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#Serial: Maguffins

Screen Shot 2015-01-10 at 8.00.15 AM

The green pin drop. The new focus of investigation?

Maguffin- a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot.

I’ve asked myself over and over again why I can’t quit Serial. I think it has to do with fear. If Adnan is innocent, and I think he is, then getting thrown in jail for life is something that could happen to any one of us. All it takes is a prosecutor who is willing to press for a conviction rather than the truth. Any warm body will do. All it takes is a missing alibi witness. As the country becomes more polarized and ideological, who is to say that more life ruining prosecutions couldn’t happen?

Maguffins don’t hurt either. A maguffin could be something tangible, like a Maltese Falcon. Or it could be the idea of a missing car. In general, it misdirects the attention of the sleuths. Serial could just as easily be called “The Case of the Missing Car”.

The argument against a third party or serial killer in the murder of Hae Min Lee was that Jay knew where the car was. That’s what also tied Adnan to the crime, very loosely, in my opinion. If Jay knew where the car was, that means he must have known who the killer was. Therefore, Jay’s story that Adnan committed the crime derives its legitimacy from his knowledge of the car’s location.

But what if Jay did not know where the car was. What if he failed to find the car for the cops on his first attempt. And while we’re at it, what if the cops knew where the car was all along and used Jay to corroborate the theory they had. Maybe they played a version of “hot- cold” with him until he “found” the car, just like they had refreshed his memory about what he did that day with the cell phone records log. If that’s what happened, i.e., Jay didn’t arrive at the location of the car independently, then his story means crap, even accounting for the crazy timeline of his multiple narratives presented to the cops and in his court testimony.

There are some new podcasts and links that suggest two possibilities with respect to the location of the car: 1.) The police found Hae’s car before they found her body and 2.) Jay failed to identify the location of the car on his first try. In other words, he did not know where the car was.

The first link is to Deirdre Enright’s interview with Coy Barefoot (real name) of Inside Charlottesville. This podcast is full of cluey goodness. Deirdre has said previously that Serial only revealed about 1/8th of the evidence in the case. In this podcast, she says her Innocence Project team is ready to file in the state of Maryland for the physical evidence to be tested for DNA. Yep, the whole motion is all wrapped up and ready to go- except, her clinic has been getting hundreds of phone calls from people. Some of them just want to tell her their theories. The rest are from people who have new evidence or information. This information is relevant to the case and it sounds like it is pointing towards an alternative suspect. So Deirdre is holding off on filing. It sounds like they are getting closer to cracking the case. And then at about the 6 minute mark, she drops a bombshell. She briefly recounts to Barefoot the summary of the case and then says that the police found the car before they found Hae’s body. At first, I thought she just messed up the timeline. But now, I think she let that piece of information dangle out there on purpose.

Then there is Rabia Chaudry at Splitthemoon. Yesterday, she participated in a Blogginheads.tv podcast about the case. She also refers to the car. She says that the first time that Jay takes the cops to the car’s location, he gets it wrong. He gets it right the second time. So, does Jay actually know where the car is? Because if he doesn’t, his credibility is pretty much shot. Rabia had the files for the case in her possession for 15 years but maybe she didn’t have all of them until recently. If she had, the appeals process might have gone differently. It sounds like either Deirdre, Rabia or some other source has found the document that shows when the car was actually found.

Susan Simpson of The View from LL2 was interviewed by Arms Control Wonk the other day. Susan is relentlessly anal when it comes to checking and cross checking Jay’s story. She and the arms wonks discuss geospatial analysis and she refers obliquely to one other important location (the green pin drop in the map above) associated with Jay that could be the key to the whole mystery of who killed Hae. I believe she also refers to Jay’s knowledge of the car’s location and that it’s not what it at first appears to be, i.e. confirmation that Jay helped Adnan.

Recently, she has been parsing Keven Urick’s interview with The Intercept. The Intercept has either posed as prosecution friendly or actually is prosecution friendly (my intuition says they’re faking it) and in doing so has given both Jay and Urick enough rope to hang themselves. Susan has ruthlessly slashed through all of their inconsistencies. Her latest post on Urick’s interview should put an end to any question of wrongful conviction. It looks like Urick had no idea what the cell phone records really meant. Or maybe he did and he was just counting on a jury that wouldn’t pay attention or would be swayed by a more emotional appeal. It worked for Urick. But it was just another notch on his belt. At some point, putting an innocent person away for life became less important than winning.

