compromise his willingness/ability to testify. Were they to find marijuana, for instance, would they not have to arrest someone living there?

      • Contrary to that theory, it seems the MO of the Baltimore police at the time (specifically Sgt. Ritz) was to “find” evidence of criminal activity by a prospective witness and use it to coerce them into testifying against their suspect (or IDing him from a book of mug shots). If the cops didn’t already have enough leverage on Jay to make him their puppet, I suspect they would have searched his house/car for drugs until they “found” some and used it as leverage.

    • Look on YouTube for the speech of the professor who headed that Innocence project and and combine it with her Time magazine interview. In the Time magazine interview she said she there was a bottle and a rule that was not tested. She went to the prison and asked Adnan if he wanted it tested. She didn’t want to give him 45 minutes to answer. Complete silence on the issue in Rabia’s reports. On YouTube she answers the question, if the defendant does not want the evidence tested the Innocence project quietly withdraws.

  4. This is absolutely stunning work. My blood is boiling. This really should be front page news, but the only person who can make time to report on it is a DC lawyer writing on the nights and weekends?

    “His answer makes sense, however, if understood as an explanation for why he told the cops he helped Adnan with the burial: he was convinced he would be going to jail for a long time if he was prosecuted for drug dealing.”

    Susan, where do you stand on the “Jay is a big time drug dealer” story? After listening to Serial again, I was really struck by the number of people who casually admit that “Jay lies” about…pretty much everything. In one of his early statements to the police, he’s talking about his years of harassment and arrests by cops (which does sound believable) and he mentions having *helicopters* called on him one time, implying that they are circling his grandmother’s house when the police pull up, draw their guns, and throw him onto the grand. HELICOPTERS.

    I don’t buy that Jay was personally involved in any significant amount of drug transactions. The kid has no cell phone, no pager (apparently), no car, not even a steady place to live, and he works the graveyard shift at a porn store in addition to other menial jobs. He is such a heavy drug trafficker that he’d risk being an accessory to murder to avoid the *possibility* of being ratted on, and yet on the day in question they spend most of their free time calling up various people to buy weed. (By the way, if you *were* driving around trying to buy weed on that day, naming 4 or 5 people you typically call for weed would be a really, really bad idea. Of all the lies he tells, surely he can lie about who he’s buying weed from? Why does he have to mention so many different people?) And when he does buy weed, he’s buying dime bags?

    I’ve never known any huge drug dealers, but I knew dozens of people who sold small amounts of weed. They: (a) *always* had weed, (b) when they bought, they never bought trivial amounts like dimes, and (c) they weren’t rolling driving Ferraris, but they did have a lot more money than the rest of us who worked crappy $6/hr jobs.

    I’m sure you’ve considered the idea that Jay was, in fact, a CI? That would explain *a lot* about his white glove treatment. (And if, like me, you don’t think Jay is a serious drug dealer, then his cooperation isn’t compensation for ignoring drug distribution.) I’m guessing you’ve considered this idea, but you’re not the kind to make wild accusations. So I’ll phrase this in a less outlandish way: is there any evidence that indicates that he is NOT a CI?

    • The day jobs of drug dealers can be a strange thing. A friend of mine who was a fairly big-time drug dealer worked a minimum wage job at a pizza place and drove a brand new Lotus Exige to that job (that’s a $60k car) while living with his Dad and paying his mortgage. He just like making pizzas between selling big bags of coke. He was definitely making bank, yet still worked 5-8 hours a day making pizzas…

      As for the “Helicopters and Dogs” thing from Jay, there may very well have been a helicopter and he is just overstating his involvement. There was a huge fight in a park down the street from my high school over 10 years ago a couple weeks after a murder of a recent grad (ruled a “Russian Roulette” suicide…during a drug deal…) involving friends of the murdered kid and was supposedly over the murder – and everyone went to see it – there were probably more than 100 people there. There was a police helicopter called in and dozens of people were arrested, questioned, and taken home without charges. I happened to run faster than others and wasn’t arrested, but I can say I was “chased by a police helicopter”, probably in the same way Jay was – It’s of course BS, but police like to play with their toys and high school kids like to overstate how “badass” they are.

