In Depth

Serial podcast review: what we learnt from episode 9, To Be Suspected

This week on the Serial podcast, three new pieces of information appear to punch holes in the prosecution's timeline of events

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Does the prosecution's timeline of events make sense? This has been one of questions at the heart of Serial's investigation into the 1999 murder of teenager Hae Min Lee in Baltimore County, Maryland.

The Woodlawn High School student went missing on 13 January 1999 and her body was discovered strangled and buried in a shallow grave a month later. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was later convicted of her killing.

In this week's episode of the Serial podcast, the timeline of events began to look increasingly tenuous, thanks to three new "things" uncovered by presenter Sarah Koenig and her team.

Thing One

First, a Woodlawn High School student, known as Laura in the podcast, told Koenig in an interview that she is absolutely certain there were no public phones around Best Buy. This is important because prosecution star witness Jay testified that Adnan had called him from the Best Buy car park after killing Hae demanding to be picked up. According to Laura, however: "There were never any phones around Best Buy".

Thing Two

Second, a former friend of Hae's contacted Koenig last week after listening to the eight previous episodes of the podcast and insisted that the prosecution's hypothesis that Hae was killed at 2.36pm is simply impossible.

"There is no way she was at Best Buy at 2.36," Summer claims. Summer says that she has a very clear memory of seeing Hae at school after the last bell and having a ten minute conversation with her between 2.30 and 2.45. Other witnesses say that they remembered seeing Hae around school as late as 3.00 or 3.15.

Thing Three

Third, a woman known in the podcast as Cathy, who said that she had seen Adnan on the afternoon of Hae's disappearance, testified in court that Adnan received a phone call when he arrived at her house that seemed to rattle him. Quite who was calling and what they wanted was never established, but one suggestion was that someone else connected with the crime may have been calling Adnan.

However, Koenig's investigations this week uncovered that the most likely caller was Adnan's friend Aisha who said in an interview that she definitely spoke to Adnan around the time the call was logged.

Do these three new details add up to prove Adnan's innocence? No, says Koenig, but combined with the other inconsistencies she has uncovered through the course of her investigation she admits to having "reasonable doubt about whether Adnan killed Hae".

She adds: "I'm not talking about the courtroom kind, I'm talking about the normal person kind."

So why was Adnan's trial attorney Maria Cristina Gutierrez unable to establish the "courtroom kind" of doubt when it mattered most? Serial plans to answer that question in its next episode two weeks from now.

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