Who is Adnan Syed? Here is everything you need to know:
Adnan Syed was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, plus thirty-years, at the age of seventeen. He is now a forty-two year old man who has spent the last twenty-five years in prison, but maintains that he did not commit the crime.
During Syed’s high school career in 1999, his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee went missing on January 13th, 1999. Lee’s body was discovered on February 9th of the same year, buried in a shallow grave near Leakin Park in Baltimore, not far from the high school where Lee and Syed both attended. Her cause of death was found to be strangulation.
Syed became the primary suspect in the case after the police were tipped off by an anonymous caller named him as a person who was involved with the crime. Syed’s classmate Jay testified against Syed in court, claiming that he helped Syed dispose of Lee’s body. Jay’s testimony included an elaborate story about how Syed planned and executed the murder of Lee, with his help.
Syed claims that on the day Lee disappears, he lent his car to Jay. Jay dropped Syed off at school. After school, Syed went to the Woodlawn Public Library and spoke to his friend Asia McClain – who will later provide this information as an alibi for Syed – and then he went to track practice. Jay picked Syed up from track practice, and they went to another classmate’s home. Syed later went to the Mosque for evening prayer.
In Jay’s version of the story – which changes multiple times – he and Syed went to the mall, where Syed confessed to Jay that he is planning to kill Lee. Later, Jay picked up Syed in the Best Buy parking lot near the high school. There, Syed showed Jay the body of Lee in the trunk of the car. They moved Lee’s car and then buried her body in a park.
Syed’s story was investigated and reported on by Sarah Koenig in Season One of the Serial Podcast. Koenig retraced the crime by interviewing everyone involved. She also tested the feasibility of Syed’s ability to leave the high school, murder and bury Lee, and return to school during the small window of time in which the state believes the crime was committed.
After the airing of Season One, listeners began to speculate that the evidence against Syed seems suspect. Jay’s testimony against Adnan is the only solid evidence that the state was able to use to convict Adnan, and many people believe that the testimony was fabricated. In fact, many people believe that Jay was the one who actually murdered Lee.
In Baltimore, the Walter Lomax Act (named for a Maryland man who spent almost forty years in prison before he was found to be innocent) maintains that wrongly convicted prisoners who are found to be innocent will receive financial compensation. A man named Melvin Thomas was awarded over a million dollars by the state of Maryland – nearly eighty-five thousand dollars for each year he spent wrongfully in prison.
According to an NPR article, Baltimore prosecutors have requested Syed’s murder conviction be vacated. Two alternate suspects have been identified, and cell phone tower data that had previously connected Syed to the crime was found to be unreliable.
If Syed was found not to be guilty after all, how many millions of dollars would it take to compensate him for the loss of twenty-five years of his life? At eighty-five-thousand dollars for each year of thirty years served, the state of Maryland would have to pay Adnan Syed two and half million dollars to right this wrong.
Author: Jacqui Donaldson also writes poetry and creative nonfiction. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.