Adnan Syed: Guilty Beyond A Reasonable Doubt

Adnan Syed is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the murder of Hae Min Lee. Before I get into the core of my argument, one crucial thing to understand is that the legal system does not require one hundred percent certainty of the events that occured on January 13th (the date of Hae’s murder) to prove Adnan Syed’s guilt. Nor is there a need to completely eliminate all doubts about the case. The legal system operates on a standard of reasonable doubt, which means that all the prosecution needs to do is to convince the jury of Adnan Syed’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Here is a video by Attorney Timothy Zerillo which goes into more detail about the concept of reasonable doubt:

This being said, I’m ninety percent sure that Adnan Syed is guilty. I set out my reasons here, and if you have any disagreements, I’m always open to hearing differing perspectives. Leave a comment and I will be happy to hear your opinion!

1. Jay Knew Details from the Crime

Firstly, Jay knew some key facts about the case that the police hadn’t released: Jay knew Hae was buried face down, and he correctly described the clothes she was wearing that day (Macgillivary, 17). He also gave some of these details to witnesses before the police interview. Jay also led law enforcement to Adnan’s car while they were still looking for it (Maroney). This proves that at the very minimum, Jay was involved in the crime.

Jay says that Adnan committed the murder, but a possibility is that Jay tried to frame him for the murder. The problem with this theory is that Jay had no motive to kill Hae. Adnan and Jay are also linked throughout the night of the murder, as I explain below.

2. Adnan and Jay Were Together for Much of That Night

On the Serial podcast website there is a phone call log from Adnan’s phone on the 12th and 13th of January. The phone call logs include the “cell site” from which the call was made, i.e. the cell tower that was covering the area and was pinged by the cell phone. The individuals contacted on the 13th are a mix of Jay and Adnan’s contacts, showing that they were together a lot that day (“Cell Phone Call Log”). The most critical call is the one made to Nisha at 3:22 pm, placing them together at the time of the crime. Thus, we can safely rule out the theory that Jay tried to pin the blame on Adnan, as they were together that afternoon.

3. Adnan has No Alibi

Adnan’s Interview with Sarah Koenig in Episode 1

Having listened to the Serial podcast and the interview clips with Adnan, he doesn’t seem to have a concrete alibi. He speaks vaguely, using a lot of “probably”s, and doesn’t seem to have a unified theory of what happened on the day of the murder. This is strange, as he seems to have a good recollection of his conversation with Asia, and remembers the phone call from the police. He later says that he was probably at the mosque that night, but the call logs contradict this, showing that he was moving, presumably in a car (“Cell Phone Call Log”). Now, on the night of the burial, Adnan’s cell phone pings antenna L689B, the one covering the burial site, at around 7 pm. The logs indicate that two calls were received, one at 7 pm, and a second fifteen minutes later. Although cell phone data can’t pinpoint his exact location, the probability of Adnan’s phone pinging that specific cell tower twice in one night is too important to ignore. From this data, I conclude that both Adnan and Jay were at the site of the burial on the evening of the 13th.

Without involving some sort of conspiracy theory about police hiding evidence, it seems that the killer had to be either Adnan or Jay. Jay had absolutely no motive, and they were together on the afternoon of the killing anyways, so he couldn’t have framed Adnan. An important thing to remember, that isn’t mentioned much in Serial, is that Hae had recently broken up with Adnan, and he’d learned about it only a few days before the murder. Here’s a quote from Hae’s diary, presented at the trial, which I found interesting:

“Okay. Here it goes. I’m really getting annoyed that this situation is going the way it is. I (inaudible) for me and you, you know. People break up all the time. You life is not going to end. You’ll move on and I’ll move on, but apparently you don’t respect me enough to accept my decision. I really couldn’t give a damn about whatever you want to say. With the way things have been since 7:45 a.m. this morning now I’m more certain that I made the right choice. The more fuss you make the more I’m determined to do what I’ve got to do. I really don’t think I can be in a relationship like we had. Not between us, but mostly about the stuff around us. I seriously did expect you to accept, although not understand. I’ll busy today, tomorrow and probably till Thursday I’ve got other tings to do. Better than give you any hope that we’ll get back together. I really don’t see that happening, especially now. I never wanted to end like this, so hostile and cold. But I really don’t know what do do. Hate me if you will, but you should remember that I could never hate you” (Miller, 333).

This quote completely changed my view of the dynamic between Hae and Adnan. According to this quote, there was definitely hostility and tension between her and Adnan after their breakup, reinforcing his motive for killing her.

Thus, having eliminated Jay as having no motive or possibility of him framing Adnan, I have come to the conclusion that Adnan killed Hae Min Lee. This is not to say that I am certain of his guilt, as there are certainly discrepancies and details that do not match perfectly. But in my opinion, Adnan Syed is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

P.S. To end this post off on a lighter note, I’ve embedded a Saturday Night Live parody of the Serial podcast that I found to be quite funny:

Works Cited

Macgillivary, Greg. “Progress Report Homicide Investigation.” Serial Podcast Origins, 1999, serialpodcastorigins.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/2-28-1999-jay-interview.pdf.