    • The “Jay-as-big-time-drug-dealer” thing actually I think is more understanding what a real drug dealer is. I think all this sounds normal – one week you might be able to procure any amount of various qualities/products – the next week the same guy isn’t answering his phone and you are back to diggering around for $10 or $20-sacks from a random group of stoners you might know.

      And then a week or two later you might be back to hooking up with decent quantities. There is an ebb&flow to drug dealing like this that sounds very normal to me.

      And I don’t think Jay was calling five or six “dealers” I think he was calling around to kids playing Tony Hawk on a pizza/bong-water strewn apartments looking for a spare spot of smoke.

      The idea that Jay always was messing around with weed or whatever, and then might be randomly out of cash/looking for a dime sounds like the ups and downs of real-life small-time dealing.

      Not than I’m a huge fan of Steven Levitt or anything, but the Freakonmics author did a chapter on this: “Why crack dealers live with thier mom’s”

      I think Jay could have several pounds of cannabis go through his hands on month-over-month basis and still be broke and looking around for a dime bag on some random day.

      And Jay is *definitely* a CI.

  5. The level of dishonesty and corruption didn’t end with these three cases. If it happened to them, of course it also happened in Adnans case.

    Ritz and MacGillivary are almost certainly posters on Reddit still try to spread misinformation. Seamus (Mac)Duncan perhaps? Wtfsherlock?

    One of the things that never made sense to me in Adnans case was why would someone who just killed for the first time, be willing to go get high and then drive the victims car around, knowing full well the police are looking for that car, and just got done talking to you asking if you have seen this person!

    • I had that very same thought about Seamus Duncan. His rabid desperation to prove Adnan’s guilt is bizarre. It really seems personal.
      I have no doubt that if Ritz, McGilivary, Urick et al, are not actively posting to Reddit, they are at least following the posts. I hope they are all very worried. I like to imagine Urick curled up under his desk in a fetal position.

    • Seamus_Duncan is also Jim Gordon. I see he just copies and pastes his Reddit posts as comments on other Serial related blogs. It’s all a bit too much of a coincidence.

        • I think Jim Gordon is the subreddit poster going by the name of GothamJustice. The writing styles are very similar.

          • I thought the same thing. Gotham Justice = Jim Gordon. James Gordon is the name of the (Gotham) Police Commissioner in Batman. But, who knows, right.

          • Compare how Jim Gordon describes Susan’s legal experience on the riverdaughter blog and how GothamJustice describes Susan’s legal experience on the subreddit. You will see similar use of capitalization to stress a point and a similar use of parentheses.

            There are also some similarities in capitalization, punctuation and use of terms in the description of “the Woodlawn Strangler” in a response to one of Colin’s blog posts and in a subreddit post where GothamJustice discusses “the Woodlawn Strangler”.

          • I’ve noticed the similarities in the writing style, but the creepy “Woodlawn Strangler” crap was what tipped me in that direction.

          • Jim Gordon is the name of the police commissioner in Batman and Gotham is the city Batman lives in so I’m sure they are connected. Not very clever.

          • There is also a new redditor going by the name of AnnaKarina1940 who has a similar writing style and similarly personal vendetta against Asia McClain that Seamus has.

  6. Mark,

    I also believe that is true about Jay. He agrees to give up some people, he sneaks home, his pro-bono attorney selected by Urick whispers “Thank you” to the judge when he let’s Jay go with no jail time…

  7. Superb work, Susan. Can we force Frosh to read this? The stunning realization of the depths to which these “investigators” went to hide, ignore and falsify evidence and falsely convict innocent people makes one wonder….. How many more are there? This goes beyond just Adnan now. Far beyond.

    • Rabia sent a tweet to Frosh last night with a link to Susan’s post.

      “@rabiasquared: .@BrianFrosh as Attorney General of MD you must read this post and your office must take it seriously: #FreeAdnan”

      Maybe we should all do the same. A media campaign to make him acknowledge and address it.

