Crime Corner

The murder of Hae Lee

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Some of you may have heard of Adnan’s case if you have listened to the podcast ‘Serial’ season 1. (If you haven’t, you should go listen to it, it’s good!)

Disclaimer, my personal view is that he didn’t do the crime, or that he didn’t participate in the ways that it is claimed he did, so this may come across in this article.

If you haven’t heard of this case, I’ll summarise it here for you today. Adnan, a 17 year old Muslim, was arrested for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and close friend Hae Min Lee. Hae disappeared on January 13, 1999, and her family reported her missing that day, after she failed to pick up her young cousin from school at about 3:15 pm. On February 1, 1999, the Baltimore County Police received an anonymous phone call suggesting that Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was responsible for her murder and that Adnan had threatened to kill Hae after a break up. On February 3rd, the police requested call records for a cell phone belonging to Adnan to try and track his whereabouts. They noticed a number of calls on the day of Hae’s disappearance to a woman named Jen Pusateri. When questioned, Jen told police that a friend of hers, Jay, (a few years older than Adnan) told her that Adnan had killed Hae. The police questioned Jay who told them that he had helped Adnan bury Lee’s body and dispose of her car. On February 9th, 1999, Lee’s body was found by a passer-by in a Park. Adnan was arrested on February 28th, 1999 and charged with first degree murder.

According to the prosecution, Adnan and Hae had been together since prom. Being from a highly religious Muslim family, Adnan was not supposed to date, drink, or do drugs. However, Adnan was an American high school student in the late 90s and acted like one. In addition, like all students, (of all religions!), he hid his dating life and other behaviours his parents wouldn’t approve of from his family. The state used this against Adnan in two ways. One was that he put everything on the line for Hae, his family, and his religion just to date her, and he was outraged when she broke up with him. Secondly, they also suggested that if he can lie to his family about dating, drugs and alcohol regularly, then clearly he can lie about killing Hae.

Most of the prosecution’s case relies on Jay’s testimony and cell phone evidence to prove it was Adnan. Jay claimed Adnan told him before Hae went missing that “He is going to kill that B****,” however, Jay didn’t take it too seriously, not thinking Adnan would actually do it. According to Jay, Adnan gave him his car so Jay could come pick him up after he had done the deed and so that his car wouldn’t be at the scene itself.

Once receiving a call from Adnan, Jay supposedly drove to Best Buy to meet him an Hae’s body was in the trunk of her car which Adnan drove there. The boys ditched Hae’s car and then took Adnan back to school so he could create an alibi for himself. Later that night, Jay helped Adnan dig a hole for them to bury Hae’s body. Cellphone records back up the timing and locations of Jay’s story. If Jay’s story is real, then Adnan is cold and psychopathic. This isn’t a crime of passion; it was thought out and planned.

On January the 13th, Hae left school at 2:15, and she was dead by 2:36pm.

However, the case isn’t as open and shut as it may look as there are many issues with the prosecution’s case against Adnan which has risen since the trial and not brought to the jury’s attention. This article will explore these factors and see if they make an impact on the case.

Adnan claims that he lent Jay his car to go shopping for his girlfriend as it was her birthday and Adnan was close friends with her and didn’t want her to be upset that her boyfriend didn’t get her a present. The plan was that Jay would pick him up after track practice later that evening. Adnan finished school and went to the library to kill some time before track practice at 4:30. At this time, it was Ramadan and Adnan would have been fasting all day. The coach didn’t make him do much in practice and then when Jay picked him up he had gotten food and smoked some weed before heading home. Adnan has trouble being more specific than this, as how could he remember a specific 21 minutes, 6 weeks after the day, when nothing eventful happened at the time? (Personally I can’t remember much of yesterday, let alone 6 weeks ago!)

Regarding his relationship with Hae, Adnan claims he wasn’t mad at Hae for breaking up with him. Sure he was sad, but he was not obsessed with Hae. He was seeing other girls and they broke up before Christmas so he no reason to kill her in January. By this point, Hae was seeing another guy, and Adnan other girls. They were friends and they discussed each other’s new interests. They had a good friendship and not one of their friends suggested he was obsessed or angry that she broke up with him.

