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The physical evidence against Adnan Syed was scant - a few underwhelming fingerprints. So aside from cell records, what did the prosecutors bring to the jury, to shore up Jay's testimony? Sarah weighs all the other circumstantial evidence they had against Adnan, including curious behavior, a disconcerting note, and an unexplained mid-afternoon phone call.
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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 Episode1. If you need help knowing how podcasts work and how you get one, watch our tutorial.
In Episode 5, Sarah points out that the prosecutors were clear during the trial that the come-and-get-me call from Best Buy was the one listed at 2:36 on Adnan’s call log. They said this even though no one testified to it. In fact, Jay says the come-and-get-me call didn’t happen until after he left Jenn’s house that day, around 3:45.
Sarah concludes that because there’s no incoming call around 3:45, the prosecution has to choose the 2:36 call.
Some savvy listeners have pointed out that if you look at Adnan’s call log, there’s an incoming call at 3:15. So couldn’t that be the come-and-get-me-I’m-at-Best-Buy call? We thought about this too, but there’s a good reason why it can’t be. (We also thought about explaining all this in Episode 5, but decided we’d probably exhausted everyone’s attention span for the intricacies of cell phone records.)
Here’s why it can’t be the 3:15 call.
At trial, Jay testifies to a specific order of events on the afternoon of Jan. 13. He says he spent the bulk of the afternoon hanging out at Jenn’s house. He had just left Jenn’s to see if his friend Jeff was home when Adnan called to say meet me at Best Buy. So Jay drives approximately 8 - 10 minutes to meet Adnan at Best Buy.
He gets to Best Buy, Adnan pops the trunk of Hae’s car and shows Jay Hae’s body, and then they drive to the I-70 Park and Ride, which is another 7-10 minute drive away. They leave Hae’s car at the Park and Ride and start driving towards Patrick’s house, where they’re headed to buy some weed.
At this point in Jay’s testimony, Prosecutor Kevin Urick stops Jay and they have the following exchange:
KU: Okay. Hold on for a second, if you would, please. Look at line 26 on the exhibit again. Do you recognize that number?
Jay: Line 26?
Jay: Yes, that’s Jenn Pusateri’s number again.
KU: And do you see the time of that call?
KU: Please read it. Well, please read her number for the record first.
Jay: [Reads the number.]
KU: And do you notice the time of the call?
KU: What is the time?
KU: And the length of the call?
Jay: 42 seconds.
KU: Do you remember making that call?
Jay: I believe so, to ask her if he was on or if he was home, one of the two, meaning if he had marijuana.
KU: Whose number was line 26 again?
Jay: That’s Jenn Pusateri’s.
Jay: I was calling her, hey is “P” on, do you know if “P” is on again, do you know if he is home?
KU: This was after you had dropped off the car at the Park and Ride?
Jay testifies that he called Jenn at 3:21, after leaving the Park and Ride, to ask Jenn if Patrick is home.
If the come-and-get-me call were at 3:15, that would leave Jay only six minutes to drive to Best Buy, see Hae’s body, drive to the Park and Ride, and then on to Cook’s Lane toward Patrick’s and make the call to Jenn. But it’s impossible to do all that, because at minimum, that drive alone would take 15 minutes. So, Jay’s story is only possible if the come-and-get-me call happens at 2:36. ~ See More
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.
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.
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 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."
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.
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 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.”
Serial's original score comes from both Nick Thorburn and Mark Henry Phillips.
Nick Thorburn composed our theme song. 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.
In addition to composing music for Serial, Mark Henry Phillips also mixes the show. He 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.