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Serial: Yes, innocent people in jail have been incredibly unlucky

Lucky people do not end up jailed for life plus thirty years. Why do we need to state the obvious? You’re either guilty or innocent and unlucky.

This is what makes jailing innocent people for life so tragic. It is the culmination of a set of unlucky events.

The convicted knew the victim.

The convicted is the victim of a snitch or state witness with a plea bargain.

The convicted was stoned at the time of the murder, hadn’t eaten all day and can’t remember what he was doing.

The convicted was turned in by someone with a grudge or had heard a rumor.

The convicted left his car and cell phone with an untrustworthy friend.

The convicted had a track coach that didn’t take attendance.

Bad luck happens. It happens frequently enough that there’s an Innocence Project.

So, Serial came to a kind of conclusion today. Sarah Koenig says that as a juror, she would have to acquit even if she thought Adnan was guilty. But she doesn’t exonerate him because she still has doubt.

I don’t have that much doubt. I think the kid was just a convenient suspect without a reasonable alibi. He was convicted on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of one, if not two, people who were clearly lying. The only persons with a motive in this story are the police department and the prosecutor, Kevin Urick, who wanted to pin this murder on someone and to clear their books.

The recollections of Don and Jay’s other friend who were interviewed are interesting but say more about the actions of the state than Adnan. Don says the prosecution was angry that he didn’t make Adnan look like a creep on the witness stand. Jay’s friend says Jay was terrified but it sounds to me like he was more afraid of the cops since they were coming for him. The rest might have been a figment of his overactive imagination. The Pakistani connections could have been to a sticky black tar of THC for all we know. It’s hardly unusual.

I’m sticking with one of my original theories. The Baltimore police department wanted to wrap up this case, found an incredibly unlucky suspect and constructed a narrative to make him guilty. They threatened Jay, probably gave him information, intentionally or not, and ignored any other exculpatory evidence.

I don’t have any problems understanding why a high school kid would lend someone else his car or cell phone. Adnan sounds like he lent his car out to Jay frequently, maybe to make contact with those Pakistani connections. As for the cell phone, back then, and still today, you couldn’t bring your cell phone or pager to class with you. Teachers would confiscate them and you sometimes had to get your parents to get them back for you. It made perfect sense to me that you would leave your phone in the car while you were in school.

Sarah solved the Nisha call issue. I think we’ve all done butt dials, especially before the days of flip phones and smart phones. We often found ourselves questioning our bills or finding ourselves still connected to a call long after we had hung up.

But in the end, all the state had against Adnan was circumstantial evidence, a lying witness and a weak motive. Serial talked about that motive today as well but Adnan was never in love with Hae. Hae wrote about that in her diary. She loved him but it was disproportional to his feelings for her. He liked her and was fond of her but didn’t love her. Well, not like Don did anyway. It was a teen romance, they broke up, he found other girls to snog and made one of them, Nisha, the first entry in his speed dial. That’s not a person who has been pining over unrequited love.

Yes, Jay and Adnan probably did something that morning besides shopping. I’m guessing they scored something very powerful that wiped out Adnan’s memory synapses for that day. But in the end, there were many thousands of people in Baltimore that couldn’t account for their whereabouts January 13, 1999. Except for their lack of acquaintance with the victim, they could have all been murderers. In fact, one of them was. We just don’t know which one.

So, you know, Sarah, I’m just not buying it. I believe he’s innocent and I can’t resurrect my doubt until I see some physical evidence that suggests otherwise. The state hasn’t got it.

Sir William Blackstone said in 1765, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“. Blackstone’s principle is a cornerstone of criminal law. That’s why we presume people to be innocent until proven guilty. John Adams expanded on that principle and predicted the state we are in now:

It is more important that innocence should be protected, than it is, that guilt be punished; for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world, that all of them cannot be punished…. when innocence itself, is brought to the bar and condemned, especially to die, the subject will exclaim, ‘it is immaterial to me whether I behave well or ill, for virtue itself is no security.’ And if such a sentiment as this were to take hold in the mind of the subject that would be the end of all security whatsoever

It’s a tragedy that so much of our American justice system seems determined to thwart that principle these days. We are so intent on throwing people into jail that guilt or innocence doesn’t much matter.

What Serial and Koenig have done is give Adnan the thorough grilling that he didn’t get in his trial. And what we come find there are lies, innuendos, discredited cell phone testimony and not much else. What we find is a normal teen, a compassionate and good friend who made some seriously unlucky decisions one day in January 1999.

I vote to acquit Adnan. Release him already.

5 Responses

  1. I agreeing with pretty much everything you say.

    I get that as a case, there isn’t a happy ending (although things are moving along) but, Sarah should have had the gumption to commit to something. Her mushiness at the end really annoys me.

    I’m not demanding that she declare him innocent but, it’s not too much to ask for her to demand his release pending either a new (fair) trial or dropped charges.

  2. “We are so intent on throwing people in jail that guilt or innocence don’t much matter.”

    And as long as crony capitalists make big bucks from throwing people in jail, “we” will remain intent on that. 👿

    • Oh, I forgot the other beneficiaries: the prosecuting attorneys who want to be re-elected DA or run for higher office–“See how safe I’m keeping you!” and the cops who get commendations and promotions and raises for their “successes”.

  3. I’m right there with you– the police reports cannot be taken as hard evidence. I arrived at the same conclusion — that they told Jay where Hae’s car was–making him both more culpable and a stronger witness–both good for the police/prosecution story…

  4. I am with you on this for the most part because it explains why the testimony doesn’t make any sense. Listeners and others are spending so much energy trying to fill in the blanks, explain the discrepancies and missing pieces and motives while the possible real answer is that you can’t because this isn’t how it happened and Adnan is not the killer and Jay wasn’t involved.

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