Maroney, Tyler, and Luke Brindle-Khym. “How We Reinvestigated the ‘Serial’ Murder for HBO.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 11 Mar. 2019, http://www.wsj.com/articles/adnan-syed-hbo-documentary-serial-murder-case-11552313829.

“Cell Phone Call Log.” Serial, serialpodcast.org/maps/cell-phone-call-log.

Miller, Sandra. “State of Maryland vs Adnan Syed.” DocDroid, 13 Dec. 1999, http://www.docdroid.net/qu48/december131999-ocr-pdf#page=47.

How a blog post lets me provide my opinion better than other media texts

I think that a blog post is the best option for me to convey my opinion to the audience compared to other mediums. For one, text-based mediums always require more focus than video-based ones, which are more focused on entertaining the viewer. For this reason I think a blog post is superior in this aspect as it keeps the reader focused rather than laid-back. I think that many people take a more relaxed approached when viewing video-based content, which isn’t always good in a case like this. People also have a hard time giving credibility to videos, and are more inclined to trust text-based sources, probably because it has been around for so much longer than the other mediums (roughly 10,000 years for text versus about 100 years for film/video).

An advantage that a blog post has over an aural medium like a podcast is the ability to include visual elements such as images and videos. I think that for casual purposes podcasts are fine, but if you want to express your opinions in a way to which people will be receptive, you should use text. For example, I enjoy listening to audio books, but I often find it harder to remember the contents of the text versus when I read a traditional paper book.

Text mediums are seen as the most formal than the other mediums, and I would say this is because it is the default form of communication in the professional and scientific world (email, reports, scientific papers, memos, etc.). I think text mediums are, and will remain, the standard for those who want to express an opinion or make a statement and be taken seriously. Reading takes detailed attention, making your reader absorb and process the information you’re conveying, whereas watching video or listening to podcast is passive, and doesn’t engage the viewer/listener.

Blog posts have the advantage of being grounded in text, but they have the flexibility to reach into any other medium, and include any kind of media the writer wishes. This option isn’t universal, for example you cannot add a video file into a audio-only podcast or a video into a static picture. The blog post is the perfect medium for integrating all of these elements into a single piece of media.

Sarah Koenig’s “Serial” Bias

*In this blog I quote the full transcript from the podcast for ease of use. I’ve linked it below.

When I first listened to Episode 1 of the serial podcast, I unquestioningly took the perspective of the podcast. This was logical I suppose, as I hadn’t read any other information or even heard of the Adnan Syed case until then. But as I dug deeper and did more research, it became much clearer what was going on behind the scenes. A fundamental issue was revealed for me: Sarah Koenig wasn’t looking for the truth, she was looking for view and donwload numbers.

Sarah Koenig and her producer in their studio (link)

During my listening of the first episode of Serial, I took everything said at face value. I’ve got to give Koenig credit: she has a great podcasting voice, and a solid dialogue projecting confidence and trustworthiness. It can be very easy to see this this podcast as a search for the truth, rather than what it really is: an entertainment vehicle. The crucial thing to understand is that there was NO way that Sarah would have concluded the podcast with Adnan’s guilt. Think about it: If she had concluded that he was guilty and went on for 12 episodes, the show wouldn’t have gotten any traction. People want to hear a redemption story, a story that gives them hope, a story of a man who overcomes a biased legal system against all odds. This is the fundamental reality of the podcast: Sarah Koenig had every financial and personal incentive to have Adnan be innocent.

Adnan Syed in 2019 (Link)

After listening for the first time, Sarah Koenig’s bias on Adnan’s innocence is blatanly obvious. Here are a few examples:

Sarah quotes Asia’s affidavit that says that Asia and her boyfriend left at 2:40 pm, but omits the section in Asia’s letter that said “I can count for your unwitnessed time between 2:15 and 8pm,” which is a clear contradiction as she could not have seen him from 3:00 until 8:00 if she left at 2:40 (Sarah Koenig 22). What’s interesting is that there is no mention of this contradiction in the podcast. The letter is displayed below.

Asia’s Letter to Adnan, March 2, 1999 (link)

Sarah Koenig quotes one of Adnan’s friends when he learns that Hae got a new boyfriend, saying “Adnan’s friend Mac Francis said Adnan initially was devastated and jealous about the new boyfriend. Said he grumbled about it in a typical guy way, nothing strange” (45). What she fails to mention is that Hae’s death actually occured only a few days after Adnan learns about her boyfriend, which gives him quite a bit more motive than Koenig makes it seem.

