Let’s Have a Discussion about Serial Podcast

Let’s Have a Discussion about Serial Podcast
Carly Jacobs
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ast week I started to listen to Serial. If you don’t know what Serial is, it’s a podcast by This American Life. A journalist called Sarah Koenig is investigating a murder that occurred in Baltimore in 1999. An 18 year old girl called Hae Min Lee was strangled and dumped in a park and her ex-boyfriend Adnan (who still pleads innocent) was arrested and jailed for the murder after a school friend of his named Jay, testified against him in court. Adnan has served 15 years of a life sentence but the bizarre thing about this case is that Adnan is in jail despite the fact that there was never any physical evidence that tied him to the murder. He was jailed purely based on Jay’s testimony. Adnan maintains that he is innocent, Jay maintains that Adnan killed Hae and Sarah Koenig is going over the evidence week by week trying to get to the truth. If you haven’t listened to the series stop reading now listen to them – it’s addictive, compelling and very well presented. There’s kind of no such thing as a spoiler when it comes to Serial but it’s best to be up to speed (having listened to all 9 episodes) so you can fully enjoy the discussion.

The last episode (number 9) was released last Thursday and there’s a 2 week Thanksgiving break until the next episode comes out. I’ve been dying to have a proper discussion about Serial podcast and there’s a major chat happening on Reddit but there’s a few things that haven’t been brought up that I want to discuss. Here are a few things that have stuck with me…

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What Adnan said to Jay in court

It’s mentioned in one of the episodes that Adnan mutters something to Jay under his breath in court, despite the fact that he is forbidden to communicate with him. He mutters ‘Pathetic.‘ as Jay walks by. I think the choice of wording is very interesting. If someone is lying and trying to get you thrown in jail for a crime you didn’t commit you’d be calling that person crazy, a liar, a psycho or unhinged. ‘Pathetic.’ suggests weakness like someone who backed out on a deal or didn’t hold up their end of a bargain. Perhaps someone who was supposed to keep a secret and then didn’t.

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Adnan didn’t try to contact Hae after he found out she was missing

When Adnan received a phone call from the police on January 13th asking if he knew where Hae was, he didn’t try to call her. Ever again. His cell records do not show even one phone call to her. Every other friend of Hae’s called her phone repeatedly, hoping she might answer. I find it very odd that Adnan didn’t even try to call her once considering that she was missing for a month before they found her body. A full month of his friend and ex-girlfriend being missing and he didn’t ever call her. That’s a bit weird.

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The Nisha Call isn’t really that important or ground breaking

Sarah Koenig continues to refer to the Nisha call as the most important piece of damning evidence against Adnan saying that this call places Adnan in the middle of Jay’s story. I call bullshit. Nisha remembers speaking to Adnan and Jay but she remembers the call happening later in the evening. Jay didn’t know Nisha so it’s assumed that Adnan was the one that called her but it very easily could have been Jay. Think about it – if a teenage guy has his mate’s phone it’s not implausible that he’d call a few of the numbers in the phone with girl names for a bit of a laugh. Jay might also have called Nisha pretending to be Adnan and then pretending to hand the phone to himself. It’s also entirely possible that it WAS Adnan on the phone and he WAS where Jay said he was but the Nisha call doesn’t prove this. The Nisha call doesn’t prove anything except that someone called Nisha from Adnan’s phone and claimed to be Adnan. It could have been Jay, it could have been another person or it could have been Adnan. There’s no way to know because even Nisha doesn’t remember the call accurately.

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Photo of Adnan Saeed from Serial Podcast Adnan in high school shortly before his arrest – Image source

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Almost everyone involved in this case was a regular pot smoker

This is a huge one for me. Almost every story, every alibi, every witness includes most of the key people in the case being stoned, buying weed, looking for weed or having a smoke. Marijuana is proven to cause memory loss in regular users so I don’t trust the testimonies of anyone. They were all heavily baked most of the time. Which is probably why no one really remembers anything, particularly Adnan who has pretty much zero information about where he was the afternoon that Hae went missing except for ‘I was probably at track and smoked a few spliffs with Jay.’ Super helpful.