  8. Another dishonourable mention for Ritz although minor compared to the cases Susan has just exposed.

    Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
    Brian Christopher COOPER v. STATE of Maryland.
    No. 1353, Sept. Term, 2003.
    Decided: July 6, 2005
    We conclude that the case before us is the “infrequent case” to which Justice Kennedy referred, “in which the two-step interrogation technique was used in a calculated way to undermine the Miranda warning.” Seibert, 124 S.Ct. at 2616. Like the interrogating officer in Seibert, Detective Ritz made a conscious decision to withhold Miranda warnings until appellant gave a statement implicating himself in the crime. Moreover, the second, warned statement followed on the heels of the unwarned statement, without any curative measures designed to ensure that a reasonable person in appellant’s position “would understand the import and effect of the Miranda warning․” Id. We hold, therefore, that appellant’s post-warned statement violated Miranda and should not have been admitted at his trial.

  9. Another great post. Also wonderful interview on The Docket. It was much more organized this time and the experts were able to corroborate a lot of the things that you and Rabia have questioned. I’m very excited about the new podcast. I have read every one of the posts on all three blogs and can’t wait to hear the three of you discussing the case! Keep up the good work! P.s. I think you should consider a videocast with the ME from The Docket. He was a hoot!

  10. How does the rate at which prosecution dismisses their cases compare to other homicide investigators? Or is that irrelevant because the whole system is a mess?

    • In one of the complaints, it gives a 10% figure, but I don’t know the source of that stat. If it really was 10% for the rest of the Homicide Unit, though, then Ritz’s numbers were waaaaay above that.

  11. I remember very early on someone suggesting Jay may have been a confidential informant, and thinking that was a bit of a stretch. And while I am still not absolutely convinced that is the case, it does seem about a thousand times more likely in light of these other cases.

  12. Amazing summary of those cases Susan. One derivative issue that jumped out at me as someone who is a new public defender….

    Mable’s PD deserves to be on the wall of shame with Ritz and McGillivary. You don’t fucking wait around for the police to tell you that the hearsay evidence offered to the grand jury is bullshit, you figure it out yourself. If Mable’s PD had bothered to contact those two witnesses before (likely) bullying his client into taking that plea, he would have saved him 13 years in jail.

    Some defense lawyers seem to believe their job is do little more than bully a client into taking whatever shitty plea offer is on the table.

    • Yes! Or what about the attorney for Addison? How does a defense attorney not find out that an eyewitness cannot see the incident from her window until post conviction?

    • Well, not necessarily. They should certainly be fired if they still work for the PD in any capacity, they should lose their pensions, and they should be ineligible to ever work for the public again.

      The issue with sending them to jail is that, for me, it isn’t clear that they were corrupt– though I suspect they were. From what I’ve seen, they may have just been incredibly incompetent and completely reckless. Either way, they should never work as police– or any other position of trust– again.

  13. There should be a DOJ investigation into BPD and the DA’s office, similar to Ferguson. They need to be held accountable for playing with the lives of the innocent and not pursuing justice for the victims and their families. Despicable.

    Concurrently, I’m even more enraged now at the likeminded tunnel vision people that believe Adnan ‘did it’ after Serial. What’s wrong with your critical thinking??

  14. Wonderful work as always, Susan. I refresh your blog daily looking for the next post, and when it arrives, it never disappoints. Thank you for what you’re doing.

  15. Great work susan.
    One thing that has been racking my brain for a while is the following – why didn’t the person who strangled Hae just leave her where she was killed (eg, in her car) ? Why would they risk moving her body at all. Why wouldn’t they just get the hell out of there. The only possible thought is that maybe it happened in a location which could have put somebody at risk of being caught out (eg near someone’s house as an example), maybe they felt they needed to move the location of the car and body.
    Wondering if you know if Adnan or Jay have ever been asked to undertake a lie detector test?
    Have the Innocence Project tried to get any of the evidence retested for DNA?

    • I agree with you about this, but to me it shows even more how unlikely it is that it was Adnan. If Adnan had gotten a call from the police knowing they were looking for Hae, why in the world would he go get her car and drive it around some more. That makes no sense at all.