Taking the car off the table is a big relief to data nerds like me. Nothing else made sense while it was still front and center. That is why I didn’t really believe Jay knew where the car was. More than two decades in research does leave a mark. That piece of data just never smelled right. If Jay could be coached through the cell phone records, why not the car location? But it was always the convenient comeback of “Adnan is guilty” people who accept that Jay lied, the cell phone records made no sense and there is no physical evidence tying Adnan to the crime. “But Jay knew where the car was!” put an end to any other theory of the crime. Remove Jay’s claim and the case opens up and we can rigorously consider other possibilities. With Susan’s analysis, the cell phone records make more sense. It looks like Adnan really was at track like he says he was. Combine that with the Asia alibi letters and we can account for much of Adnan’s missing time that day. Then, expand on Jay’s personal connections and the calls that ping the Leakin Park cell towers also come into play in a more predictable way. Who knows, maybe Jay really did help bury the body at midnight.

While Jay was burying Hae, leaving her frantic parents in suspense for a month, Adnan Syed was. in all likelihood, fast asleep in safety and warmth of his family home, dreaming away his last hours of youth and freedom.

8 Responses

  1. My word! You do love to speculate, don’t you? You seem convinced that Urick has shown up the state case with his interview and that Jay’s inconsistencies are enough proof of Adnan’s innocence. Note carefully what Urick says about the cellphone evidence and how the tech has changed from then to now.

    How did Jay know where the car was??? Speculating on police corruption is a tad weak. Can you back that up?

    Adnan is going to need a lot more than Jay’s interview to get a retrial. His defence wasn’t great but his lawyer did the smart thing in keeping him off the stand. His “I can’t recall, my memory is foggy” defence would not cut any ice. The prosecution would have torn him to shreds. I do wonder how once person could have moved the body from the car to the trunk without leaving any prints or DNA. Perhaps it was more than one person. I hope the tests on the matter found under Hae’s fingernails turns something up.

    • Btw, you should expect the DNA evidence to be tested *before* the trial even begins. Otherwise, you could send someone to prison based on nothing but lies.

    • But it stated clearly on the AT@T bill at the time that incoming call locations were unreliable and also that two calls simultaneously with identical call length with a hashtag before the number indicates an incomin call with voicemail message. Urick stated that Adnan was not at track practice because at 5.18 he called his voicemail to check messages. It was actually an incoming call to his voicemail.

      • Also, the tower that pings for Leakin Park also pings for the area around Jen’s house. So tracking them through which tower pings for both incoming and outgoing calls is completely unreliable. Just because the Leakin Park tower pings, does not mean that two people are in Leakin Park burying a body. Also, in Jay’s recent interview, he said they buried Hae at around midnight. Urich used the two incoming cell phone calls at around 7pm to prove they were in Leakin Park. Incoming calls are not reliable indicators of location, according to AT&T and calls that ping L689B (Leakin Park) are also capable of pinging L653C (Edmondson Avenue, Jenn’s house, etc.). The cell phone records were very important to Urich’s case in support of Jay’s convoluted testimony and they are utterly nonsensical.

  2. Calm your tits.
    I’m only doing a little speculating. In fact, I don’t like making any conclusions without physical evidence. Except, there isn’t any tying Adnan to the crime. Zero, zilch, nada.
    All we have is an admitted liar, a convoluted narrative based on cell phone records that don’t even confirm that the suspect had the phone wheb the calls were made, and a missing car. There seems to be some question as to whether the witness knew where the car was.
    That leaves… What, exactly?
    On what basis do you want to throw someone behind bars for life in this case?
    If you have no physical evidence and nothing but lies, then any conclusion YOU come about adnan’s guilt is no better than fiction.

  3. I wish I could fall back into #Serial. Instead I spend hours a day stewing over the people who gutted my bathroom and ripped out some gas pipes.

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