Did ‘Serial’ Bring Justice?

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Nearly three years ago, a weekly podcast became a smash-hit and the precursor to media justice series – like the Netflix series Making A Murderer. They had the same case, a man jailed for murder, but there would always be more than meets the eye.

Serial, released by Sarah Koenig and a bunch of producers from the team at This American Life heralded a new age of podcasting and the second ‘podcasting’ boom kicked off – we’re still enjoying the golden age of podcasts right now. Serial ran for two seasons, and while there is talk of a third, it is the first season that will likely live long in the memory.

The very first season of Serial depicted the incarceration of Adnan Syed after the death of Hae Min Lee. In 1999, Hae Min Lee, a high school student, disappeared in Maryland. After a month, her corpse was found in a park, having been strangled to death. A suspect was identified in 17-year-old Adnan Syed, Hae Min Lee’s ex-boyfriend. Syed was arrested, and within a year, Syed was sentenced to life in prison. Syed was damned by the testimony of his best friend, Jay. Jay described, in vivid detail how he had helped Syed bury Hae Min Lee in the Park. Adnan was jailed, and Serial follows this case and Adnan’s plea that he had nothing to do with Hae Min Lee’s death.

Sarah Koenig, during the production of Serial, interviewed Adnan Syed for the podcast and the tale is slowly unraveled. Syed’s first trial was put to bed as a mistrial, but the following court case saw Syed imprisoned for life. Koenig took an impartial view to the trial and found a lot of worrying information, despite refusing to take Adnan’s side.

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One of the biggest worries to Koenig was the racial side of the trial. The prosecution made the case that Adnan was going to be smuggled to Pakistan and after a dispute with Hae Min Lee, he performed an ‘honor’ killing. This view could have easily stirred up an anti-Islamic sentiment in the court and within the jury. Certain aspects of the case only seem to arise because of Syed’s religion and race. A criminal defense attorney would have struggled to fight back against such a case put forward and would have found it hard to defend Adnan because of this. Add Jay’s testimony and a bunch of erratic witness accounts and you’ve got an entire case built to setup Adnan Syed.

Serial doesn’t argue for Syed to be released, but for a fair trial to take place. A man was jailed based on circumstantial evidence and a number of biased witness accounts. Thanks to the success of Serial, Adnan Syed has been granted a new trial, meaning the previous trial will not stand. Adnan Syed – right now – is still in jail, but cannot be declared a murderer until his new trial takes place later this year. Justice? It doesn’t always have to be a verdict, but a chance to do a court case once again, but by the book of the law.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.