      I think that is the thing that finally turned it for me.

      • Fear, obviously. I think Adnan was counting on the passage of time to degrade physical evidence and dull memories (e.g., the fact he had asked for a ride). The quick police response caught him off guard. A killer with no apparent connection to the victim would have far less incentive to bother moving/burying the body (a fairly risky act).

        • You think Adnan was counting on the passage of time to degrade evidence? You mean he had an elaborate plan? So that’s why you think he parked her car right in the open, where it could be easily seen?

          Your theory is not viable at all. What really makes it illogical is that Adan would be the only one who would know the police are already looking for her, so he is the least likely to continue to drive her car knowing this.

          Plus its pretty obvious to me, as soon as I saw the photo, that Hae’s car wasn’t sitting in that spot for a month. Park a car in the open, in the elements for even a week, and see how dirty the windshield becomes from a combination of moisture and dust.

          Her car was practically spotless.

  16. Amazing and disturbing post, Susan. I must admit, all along I have felt that while the police may have fabricated, coached, or withheld evidence that they only would have done it in the name of convicting someone they truly felt was guilty. Now my eyes have been opened to the possibility that they may have had ulterior motives to frame Adnan (laziness or protecting a police informant) which could have led them to railroad Adnan while KNOWING he was innocent.

    • p.s. to those who will still find a way to be apologists for the cops and DA — just remember that when innocent people go to prison there are 2 injustices done.

  17. I can think of at least 4 posters who I am very suspicious of having some connection to the case-either a relative of one of the investigators, if not the person themselves.

    Seamus obviously, and the moderator wtfsherlock, also ghostoftomlandry, and a few others who I won’t mention because I have less evidence of.

    If anyone watches The Jinx, and see the actions of the investigator, Michael Struk,one can easily see the lazy work of some public officers. Here the guy is ignoring numerous people who tell him to look closer at Durst. Early on he says well, we didn’t have any good reason to be suspicious, we know he has good alibis, on, and on… Then when the private i. (for the Durst family!) Edward Wright, checks out the story of Durst, and finds out it is full of lies, that the doorman never saw his wife return to the apartment, the calls from Durst were lies, etc, suddenly Struk acts like, “Oh, looks at this, this is terrible, if only we could have known..”

    I wanted to strangle the guy listening to him acting so concerned and helpless about doing anything-way after the fact. As he is trying to rewrite the whole history of what he actually did, I can easily see Ritz and Urick and company doing the same thing.

    • What I have found most scary is how half-assed and mediocre many of the professionals involved in this case seemed to be, from police to lawyers to journalists. It is like none of them were serious about the social responsibility associated with their role. I haven’t seen The Jinx, but it sounds like this problem isn’t so rare if it was also shown there.

      I do wonder what accounts for it. Is it an issue of resource pressure leading to shortcuts? Or is it inevitable that investigators start relying more on their gut (even when wrong) after a level of experience is achieved rather than on a thorough review of evidence? Or is it that a lot of people are just lazy and can’t see past their own nose?

  18. For those who are interested, I have determined that Davieb16 on reddit, is another of these multiple personality dubious posters. Just like Seamus and Jim Gordon. Or David Mossman.

    Its kind of disconcerting that Reddit doesn’t seem to care much about the dwindling quality of their discussions. I have sort of thought that they tried to foster a community that was slightly better than a typical Yahoo flame out, but its getting closer to that in the Serial discussions. It has gone from a serious discussion about the case, to a poorly moderated grudgefest.

    • I see no point in even going to that subreddit any longer. The few who have any sense of reason and continue to post are being outshouted by a vociferous few. I haven’t seen mossman or davieb in the past day or two, but Seamus is still there. I do agree with an earlier commenter on this blog that Seamus seems to have some personal involvement. Seamus is also, in my view at least, a better writer than the others, and so I’m not convinced that Seamus has more than one user name.

