Podcast Review: Serial Season One

As you may have heard in the news recently, Adnan Syed was released from prison after having his conviction overruled by Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn of Maryland. Syed was serving a life sentence for the murder of Hae Min Lee. He had already served twenty-three years in prison by the time this ruling was made. Serial season one, hosted by Sarah Koenig, investigates Syed and the murky details that lead to his conviction. Much of the state’s case includes testimony from an unreliable witness and nonsensical cell tower records. There was  incompetence on the part of Syed’s attorney who could have followed up with an alibi for Syed but never did. Much of what is examined in this podcast in the reason why Syed was released. Those who want to find out more information about the case against Adnan Syed will be fascinated by this podcast.  

The State of Maryland’s primary witness against Adnan Syed was Jay Wilds. Wilds claimed that Syed showed him the corpse of Hae Min Lee and threatened him if he did not help bury the body. Wilds’ story about what occurred changed every time he told the police what happened. There are recordings of his interviews in this podcast and you can hear his inconsistencies. When listening to him and Koenig’s narration about him, you will be baffled by why he was ever taken seriously.

In this podcast, you learn how the prosecution used cell tower records to back-up of Wilds’ testimony. This was to indicate where Wilds was when Syed was calling him. Most of the records obtained were inconclusive. Only a small amount of it fit to match Wilds’ rehearsed story. Even those matching Jay’s story with cell towers records should not have mattered. You learn that cell tower records of incoming phone calls are not reliable information for tracking a person’s location. How this all went unchallenged is hard to believe.

In the first episode of Serial, Koenig talks about an alibi for Syed: Asia McClain. McClain wrote a letter to Syed stating that she remembered being with him at the library at the time he was accused of being with Hae Min Lee. Rather than pursue this lead, Syed’s lawyer’s at the time, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to take McClain’s letter seriously and use McClain as a witness. She also failed to pick apart Wilds’ story while cross-examining him. Instead of being skeptical of him, the jury sympathized with Wilds due to Gutierrez bulling him under cross-examination. Members of the jury who were interviewed by Koenig talk about being impressed by Wilds’ calm demeanor while being yelled at by Gutierrez. Listeners will be perplexed by Gutierrez’s behavior during Syed’s trial and question whether she was a competent lawyer.  

After listening to Serial, listeners will wonder why it took twenty-three years for Adnan Syed to be released from prison. In some parts of the podcast, Koenig is too sympathetic to Wilds and critical of Syed, but overall she does a good job of showing the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against Syed. You also have to credit this podcast for putting Adnan Syed’s case in the national spotlight. Serial is a bingeable podcast that will make listeners eager to learn more about the case of Adnan Syed.

You can listen to Serial on the podcast website or apps such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or more.

Besides Serial, Undisclosed does excellent job of investigating the case of Adnan Syed. Evidence examined in this podcast helped in the overturning of the State of Maryland’s case against Syed. Episodes have been re-released that track Adnan Syed, Jay Wilds, and Hae Min Lee on the day Lee was murdered.

Michael Walsh

Adult Services

Will Branch