Another main issue is a young girl, Asia, who was friends with Adnan at the time, claimed to have seen him in the library after school had finished around the time Hae was killed. If this is correct, then it would have been impossible for Adnan to kill Hae and leave her body in the park. Adnan’s lawyer didn’t contact Asia for a statement about this or check the security camera at the library for an alibi for Adnan. Asia never pushed the fact she saw him to his lawyers or anyone else as she was told by a prosecutor that Adnan was guilty, with or without her statement, so she didn’t see the point. According to Asia, her boyfriend and his friend saw Adnan as well. She left the library and Adnan at 2:40, so if this was true, Adnan was in the clear. Why did Adnan’s lawyer not follow up on this? Fair enough, just one person saying they saw him that day isn’t proof, however, to not even ask Asia what happened that day or see if the cameras had caught him there is ridiculous.

Adnan’s fingerprints were found in Hae’s car and this was the only physical proof linking Adnan to the car. However, this was likely as she was dating him previously and they were friends, meaning they have been in each other’s cars. There were many fingerprints in Hae’s car (almost 16 sets) and the prosecution only compared them against three sets, Jay’s, Adnan’s and Hae’s. They didn’t bother trying to find out who the others were. If they did, they may have found another suspect off of the prints.

One large issue is that Jay’s story kept changing between interviews, almost on cue with the police finding information which contradicted his original story. Now we do not want to think that the police were in any way changing Jays story to fit their findings, however, there has been audio of Jay’s interviews and whenever Jay forgot what he was going to say, (like an actor forgetting his lines) we could hear a tapping and suddenly Jay remembered what he was also going to say. Another situation of something similar happening was in an interview with Adnan’s friend, Debbie, saying she saw him at school during the time he would have needed to have been off campus killing Hae. At first, Debbie stated she had saw him she was sure of it. Then, the tape ran out on the recording. Almost 35 minutes later, they started the recording again (which is a long time to get more tape) and suddenly Debbie was no longer sure if it was the right day or time.

Adnan’s new attorney, Justin Brown, has appealed the case. The basis for the appeal is mistakes made by Gutierrez during the trial. Brown says that Gutierrez failed to interview a witness, Asia McClain, who said she was with Syed at the time Lee was killed and multiple other issues that Gutierrez made, causing Adnan to not have a fair trial.

On May 24, 2001, the Maryland Court of Appeals announced Gutierrez had been disbarred. Gutierrez agreed to the disbarment, citing numerous health problems including multiple sclerosis. People who worked with her at the time stated she acted differently due to her help issues, making her miss things she wouldn’t have. Her erratic behaviour meant her clients suffered.

In February 2015 (15 years after Adnan was arrested), “the Maryland Court of Special Appeals filed a decision allowing Adnan to appeal his conviction on grounds his attorney had provided ineffective counsel for failing to seek a plea bargain during his trial.”

This time, Adnan has a confident and competent lawyer who has explored all aspects of this case. Asia is there to testify on his behalf and the cell phone records no longer match Jay’s ever changing story. Hopefully, Adnan will get some justice after all this time. Not only do I feel sorry for Adnan if he is innocent, but I also feel sorry for Hae’s family. They have had all this dragged back up again, thinking the case was shut. The man they thought was their daughter’s killer has the chance of being released, with no one actually caught and paying for her death.

There are so many more points involved in this case, which if I attempted to go into all of it, this article would never end. If you are interested in more details about the case, give Serial a listen. There are 12 episodes and it is really addictive. Another good book is Adnan’s Story, by Rabia Chaudry. She is a close friend of Adnan’s family and studied law herself and is currently fighting alongside Adnan’s lawyer to help him. The book is available in Audio or written format. Finally, there is also another podcast available called ‘Undisclosed’ (season 1), which is also by Rabia and two other lawyers discussing the case.

This case was based around racism due to Adnan’s Muslim culture and either police bending points to frame Adnan, or incompetency on both Adnan’s lawyers’ side. There are also incidences of the police making mistakes or lazily not investigating points they should have.

What do you think? Is he innocent? Involved somehow? Or guilty of the crime and this being dragged out and resurfaced is completely wrong? Or do you have another opinion altogether? Let us know in the comments below!

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