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How the hell Jay got off without any charges 

He admitted to helping bury the body, he PROVIDED THE SHOVELS, he disposed of evidence and he admitted to having prior knowledge that Adnan was going to kill Hae. I’m just gobsmacked that Jay walked free. That’s a text-book accessory to murder story that he personally admitted to the police. I just don’t get why he got to walk away from this. It’s baffling.

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Jay said that Adnan planned to murder Hae but strangling someone is an unusual choice in a planned murder

Manual strangulation is really difficult. It takes a lot of strength and the murderer (I assume) would have to be fueled by some kind of forceful emotion. I can’t see someone calmly planning to strangle someone. It she was stabbed or shot, I’d believe it more easily but strangulation is synonymous with passion, anger and is often accidental. I just don’t believe that someone would plan a strangulation murder – it’s like planning to punch someone. Violence is almost always impulsive.

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Over to you… What are your thoughts on Serial? Any theories you’d like to share?

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26 Comments

  1. T 4 years ago

    Ah yes, I agree with so much of this. I have a suspicion that maybe Adnan did do it, just completely not the way it’s been told that he did. It would fit in with so much – like the strangulation, the guy Chris’ story about what Jay told him, the timeline not really working etc. I feel like Adnan confronted Hae about something, they argued, he snapped and strangled her. This still doesn’t explain Jay though.

    Also, Hae didnt have a phone, she had a pager.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      I think there has to be something going on. I think it was both of them somehow. Oh and so true about Hae and the pager… that actually proves my point even more because cellphones don’t record calls unless they connect but all pager messages are recorded and he didn’t try to page her. Which again is weird.

  2. Argh, SO many questions. I was late to the party and listened to all 9 episodes over the weekend (seriously I had the podcast on while I did everything – cleaning, cooking, exercising the lot!) and I’m so confused about what I think. Even if Adnan did do it I can’t quite believe he was convicted on such flimsy evidence, but I can’t make up my mind about whether he’s guilty! Such a good podcast, I can’t wait for the next episode!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      Me too! I only just started (and finished) listening to it last week. I’m the same – I’m becoming more and more convinced that they were both involved and there’s a few theories about there being a another person involved which wouldn’t surprise me. It seems totally implausible that Adnan would do it but it’s also implausible that Jay would lie about it. It’s all very bizarre.

      • Melissa Mathews 4 years ago

        Ok this is pretty far fetched, but what if there was a third person and that third person was Jay’s girlfriend? Adnan & Stephanie are friends, he even buys her a birthday present (which for a 15yo boy is pretty odd when not dating). What if they killed Hae and then Jay helped bury her because of Stephanie – he does say Adnan threatens her. Her friends also say she refused to talk about it and would clam up whenever it was mentioned.

        Doesn’t really explain why Adnan wouldn’t later implicate her once he has actually been sentenced. Like I said pretty far fetched!

  3. I can kind of see how/why Adnan didn’t call her after she went missing (she didn’t have a cell right? He would have been calling her house?) Because it seemed like they all hought she’d maybe gone to Florida and after touching base with her girl friends each day at school he’d know there was no point calling her at home because she wasn’t there?

    I too cannot believe Jay got nothing (but those hours of interviews with him that weren’t recorded … who knows what deals were cut?)

    Meanwhile – Jay’s testimony, to me there is just too much detail in all of it (particularly the fact he was able to lead them to her car) to be fabricated. BUT I agree with you on the fact that they all seemed to be smoking weed together on an awfully regular basis … how can any of their memories really be trusted?

    In the end – for all that the prosecution was able to ‘corroborate’ Jay’s testimony with the cell records, I can’t believe the jury was able to convict ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ based on what we know so far

    • The other thing I can’t quite get my head around (was listening to ep4 again today) … he strangled her in the carpark of Best Buy? Then put her body in the trunk of the car? At Best Buy? And no one saw this happening?

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      I meant pager! Cellphones don’t record calls unless they connect but they do record pages and there weren’t any. Surely he would have tried? I also think that Jay and Adnan were a lot closer than they’re letting on. It seems they hung out a lot more than aquantences would.