  19. Dear Susan Simpson

    Thank you again for these, always sharp and precise, writings regarding the case of the justical system in general, and Adnan Syeds case in perticular.
    There’s one thing about this case that have always bothered me: the length of Mr. Syeds sentence. As far as I know he got life + 30 years. That a very very long time. Plus 30 years. I’m in no way an expert on juridical matters, but to my knowledge there’s, broadly speaking, three reason to put a member of the society in jail:
    1. To punish the offender, giving the victims (and society) a sence of justice, preventing vigilante. And also deterent others from commiting the same crime
    2. Keeping the offender “of the streets” to prevent the offender from doing more criminal activity
    3. Try to rehabilitate the offender so the offender may perhaps become a good member of society once again.
    Now, the last part is the tricky part. Because it involves some kind of forgiveness. You did a crime, you take the punishment and then you’re free to go. You have payed your debt to society, so to speak.
    Mr. Syed is imprisoned in the Maryland CORRECTIONAL Facility (my emphasis) but there’s no way that “the society” will forgive him with a sentence that long. Even though he’s, judging by what the Serial podcast told us, a polite, friendly, non-violent and respected member of the (prison)society. He has been “corrected” but can’t get back to society and become a good member of that said society.
    Why is that?
    But things get worse. When you consider the, how shall I put it, sloppiness around Mr. Syed trial it becomes tragical. Life + 30 years in prison for a 17 year old, based on one non-consistent wittness and some cell-tower pings that no one got quite right at the trial. Boom.
    With sentences that long, every mistake is a unforgiven mistake. Especially if you didn’t commit the crime.

    So how does it affect you, as a society, that you punish that hard?

    Just some thoughts I’ve been having…
    Keep up the good work, Ms. Simpson. With sentences that long, sharp lawyers like you are worth a million.

  20. HI Susan! Looking forward to seeing more developments in Adnan’s case. I was curious: will we have more opportunity to hear from Adnan? Not looking for new enlightenment in his recall or anything, but hearing him was a major factor in gaining support from the Serial listeners. If he didn’t want to, I think that would be understandable, but his perspective on all of the developments since Serial would be a great thing to hear.

    I’d also like to offer that, thru the amazing investigation you and your colleagues are doing, that you take time to respectfully recognize the humanity of Hae Min Lee and her family. It cannot be easy for them to see and hear so much speculation, theory and recreation of her death when it is only offered in a context of evidence – often brutally graphic and sometimes coldly-presented (even an instance on the Docket video where laughs were shared with the ME when he was simulating violence in the car). It is hard even for me to watch and read sometimes (I actually skip over a lot of the autopsy posts), as it breaks my heart that this happened to her and no one seems apologetic of the extent to which it is being publicly discussed.

    It would mean a lot, I think, if the new podcast team would control the narrative a little better to protect Hae Min Lee’s memory as well as her family’s well-being. They must be struggling very much with all of these developments, and a balance should be struck between maintaining public support for Adnan and protecting the Lee family from having to re-live their tragedy all over the internet.

  21. Hi Susan – thank you for your work and analysis on this. You have a great legal mind and its a pleasure to watch you think. I’ve commented on this before and you have responded, but I’m still dismayed that the podcast did not explore the shoddy detective work in this case and that the detective Susan brought in basically endorsed the work of the Baltimore PD.

  22. Susan, do you think that CG would have had the possibility of filing a motion for judgement notwithstanding the verdict after the trial? I’m not sure if that is a real option in criminal law v civil, but having heard so much information from before, during and since the trial, I feel convinced that, regardless of the jury’s guilty verdict, a judge would have agreed that there was not enough evidence to show guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But I also might not be able at this point to separate out the information that was discovered later from what was available to the jurors at that time. Right now, I cannot for the life of me see any scenario where there is sufficient evidence for Adnan to be convicted based on the standards in criminal cases.

    Also, I’ve lost track of Jenn’s and Jay’s many changing statements… did they say in their statements that Jay had planned to meet Stephanie on Jan 13 at any point? Stephanie said she didn’t hear from Jay until 11:30 pm. I’ve wondered about that because the whole point of Jay having Adnan’s car was to get Stephanie a birthday present, but it seemed like he had no plans to see her on her birthday so he wouldn’t have needed to get a present immediately. That always seemed so strange to me.

