Season One: Episode 09

To Be Suspected

New information is coming in about what maybe didn’t happen on January 13, 1999.  And while Adnan’s memory of that day is foggy at best, he does remember what happened next: being questioned, being arrested and, a little more than a year later, being sentenced to life in prison.

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When we started the first season of Serial, it was as an experiment and largely funded by This American Life. But now we’d like to make Serial a show that can stand on its own. To do that, we need your help — underwriting announcements from MailChimp and others don't fully cover the costs of production. We want to continue doing in-depth reporting, following stories wherever they take us. If you like the show, and you want another season — a different story — please donate. And: we’re only asking this once.  We won’t pester you with splash pages after this week. If you want to help us make a second season of Serial, act now. Thanks for your support. 

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Please Donate

When we started the first season of Serial, it was as an experiment and largely funded by This American Life. But now we’d like to make Serial a show that can stand on its own. To do that, we need your help — underwriting announcements from MailChimp and others don't fully cover the costs of production. We want to continue doing in-depth reporting, following stories wherever they take us. If you like the show, and you want another season — a different story — please donate. And: we’re only asking this once. We won’t pester you with splash pages after this week. If you want to help us make a second season of Serial, act now. Thanks for your support.    

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Ep. 10

Coming December 4

What is Serial?

Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial will follow one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. We'll follow the plot and characters wherever they take us and we won’t know what happens at the end of the story until we get there, not long before you get there with us. Each week we'll bring you the latest chapter, so it's important to listen in order, starting with Episode 1. If you need help knowing how podcasts work and how you get one, watch our tutorial.

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Latest Post

Nov 19

Weather Report

By Julie Snyder

Recently we looked at the weather on Jan. 13, 1999 – the day Hae Min Lee went missing. In Episode 1, Asia McClain, Adnan’s potential alibi witness, tells Sarah she specifically remembers seeing Adnan after school on Jan. 13 at the Woodlawn Public Library. She says she remembers that day because of the snow. It was possibly “the first snow of the year” and she remembers getting snowed in at her boyfriend’s house that night. She also thinks that school was cancelled the next two days.

So we were curious about when the weather got bad that day. Was it snowing that night in Leakin Park? How about when Jay and Adnan were driving around Baltimore County, from school to "Cathy’s" and then to Jay’s house and wherever else?

We looked up the weather for Wednesday, Jan. 13 and Thursday, Jan. 14, 1999. The Baltimore area certainly got hit by a big ice storm beginning in the early morning of Jan. 14. The storm left the area without power for a few days and closed Baltimore County schools on both Jan. 14 and Jan. 15.

But going by the hourly (and sometimes more often than hourly) observed weather reports, there was no significant ice, rain or snow on Jan. 13. A light, freezing rain started falling around 4:30 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 14 and continued for the rest of the day.

But no snow.

So it seems unlikely Asia would have been stuck at her boyfriend’s house on the evening of Jan. 13, because the ice storm didn’t start until 4:30 on the morning of Jan. 14. 

Was Asia mistaken about seeing Adnan in the library on Jan. 13?  Could it have been a different day? Asia says she thought it was “the first snow of the year.” The Baltimore weather reports for January of 1999 tell us that the first snow of the year was a week earlier – on Friday, Jan. 8. Snow began falling on Jan. 8 around 4:00 in the morning and then fell consistently for the rest of the day. The National Weather Service reported four inches of snow on the ground by the end of the day.

So we wondered if maybe this was the day Asia actually saw Adnan in the library.

But here’s the thing: There was no school on Jan. 8. In a Baltimore Sun article from Jan. 9, Baltimore County Schools spokesman Charles Herndon is quoted as saying, "Not only was there the snow in the morning, but we were particularly worried about later in the afternoon with more hazardous conditions in freezing rain and sleet." So neither Asia nor Adnan would have been at school on Friday, Jan. 8 and, presumably, they wouldn’t have been at the library – the library that is essentially on the campus of Woodlawn High School – that afternoon either. 