  4. Caz 4 years ago

    So obsessed with Serial!
    I agree with the majority of your points or questions except the one about marijuana use. Yes, it has been correlated with memory loss in regular users. But “regular users” in these studies are people that smoke 3x a week or more for years and years (like 10+ years). Teens smoking weed and being semi-preoccupied with buying/selling/smoking weed is hardly a major factor in the case. It’s pretty typical of many teens social lives, and you have to remember that these students are also still magnate kids with great grades, involved in sports teams, student council activities, church etc. and holding down part time jobs.
    Sure I’d agree that if they’d spent the last 10 years drinking beers and smoking week and working minimum wage jobs while living in their parents basement and playing video games their memories may be hazier. But being asked weeks later to remember a specific day because it’s important (but you didn’t think it particularly important at the time) is pretty difficult.

    “Hey, November 12th was important. Can you account for your actions with 100% accuracy thinking back now?” Without looking at your email/facebook/phone/calendar/blog to jog your memory because none of those things existed in 1999.

    (This is all just my personal opinion -I didn’t particularly spend the time to reference studies etc. Nor am I aiming to be accusatory. Just interesting commentary.)

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      I love a debate don’t stress at all! I do however completely disagree with you for the following reasons.
      1. While pot use does affect memory after prolonged use it also affects memeory while you’re under the influence and it sounds like most them were under the influence quite frequently. Part of Adnan’s story is that he smoked weed with Jay after school before track practice. I’m might be a total square here but I’d class getting baked before track practice a bit more than regular use.
      2. Even though they were teenagers and hadn’t smoked weed for ten years in a row it’s highly likely that a 17 year old regular pot smoker (particularly in Baltimore in the 90s) could have been regularly smoking pot since they were as young as 12 which could mean that some of them had four years of regular marijauna use under their belts and that’s certainly enough to do damage to their short and long term memories.
      3. Jay wasn’t a magnate kid – Stephanie his girlfriend was. Jay was for all intents and purposes a ‘dodgy’ guy. He admitted that to the police.
      4. I think it is a factor that needs to be considered in the case that both of the main players (Adnan and Jay) and lots of their friends (Jen, ‘Cathy’, etc) talk a lot about smoking weed and admit to smoking weed together. If something weird happened at a party and two of my friends were telling me opposing stories I’d be a lot more likely to believe that one that wasn’t stoned and didn’t regularly use pot.

      I totally agree that remember a specific date without phones or texts to remember them would be extremely difficult I just think it would be even more difficult if the person happened to be stoned on that day. 🙂

  5. katepickle 4 years ago

    ooooh I have not read any of your posts because I am dying to get somewhere with decent internet so I can download all of this and binge on it over Christmas!! So it’s good yeah?? It’s worth me trekking into the city and finding someone with unlimited internet who owes me a favour right????

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      Oh it’s so so good! It’s the most obsessed I’ve been about a thing in forever. I’ve downloaded most of mine just walking around with 4g… it’s not that big from Podcast!

  6. erinmadethis 4 years ago

    OK, so you have mentioned my thoughts exactly. But after a couple of weeks thinking and discussing, these have sort of changed.

    1. Regarding Adnan not calling Hae once she was missing- I initially thought this was a deal breaker for me. I thought, he’s totally guilty. But now, not so much. Remember it’s 1999, things were different, Hae didn’t have a cell phone and her and Adnan had that little system to call each other so their parents wouldn’t find out, so why would he try call her at home? Plus, I totally pay the “staying up to date via the friends thing” if a work colleague or a semi close friend or ex that I was still in touch with was missing, I think I would act the same, surely the family and police had it covered? I wouldn’t want to be all up in their business. But that’s just me. I definitely don’t think it’s enough to scream guilt.

    2. Totally agree, “you’re pathetic” is such a LOADED statement. My feeling is Jay is involved more than he is letting on too.

    3. If he didn’t do it, then who did? This was so important for me after she visited Jay.

    4. How the hell he was convicted with that cause, I’ll never know.

    Overall, I just get an overwhelming sense of sadness about it all. Adnan seems like a good guy, whatever that means, and I feel for Hae’s family.

    So glad to have found some serial lovers!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      1. Oh totally! The calling thing I got wrong – I meant paged! He could have paged her. And everyone else tried to but him it just seemed weird.
      2. I agree Jay is more involved than he’s letting on too although he is REALLY involved.
      3. YES! If it wasn’t Jay who was it? And if wasn’t Adnan who was it? That’s really scary.
      I think it’s sad too because I’m not convinced it was Jay OR Adnan. I can’t wait to find out more.