  23. Q1. On January 13th, 2015, Asia McClain produced a new affidavit attesting that she spoke to Adnan Syed for around 10 minutes (2:30-2:40) on the day of Hae Min Lee’s disappearance. In the affidavit, Asia states that she is represented by attorney Gary Proctor. Proctor is a criminal defense attorney, fairly high-profile it seems, dealing with murder cases and helping secure a commuted sentence for an inmate on death-row.

    Proctor has also worked alongside Adnan’s attorney Justin Brown on at least two occasions:
    How did Asia McClain come to secure the services of Gary Proctor?
    Was Asia McClain referred to Proctor by Justin Brown when Asia spoke with Brown on December 15th, 2014?
    Is Proctor being compensated to represent Asia McClain? If so, by whom?
    We know that attempts have been made to cast doubt on Prosecutor Urick and Jay for Urick’s role in introducing Jay to his attorney. If Adnan’s attorney provided the same service for Asia, should we view her affidavit with similar skepticism?
    Q2. On January 20th, 2015, Asia McClain and her attorney announced her new affidavit to the news website The Blaze. One day later, on January 21st, the Reddit username /u/orgamali was created. It remained dormant until April 6th, 2015, when its owner made a post claiming to be Asia McClain. In the post, it was strong implied that McClain was threatened by Prosecutor Urick in 2010.
    If I could only tell you guys what Urick said to me on the phone, you would believe me and my new affidavit 100%. Unfortunately running my mouth could get me into legal trouble, so I’m holding off to see if it comes up in court. I’d love nothing more than to let it all come out and be done with all the speculations. Just so you guys know I’m not a “people pleaser”, a pushover, a liar, looking for a handout, bribable or stupid. My involvement in this whole situation is simple and everything that seems questionable or unanswered is just merely a result of wording or circumstances beyond my control. I don’t see the need in playing “he said she said” any more than I already have with Urick. Sorry my affidavit doesn’t please all of you, but that wasn’t its purpose. I can’t attack Urick personally because at the end of the day he can just deny anything I say or worst, and that could get even more hairy.
    Shortly thereafter, the post was deleted, but it remains accessible via Google Cache.
    Is /u/orgamali really Asia McClain?
    If so, what was the purpose of her appearance on Reddit?
    What would Asia like to tell us about Prosecutor Urick?
    If Asia McClain was posting on Reddit, as the key defense witness in a murder case, does that action cast doubt on her judgment and credibility?
    Q3. According to her 2015 affidavit, Asia McClain is 33 years old and lives in Washington State.
    Here is a profile of an Asia McClain, age 33 and living in Washington State, seeking work as an actress and model:
    Is this the same Asia McClain who purports to be Adnan’s alibi for the afternoon that Hae Min Lee was murdered?
    If so, does a desire for a career in acting/modeling help explain her sudden reappearance in the Serial podcast and renewed participation in Adnan’s case after avoiding all contact with the defense for over 14 years?
    Q4. In her original 2000 affidavit, created with the assistance of Adnan’s advocate Rabia Chaudry, Asia lists her initials as A.R.M.:
    Online record searches suggest that a 33-year-old Asia R. McClain has lived in the Baltimore region of Maryland, as well as in North Carolina.
    In her 2015 Affidavit, Asia McClain states, “Eventually I left Maryland and moved to North Carolina and then out west.”