Considering that in just one week there were three school days cancelled due to weather, it seems possible Asia conflated these two weather events. But if her memory of talking to Adnan in the library is specifically tied to snow, then it’s unlikely that the day she is remembering is Jan. 13.   ~ See More

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About

Serial is a podcast where we unfold one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season. We'll stay with each story for as long as it takes to get to the bottom of it.

We'll release new episodes every Thursday morning. Listeners can subscribe for free to the Serial podcast on iTunes and other audio platforms, and can also listen here on this site. Serial, like This American Life, is a production of WBEZ Chicago, which also produces these podcasts

Season One

On January 13, 1999, a girl named Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappeared. A month later, her body turned up in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was convicted and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The case against him was largely based on the story of one witness, Adnan’s friend Jay, who testified that he helped Adnan bury Hae's body. But Adnan has always maintained he had nothing to do with Hae’s death. Some people believe he’s telling the truth. Many others don’t.

Sarah Koenig, who hosts Serial, first learned about this case more than a year ago. In the months since, she's been sorting through box after box (after box) of legal documents and investigators' notes, listening to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talking to everyone she can find who remembers what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee fifteen years ago. What she realized is that the trial covered up a far more complicated story, which neither the jury nor the public got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence - all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

Staff

Sarah Koenig

Host and Executive Producer

Sarah worked for more than ten years as a producer of This American Life before she and Julie Snyder started Serial. She’s guest-hosted TAL several times, most memorably for the "No Coincidence, No Story" show. She’s produced and reported some of TAL's most popular shows, including "Switched at Birth," "Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde," "Petty Tyrant," and "Habeas Schmabeas," a Peabody Award-winning show about Guantanamo Bay. Before joining This American Life in 2004, Sarah covered criminal justice and was a State House reporter at The Baltimore Sun and the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire. All staff photos by Meredith Heuer.

Julie Snyder

Executive Producer

Julie created Serial with Sarah Koenig. She's also the Senior Producer of This American Life, which she runs side by side with Ira Glass, setting the editorial agenda of the program, but also overseeing and editing hundreds of individual stories and episodes. She's been with the show since 1997 – almost from its inception- and has produced many of This American Life's most entertaining and ambitious episodes, including "24 Hours at the Golden Apple," "Notes on Camp," and the Peabody-winning episodes "Harper High School."

 

Dana Chivvis

Producer

Before joining Serial, Dana did the fellowship at This American Life. She was also an education reporter and digital producer at NBC News, and a photo editor at National Geographic. She has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Emily Condon

Production & Operations Manager

In addition to working on Serial, Emily manages This American Life. She's been at TAL for more than five years. Her prior projects include overseeing the launch of Rookie and running the Oak Street Cinema, a single-screen revival movie theatre in Minneapolis.

Ira Glass

Editorial Advisor

Ira gives editorial and business advice to Serial. Generally this means he hears drafts of episodes and gives notes, helps with promotion, and consults on the show's format and business plan. He's the founder and host of This American Life, which has won the highest honors for broadcast excellence, and which was declared by the American Journalism Review as "at the vanguard of a journalistic revolution.”

Music

Serial's original score comes from both Mark Henry Phillips and Nick Thorburn.

Mark Henry Phillips composes much of the music for Serial and also mixes the show.  Mark is a composer and sound designer and has worked on many critically acclaimed films such as the Oscar-nominated Cutie and the Boxer. When not scoring and mixing films, he releases music under the name Sono Oto

Nick Thorburn composed our theme song, as well as many other songs in the show. In 2003, he started The Unicorns, and released their first full-length album to critical praise from around the world. He went on to form another band called Islands, who've released five albums and played festivals from Coachella to Primavera Sounds and La Route Du Rock. Nick has also released a solo record and a variety of collaborations, and composes scores for film and television.

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Press

For press and media inquiries, please contact Elise Bergerson at elise@thislife.org.