  7. catbeloverly 4 years ago

    I have been listening weekly since the beginning and have been downloaded the podcast and listened immediately when I’ve been awoken at stupid o’clock by Mr 3. So I guess I’m obsessed. I really don’t know if he did it. I didn’t think so and then I did and after this last episode I don’t. I think Jay is a Fishy McFishy Pants though and must have cut a deal. I so hope we get a resolution. And also, I really feel for Hae’s family. x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 4 years ago

      I feel for Hae’s family too but I just keep thinking they must want to true justice for her. If it wasn’t Adnan then they can’t get any comfort from him being in jail.

  8. Dobbo Dares 4 years ago

    How did I miss this post?! Anyway, there’s heaps of questions and the Slate Spoiler podcast is good because they go and read all the Reddit posts and snoop through court files and come up with even MORE questions for you. I cannot wait for the next episode because I think with the legal team people on it, things are really going to get more interesting.

  9. nonnuclearmaven 4 years ago

    I’ve just listened to them all in the last 24 hours…Adnan has had a lot of time to think about what to say, same as Jay, if there were ever questioned again. And in a situation like this, sometimes lies become truth in a persons memory, especially when trauma is involved. Unless I’ve missed something, possible as I’ve gone through them all so quickly, we haven’t heard from Stephanie yet? But no phone at Best Buy is dodgy, so dodgy, and if it did happen at Best Buy is then speaks to a crime of passion in the heat of the moment rather than pre-meditated, in my mind anyway. We also haven’t really heard if cause of death/forensic evidence supports the prosecution case, along with the lack of DNA/forensic testing on the items/fibres found at the gravesite. It’s every parents worst nightmare and I can only imagine what Hae’s family must be feeling with this all being bought to the fore again.

  10. melissa 4 years ago

    Thank you for putting me on to Serial! It is so engaging- I gorged on it over the last few days. Loved listening to something a bit different while doing chores and jobs around the house!

  11. I really want to have a logical point of view on this but I can’t! There are so many confusing and conflicting statements and occurrences, that I wonder if we will ever know the truth. I think there are only 3 or 4 people who do actually know what happened that day.
    One of the things that stands out for me is the many changes in Jay’s story. And he includes so much detail in particular areas that it feels almost rehearsed. And of course the pay phone, or lack of pay phone at Best Buy is really troubling.
    I think the investigators in this case really need their arses kicked. It seems like one foul up after another. And in the end I think they ‘bought’ Jay’s testimony with his freedom so they could get a conviction. Imagine the pressure on the prosecution to solve this crime?
    I also find it disturbing though that Adnan was able to be convicted on the flimsy ‘evidence’ (for want of a better word). Makes me wonder how many people are in jail falsely convicted, and even worse how many are living in our society who got away with murder!

  12. my2morrows 4 years ago

    I just finished listening to the final episode…. oh my gosh, the void! It was so engrossing! Wondering what I’m going to listen to now?

    Like sarah said at the start of ep 12… its like trying to plot the co-ordinates of someone’s dream or something!

  13. Amanda Hall 4 years ago

    sorry i’m late to the party on this. The things that are fishy to me:
    1. Both Jay and Adnan say that they were not close friends… they seem to do an awful lot together for ‘not close friends’. That’s weird to me – why would they suddenly be in cahoots with something so massive like this.
    2. Jay’s story is way too detailed. Like a liar supplying ‘too much’ to cover something up. Also can’t believe he is walking free after admitting what he was involved with.
    3. The guy that found the body… the school janitor – this guy needed more investigation. That whole scenario was strange.
    4. Yes Stephanie knows more than she’s telling.
    5. The whole investigation is just awful – in a city where apparently crime is rife it’s unbelievable that there are SO many things not followed through (DNA testing, did the body have an autopsy?, the whole pay phone situation). I feel so disappointed for the Hae’s family, as well as Adnan and his family that these tests and investigations were not done to get a 100% accurate conviction. Agree with Jodi’s point above – how many innocents are jailed and how many criminals are amongst us? It’s frightening how incompetent the investigations were.
    6. I feel confused as to the time line. At one stage they are caught up with the time of 3.40ish on 13th January for time of death. Then later Sarah states that they didn’t even know an exact day of death. WTF?
    It’s not normally something i would listen to but really glad i did. Thanks for the tip.

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