    Click to access USCOURTS-ncmd-1_04-cv-01208-0.pdf

    In 2006, a lawsuit filed by an Asia R. McClain, claiming racial discrimination by a former employer, was dismissed with prejudice in North Carolina District Court. In the suit, the former employer claimed that McClain was “terminated for violating company policies and failing to improve the quality of her work and work production.” McClain’s attorney then “moved to withdraw as counsel for Plaintiff, based on his contention that Plaintiff had “failed to respond to any of Counsel’s communications to her since the beginning of January 1, 2005.” (Motion to Withdraw [Document #12].). The Motion to Withdraw further stated that “[a]ll efforts to reach the Plaintiff have been futile on all subjects relative to this litigation, including pre-trial disclosures, early settlement and responses to interrogatories and production requests.”
    The Court found that McClain “failed to submit any evidence whatsoever in support of her claims,” “failed to respond or participate in the discovery process, failed to respond to Defendant’s requests for admission, and failed to appear for the scheduled mediation hearing.” In short, this Asia McClain made bold claims, then vanished completely when it came time to support them. It can be argued that Alibi Asia McClain took a similar course of action between signing her original affidavit in 2000 and then not resurfacing until 14 years later to participate in the Serial podcast. (It should be noted that Asia McClain subsequently refused to continue participating in Serial for murky reasons, only to reappear yet again when the podcast’s success contributed to the perception that she would be essential to Adnan’s appeal effort.)
    Is the Asia R. McClain who purports to have spoken with Adnan Syed on January 13th, 1999 the same Asia R. McClain whose racial discrimination lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in 2006 after she failed to produce any evidence for her claims?
    If so, what does this indicate about Asia McClain’s judgment and credibility?

    • If so, what does this indicate about Asia McClain’s judgment and credibility?

      Priceless. I can only hope the prosecution will try something as silly as this to discredit Asia McClain.

      • Would any of this even be admissible? Besides anyone who seriously wanted to further their acting/modeling career would not be in WA. They would be in LA or NYC. This does nothing to discredit Asia’s alibi. But nice try.

          • “Jim Gordon’s” comment is a cut-and-paste job from a now deleted post on the serialdiscussion subreddit, which had been posted by a newly created user who I suspect is either Seamus Duncan or is heavily influenced by Seamus. Seamus seems to have a particular interest in discrediting Asia.

      • This post is incredible… If only the same “judgment and credibility” question had been applied to the enigmatic Jay, maybe things could have turned out differently. At least Asia’s story remained unchanged – spine and all!

        I gotta say, if this Gordon cat is, in fact, connected to the original investigation somehow, I certainly hope the irony isn’t lost on him. It would be a shame to waste it.

    • Has anyone noticed that the hyperlink for Jim Gordon’s name in this post directs your browser to a page with a macabre address? Kind of creepy thing to do …

      • I see what you mean about the hyperlink. My goodness! I could well be wrong, but I suspect that “Jim Gordon” has a personal interest in this matter.

  24. Susan (and Rabia and Colin), I just heard your first Undisclosed podcast, and while I retain a lively interest in the outcome of Adnan’s case and continue to marvel at the thoroughness of your analysis, I came away with a profound sadness over the injustice of the conviction. It’s never been so clear to me that the prosecutor did not prove Adan’s guilt. Adnan spending fifteen years in prison should never have happened.

  25. I have listened to the first episode of “Undisclosed,” and thought it very interesting. But I would like to make a suggestion to Ms. Simpson, if I may: How about slowing down your speech a little and enunciating more clearly? It is a lot of information to process just by listening. I think that slower and clearer delivery would help your cause by helping improve comprehension by the listener. Thank you.

  26. Susan,
    I echo much of the platitudes on this board for you work. If I have one criticism of your posts, is that there are not enough of them!
    The pattern of mismanagement that you highlight however stands in stark contrast to an interaction in the Serial podcast. Specifically, where SK asks an independant investigator to assess the detectives investigations. (Forgive me but I have forgotten the episode) I believe from he was from Upstate New York (Buffalo area?) where he clearly responds to the direct question from SK, that the detectives in the case did a good job in their investigation phase.

    While I am certainly not advoating that they performed admirably or even honestly, I am rather interested in your opinion on how he could have arrived at that judgement? have you spoken to him or SK about the contents of this specific posting?