I think this is enough evidence of Sarah Koenig’s bias to show that her podcast is at best unreliable, and at worst disingenuous, not to mention the financial bias at play. Techcrunch.com reported that Serial was sold to the New York Times for an estimated $25 million. Taking this into account, I believe that

The first two seasons of “Serial” have been downloaded more than 340 million times. (link)

To be clear, I am not criticizing the artistic merit of the podcast, I thought it was very well produced. My issue with this podcast is they built a story around real events and twisted facts so they would fit the narrative. It’s very easy forget that the podcast is actually based on real people. I found one particular post from r/serialpodcast, a forum dedicated to discussion of the podcast, very moving. Here’s an excerpt from the post, by redditor u/zoooty:

“Via an interpreter at sentencing, Hae’s mom addressed the Court and said:

‘How are you? I’m the mother of Have Min Lee. In Korean proverb there is a saying that parents die, they bury in the ground, but when children die, they bury in their hearts. I heard of those proverbs, but I never realized it was so difficult for me, and my family. It’s truly the most excruciating period in my life. Our daughter, my daughter, our daughter was so precious to us and everybody surrounding us. My daughter never give us any problem whatsoever and always solved any kind of difficult problem on her own usually, and has always been a good daughter.She never, always did well at school and always sis well at home and also she always said, I love you, Mother, and several times, always repeating, that she always showed love and affection in the family, and always cared about everything in her life and in her family, and solved all the problems very well.'”

This excerpt made me wonder whether it was even ethical for Sarah Koenig to create the podcast in the first place. Just imagine an immense tragedy occurs in your family, and then it’s made public to tens of millions of strangers. Sadly, the podcast gives very little attention to the suffering of Hae’s family, which I think is a tragedy.

Youn Kim, right, mother of Hae Min Lee, is escorted from her daughter’s Memorial Service. (Link)

There are serious problems with this kind of work. Sure, the narrative was brilliant from a story-telling perspective, but portraying a piece of entertainment as some kind of investigation (In the podcast description, Sarah says she “looks for answers”) is extremely misleading, having taken her biases into account. Stories like that of Hae Min Lee are not meant for this kind of narrativization and mass publication (Koenig). In the end, Adnan Syed’s retrial was denied, his guilt was confirmed, and Hae’s family received no compensation for their grief. I hope the next time someone creates a “truecrime” podcast, they do it in a way that protects the victim’s identity and their family.

Works Cited

Heater, Brian. “The New York Times Is Buying the Production Studio behind ‘Serial’ for $25M.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 23 July 2020, techcrunch.com/2020/07/23/the-new-york-times-is-buying-the-production-studio-behind-serial-for-25m/. 

Koenig, Sarah. “Season One.” Serial Podcast, serialpodcast.org/season-one. 

“Man Bites Dog.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 May 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_bites_dog. 

Sarah Koenig. “Complete Transcripts for Serial Podcast Season One.” Adnansyedwiki.com, http://www.adnansyedwiki.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Serial-Podcast-Transcripts-of-All-Episodes-with-ToC.pdf. 

u/zoooty. “r/Serialpodcast – The Reality of a Stupid, Impulsive, Teenage Decision.” Reddit, 8 July 2021, http://www.reddit.com/r/serialpodcast/comments/ofxz76/the_reality_of_a_stupid_impulsive_teenage_decision/. 

Language as a Life Skill

Should Grade 12 University-level English be a requirement for entry into all university programs?

The Art and Craft of Writing

50 years ago, most workers had jobs in factories or a manufacturing plants. Today, they are is nearly guaranteed to be found in an office instead. This shift has dramatically changed the competencies required of employees. In today’s job market, language and communication skills are more relevant than they’ve ever been. Whether it’s writing an email to a boss, composing a report, or anything else, the ability to write well is crucial to professional success in the 21st century. That’s why I believe that Grade 12 University-level English should be a requirement for university programs.


Today, nearly a third (Forbes.com) of Americans have a Bachelor’s degree, and this number only continues to grow. Most of these graduates will continue into public sector work or move to an office/corporate career, and success in these environments depends heavily on communication skills. Clear and concise writing allows for efficient communication, quickly answering questions, sending updates, and clearing up misconceptions. For example, a well-composed cover letter can make the difference between being hired and not. A well-written letter stands out from the pile; it demonstrates higher competency and ability. As hiring managers can sort through hundreds of resumes day, poor writing or grammar mistakes can be a death sentence. Writing quality also has an impact on others’ perception of the writer. Good writing inspires credibility and sophistication, while poor writing projects the opposite.

Reading ability is just as important, depending on the medium. In formats such as email or instant message, there is no tone of voice or intonation from which a reader could glean meaning. The reader must rely on his own reading comprehension and knowledge of writing conventions. A poor reader, in a corporate environment for example, can misinterpret a memo, causing productivity losses for him and others. On the other hand, a good reader speeds up and simplifies communication for all parties.

I believe that English 12 builds the foundation for strong language skills, which are vital in today’s age. I see English class as practice for real life. We practice reading and writing to prepare for the future. Many find English class to be boring, but I think that it’s vitally important for people my age who are about to enter the job market.

Sources Cited

Benjamin, Tia. “The Importance of Using the Proper Grammar on a Resume.” Work, 21 Nov. 2017, work.chron.com/importance-using-proper-grammar-resume-2860.html.

Nietzel, Michael T. “New From U.S. Census Bureau: Number of Americans With A Bachelor’s Degree Continues To Grow.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 22 Feb. 2021, http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2021/02/22/new-from-us-census-bureau-number-of-americans-with-a-bachelors-degree-continues-to-grow/.

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