Season One: Episode 12: Finale

What We Know

On January 13, 1999, Adnan Syed was a hurt and vengeful ex-boyfriend who carried out a premeditated murder. Or he was a bewildered bystander, framed for a crime he could never have committed. After 15 months of reporting, we take out everything we’ve got - interviews and documents and police reports - we shake it all out, and we see what sticks.

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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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Dec 18

Stragglers

By Dana Chivvis

There are a few pieces of evidence we haven’t been able to track down these last 15 months.

Hotmail

The first is Adnan’s Hotmail account. Adnan says that he went to the Woodlawn Public Library after school on Jan. 13 to check his email. That’s when Asia says they had a conversation about his breakup with Hae. So if we could only get our mitts on his Hotmail account or the metadata to his Hotmail account, then maybe we could look to see if he was, in fact, checking his email between 2:15 p.m. and, say, 2:36 p.m. when the state said he was committing a murder. 

We have his old username and password, so first we tried those. No dice.

Then we asked Microsoft. A very nice lady who manages their public relations told us that the official party line is that his account is no longer available. We asked her to clarify: Is it not available because nobody wants to go get it off some antiquated piece of technology deep in the bowels of Microsoft or is it not available because the account and all its related 1’s and 0’s have been erased from the universe? She did a lot of digging - this is not a question Microsoft gets asked every day, apparently - and returned with an answer: Adnan’s Hotmail account no longer exists anywhere in the universe. So, onward. 

Hae’s computer

The next thing that mysteriously vanished into the ether was Hae’s computer. Hae wrote in her diary that she had copied parts of the diary into her computer. And at some point in 1999, when this was still a missing person’s case, the Baltimore County Police Department took Hae’s computer to see if it could provide any clues. Det. John Rau of the Computer Crimes Unit subpoenaed Hae’s AOL account records. 

We know this because of a Baltimore City Police Department progress report that says Det. Joe O’Shea (a County cop) had seized the computer. But then the note says “Detective Rau also indicated that as a result of the missing person investigation being upgraded to a Homicide case assigned to Baltimore city, he was told to cease his investigation into the information related to the computer by his supervisor.” 

The note is signed by Baltimore City detectives MacGillivary and Carew on February 19, 10 days after Hae’s body was found and the case was transferred to the City. Another note from that same day says that the Baltimore City cops had asked the Baltimore County cops to help out with the case. And the Baltimore County cops said no problem, they’d get a search and seizure warrant for the computer. 

And that’s the last we hear of it. There are no more reports on the topic and nothing in the case file relating to the results of the search and seizure warrant. 

The Baltimore City Police Department told us they never had Hae’s computer in their possession. So we asked the Baltimore County Police Department where it ended up. After four months and some gentle reminders about public information laws, the County got back to us: “At this time, we have not found any additional items including the computer, records, or reports.” 

Into the ether. 

Interview Notes

The detectives didn't tape every interview they conducted, but they did take notes. Most of these notes came with an information sheet on the interviewee - standard stuff like street address, social security number, (and whether or not the person was drunk at the time of the interview). Usually, both the notes and the info sheet were included in the case file. So we've seen notes on the detectives' interviews with various teachers, friends and key players, like Jenn and Jay. Though, as we've mentioned, there are no notes for the three, untaped hours before Jay's second interview. There are also no notes on a few other people, whose stories we really, really wish we had.

The first is Mark Pusateri, Jenn's younger brother. Jay said that he hung out with Mark on the afternoon of Jan. 13, after dropping Adnan back off at school. At the second trial, Jay said he and Mark played video games and then went to the mall, all before Jenn got home from work. Jenn, of course, has always said she got home from work before Jay arrived at her house that day. We have no idea if the detectives ever interviewed Mark, because there's no information sheet on him.

The second person we wish we'd heard from is Patrick, the guy Jay calls from Adnan's cell phone at 3:59 p.m. on Jan. 13. Jay's story is that he called Patrick to get some weed after he and Adnan had ditched Hae's car at the Park and Ride. As we've discussed in the podcast, Jay's story about calling Patrick doesn't add up. The cell phone wasn't where Jay said he was when he made the call and, according to Jay's story, he had only left Jenn's house 14 minutes earlier. He still had to make stops at Jeff's house, Best Buy and the Park and Ride. The case file has an information sheet on Patrick's sister, which means they probably questioned her. But there are no notes on that interview and no information sheet or notes on any interview with Patrick.

Same goes for mystery witness #3: Phil. At trial, Jay identifies the phone number called at 3:48 p.m. as belonging to his friend Phil, but he says he can't remember why he called him. Phil lived in Frederick County, about an hour's drive from Woodlawn. But again, like Mark and Patrick, we've never seen an information sheet or any interview notes on Phil.

Phone records

We have Adnan’s cell phone records memorized by now, but they only tell part of a murky story. For example, we can’t see who was calling his phone - those calls just say “incoming.” So we can only see what numbers were dialed from his phone. 

The detectives subpoenaed a whole bunch of other cell phones and pagers and landlines, though. At least 15 other numbers. We have the subpoenas, and for some of these, we have some basic subscriber information – like who was assigned the number and what their address was. But we don’t have a detailed call record like we have for Adnan’s phone for anyone except Yaser and Bilal, Adnan’s youth mentor from the mosque. 

It could very well be that the detectives never had this information either, that all they wanted or needed was to know which number belonged to whom. But we can’t help but think that some other detailed call records could have offered some valuable clues.  ~ 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.