    • Well, I’m hoping that Susan is busy writing a new blog post, so I’ll take the liberty of replying. The person you’re referring to is Jim Trainum, who did review the case files given to him by Sarah Koenig. He said two things about the case — one was that the work of the detectives was “above average” (not “good”) and also that the case as brought to court was unusually full of holes. I don’t know how to reconcile those two, myself. Maybe “average” is really bad. Maybe if Jim had had access to all the documents Susan has (that Sarah didn’t) his assessment would have been different. I’d think he would be a really amazing Undisclosed guest, eh? If you haven’t heard it, I recommend the episode of This American Life called Confessions, which has a segment featuring Jim discussing the time he — as a detective — inadvertently gave a suspect information that was later used to convict her of a crime she didn’t commit.

  27. I have a question, hopefully Susan you can answer this or maybe your readers. What connection did Jennifer have amongst Hae and her friends? I’m trying to figure out why the police went to Jennifer 1st before interviewing Jay. Jay was the direct connection to Adnan & Stephanie. Jennifer said she didn’t know Adnan. Jennifer & Jay graduated a year before Hae, Adnan, and the remaining group of friends. So why did the police approached Jennifer 1st? Who sent the police Jennifer’s way? Could it be Stephanie?

    • I’m wondering if Jen helped Jay in his “business” and was similarly vulnerable to intimidation and threat of going to jail if she did not cooperate with police’s narrative of the case. Can’t think of any other reason Jen wold get so many phone calls and had a beeper.

  28. Oh my god… My jaw is still on the floor having read all the details reported on here. The distortion, nay PERVERSION, of justice directed by the detectives in these cases is astounding to me. How callous and cynical must someone be to so blatantl falsify witness statements in the pursuit to convict someone? I simply cannot fathom the internal dialogue or motivation that could lead to such reprehensible behavior. I am floored.

    Thank you so much for all the work you do and share with us Susan. You are seriously a hero in my eyes.

  29. Pingback: Helvetica Stone | “Serial” bombshells aren’t finished: New podcast breaks even more news, and more doubt

  30. Susan are you doing sub-contract or employment from the Adnan Legal Trust Fund? This is a pretty easy case as cases go, almost slam dunk… you know witnesses, motive, evidence. But in the bigger picture what does this mean as a business model, crowdfunding criminals, guilty or not guilty. Doesn’t this model take us backwards into time? Adjudicating live cases in the public? I’m sure you’ve observed Rabia not being as ethical, forthcoming and truthful to the public as one proclaiming innocence. The shotgun deployment of accusations and personal attacks of the innocent people involved is surly a dishonest approach. I’ve noticed in other cases of proclamations of innocent they tactics are not deployed because the attorney is very specific who, when or where the case is broken. I don’t hear the honesty in Adnan’s voice, I don’t see the truth in Rabia’s eyes, and these writings dribble out insignificant points only to impress the illiterate.
    I don’t know if you read my other posts but I’ve experience in what happen to Adnan through my friend who murdered at 19 after losing his girlfriend. Just like Adnan he was a golden boy, an Alter boy, a straight A student, nice guy, non-violent guy. It was impossible for family and friends to believe he would commit such a horrific act. The difference in the two cases is only the victims, my friend took his own life, and Adnan took Hae. Both were a solution for the identical mental condition.
    I hope only that you learn from this experience. That you seek solutions like not having 17 year old teenagers charged as adults, especially in Adnan’s case of prior good record. I could see Adnan was in a corner. We I heard he asked police if his brother could accompany him to the interview, and when I heard his mother showed up a the prom and embarrassed him in front of the crowd of observers, and the relationship itself had be cloaked in secrecy it all became clearer how his desperation grew. I’m all for letting him out under supervision of a psychiatrist and a occupational mentor. I think our court officers and investigation professional do excellent work, but they are human so there is margins of error.
    Where USA really lacks is in the punishment phase and re-integration phase, my next research assignment.
    Ways to Punish


  31. Pingback: True Crime, False Conviction | Out of Shadows

  32. Pingback: Adnan’s Story, Rabia Chaudry | Out of Shadows

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  34. On another note, I have always thought Mr S had a story that didnt add up, but if he did know where the body was prior to calling the police wouldn’t he have reported it not while streaking? I know this is out of context here but it just hit me this morning

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