Adnan Syed Essay

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Adnan Syed was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. His case became the world-famous Serial podcast in 2014. After a police investigation in which Syed’s friend Jay Wilds confessed to helping bury Lee’s body, Syed was arrested on February 28, 1999. Due to the worldwide popularity of the Serial, Syed’s case aroused public interest and gave rise to many media projects. His lawyer has launched her own podcast called Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed and published the book The Story of Adnan: The Search for Truth and Justice after Serial in 2016. In March 2019, HBO also released a four-part documentary. This film, entitled The Case Against Adnan Syed, is based on the development of the story since its broadcast on the series. By far, this case is one of the most mysterious in the 21st century for it has been directly proved that Syed is guilty.

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Adnan Syed is a Muslim-American man, his biography is quite ordinary. Syed was born on May 21, 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland, to conservative Muslim parents Shamim and Syed Rahman. He is the middle child of three sons, his eldest brother Tanveer and the youngest Yusuf. In high school, Woodlawn Syed was popular and studied very well. He played in the football team, worked part-time for the paramedic service (Pak). Syed’s life, thus, was not extraordinary. There were no particular events that would motivate or lead him to the murder.

At the time of her murder, both Syed and Lee were seniors at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore. Like Syed, Lee was popular at school. They kept their relationship a secret from conservative immigrant families. Because of these secrets, they parted ways. After that, Lee began dating a man named Don, who worked with her at the local LensCrafters (Pak). While the breakup could have served as a motive for murder, it is still highly unlikely because the breakup occurred due to the couple’s family traditions. If it could lead to a murder, the victims would very likely be different.

On January 13, 1999, Hae Ming Lee went missing after she did not return home. Four weeks later, a half-buried body was found by a passer-by in Leakin Park. According to the autopsy, she died of manual suffocation. In February 2000, Syed was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for an additional 30 years. Syed has always maintained his innocence. In 2014, his case was reviewed by journalist and radio personality Sarah Koenig in the podcast Series, which called into question his conviction. In June 2016, Syed was recalled by a district judge in Baltimore. The Maryland Court of Appeals has denied Syed a new trial (Pak). Hence, essentially, Syed is still in jail because there was no concrete evidence to prove his innocence, or such evidence has been ignored.

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Case Analysis

Although prosecutors could not offer any physical evidence against Syed, they used the testimony of Wilds and Jennifer Pusater, who claimed that Wilds told her that Syed had confessed to killing Lee and showed him the body. According to Wildes, Syed was outraged that Lee broke up with him and killed her in revenge. Other evidence that aided the prosecution included camera recordings that confirmed some of the timeframes of the event.

As a result, Syed was convicted in February 2000 of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. But over time, Wildes has repeatedly changed his testimony, and a recent analysis of Wildes’ interview shows that he was heavily pressured by the police (Socol, Moran, and Ratliff 103). Pushing witnesses to provide evidence needed to accuse someone is not a rare occurrence, however, it often leads to false prosecution and might even be considered a crime on the police officers’ side.

Since 2003, Syed has appealed his case, again appealing in 2010. Syed said that at that time his lawyer Christina Gutierrez did not look at the testimony of Asian McClain, another witness. According to this alibi, Syed was in the Woodlawn High School Library at the time of the murder. In addition to McClain, the appellant's attorney found that the camera's recordings and, thus, the previous important piece of evidence from the original trial were inaccurate (Socol, Moran, and Ratliff 103). From this point, it becomes quite evident that Syed’s case might have largely been biased, given his background and the overall attitudes in the society at the time.

In June 2016, Baltimore Judge Martin Welch scheduled a retrial in the Syed case. However, a year later, the state's highest court overturned the decision, denying Syed a retrial. He argued that the latest evidence would not change the jury's decision (Pak). Apparently, more evidence is needed at the moment to allow retrial. However, the case is quite mysterious and controversial as there is quite clear evidence that Syed did not commit the murder after all.


As we can see, this case is very complicated and ambiguous. Like many murder cases, a false conviction is possible. In addition to revealing certain deviations in Syed’s friend’s testimony over time, they demonstrate that the murder may have been committed by someone else. Also, the case did not take into account the testimony of the girl, who claimed that Syed was in the library at the time of the murder. We also see that there was clear pressure on witnesses from the police. Interestingly, it was the publicity in the series that gave the case its second impetus. However, this did not yield any results to reveal the ultimate truth in this confusing case.

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Works Cited

Pak, Eudie. "Adnan Syed". Biography, 2021,

Socol, Ira et al. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. John Wiley & Sons, 2018.

May 12, 2022



Human Rights

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