We all know about Serial, right? Of course you do, you wouldn’t be reading this right now if you hadn’t. Unless you’re the type of person that meticulously reads every new entry posted by the countless nobodies on WordPress, in which case, thank you for getting my numbers up, my last article nearly broke double figures!
If you’re anything like me, then you’ll also have taken part in one of the most elaborate — albeit macabre — Easter egg hunts in the history of the internet. I’ve spent countless hours scouring all the different Serial sub-reddits hunting for the tiniest morsels of information, hoping that some salient earth-shattering evidence will come to light and make all the pieces fall into place for me. But hey, I’m no Susan Simpson, and if I’m honest with myself, I’m probably not even a Lionel Hutz. Any chance of me cracking this case would involve an incredibly gifted brain surgeon and a procedure that I’m not sure Team Undisclosed would be OK with.
So after the harsh reality of my detective ineptitude set in, I resigned myself to casually checking out Twitter and Reddit every few days, hoping that somebody else had done all the hard work and cracked this bastard open for me. Slowly but surely, developments have been made and baby steps are being taken towards something that’s starting to resemble justice. Even with the court granting the motion to re-open, there’s still likely a few very tense and nervous months ahead, so it’s probably best to proceed with cautious optimism, and keep in mind:
5. There’ll be a horrible backlash, regardless of the outcome.
Let’s start with a hypothetical. Say tomorrow morning you open up your browser. After you’ve completed your morning ritual of gambling away your kid’s college fund on internet blackjack, you check the news and find out that the case has been cracked. Adnan himself has come forward, to Oprah, I guess, and admitted that he did it. Now what? How many people do you think would react rationally?
“Well, this was an interesting turn of events. I had my theories and it turns out I was completely off. But now there’s a concrete conclusion and I feel like justice has prevailed here.”
I’m not doubting that if such a revelation came to be, that the majority of well-adjusted Serial fans would have a similar type of reaction. But how many people do you suppose would flip the fuck out? How many conspiracies do you think would spawn from that announcement?
“I was lied to! Sarah Koenig came into my ears and lied to me! Rabia, Susan, Colin, Fireman fucking Bob! All liars! They tried to free a murderer!”
“No, it’s all lies! They forced him to confess because all the publicity around his case was making the state look bad! #JusticeforAdnan #AndHaeTooProbably”
Now before I carry on, I just want to point out that even if the opposite was proven true, and say, a murderer with a history of violence toward random Asian females was 100% forensically proven to have committed the murder, there would be just as much uproar from the less rational portion of the opposing side.
“It’s a frame job! Of course Adnan did it! You attack a couple of Asian girls and get branded a murderer for life? The forensics were a set up! You gonna blame him for Jimmy Hoffa too, huh?”
You might think I’m being way too speculative here about how individuals would react, but this very thing happened not more than a few weeks ago. When a handful of Redditors were granted access to the case files through a MPIA request, so many people who were already certain of Adnan’s guilt became fixed on the belief that now they had full access; this case was done. The SerialPodcastOrigins Reddit became a sea of vitriolic comments about how they couldn’t be “lied to” anymore because the truth was there for the world to see. Insults were flung, Bob Ruff got pissed and called bullshit, Susan Simpson grabbed some clay and also called bullshit, and a few weeks later after some damage control, everything went back to normal.
It’s a horrible catch 22, there’s no way around it. Regardless of the outcome, someone will be pissed that something they’re so invested in has given them an emotional cockslapping. The only thing we can hope for is that when the time comes we aren’t the ones that become something ugly.
4. This isn’t make believe!
I feel like most people who become invested in this case do so because they know what’s at stake here. Unfortunately for all involved, this is real life. A bright young girl with her entire life ahead of her was cruelly taken from the world. Her family suffered horribly waiting for her to come home, they suffered when they found out she wasn’t coming home, and they suffered again 15 years later, when old wounds were re-opened. No matter how well intentioned the re-opening of those wounds may be, the pain doesn’t become any less agonising. I can’t imagine what all this circus-like attention around the worst period of their lives is doing to them, and their resolve to remain silent amongst the tactless voyeurism of a small number of troll-like Reddit “investigators” takes a level of restraint I doubt I’d ever be able to muster.
But if we aren’t certain that we got the right guy, how could we not look into this? It’s unfortunate that the medium of further investigation has the unpleasant side effect of broadcasting the personal private details of a tragically murdered teen, but would Hae’s family truly have justice without it? Even if it does come out that Adnan did it, at least then they’d know the truth, that justice was served. As long as there are as many holes in this case as there are, I don’t see how anyone can responsibly wash their hands of this and walk away.
If this would’ve been handled correctly the first time, Hae’s family could have had justice without their loved one’s final moments being the focus of the world’s scrutiny. Whether you believe Adnan is guilty or not, Hae’s family still suffers today because the culture of rushed police work in Baltimore left behind enough doubt to warrant the creation of several podcasts and blogs highlighting that fact.
Although, Hae isn’t the only one that deserves justice. Using her family’s pain as a barrier to hide the truth behind only ensures that justice will never be certain. But then again…
3. Certainty is Impossible.
You’ve probably got your own pet theory on what happened that day. Whether the Nisha call was a legit butt-dial, whether Jay was actually involved, whether Asia really saw Adnan in the library. Each piece of information is like a coloured square on a rubix cube, but we can only seem to get one face to match up. Even with all this ambiguity, people are certain that their verdict of the case is correct.
I’m not confused as to why people would feel one way or the other, but to be so unshakably sure that everyone on the opposite side of the fence is a gullible moron is insane. It takes a whole lot of ignorance to be so steadfast in your beliefs when the margin for error has been steadily increasing with every new revelation. Do I believe Adnan is innocent? At the moment, I lean toward it, yes. But would I be surprised to find I was wrong? No, because the truth of the matter is that I don’t really know anything at all. You can call it sitting on the fence if you want, but at this stage it seems like the only rational system of thought.
What I am confused about however, is why these people who have solved the case for themselves still stick around? Surely, somebody who’d conclusively made up their mind would’ve forgotten about Serial months ago and left the children with their toys. But here they are, staunchly defending their position, protecting it like an antique Coke bottle that contains humanities’ only encapsulated unicorn fart. If their theory was as sound as they claimed, it would stand up against all these mindless drones screaming “Guilty/Innocent” without their intervention.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important for communities to have differing opinions, we need people to lean guilty, we need people to lean innocent. We need some antagonism in our lives to keep us grounded, because surrounding ourselves with people who agree with us adds nothing valuable to the discussion and we cease seeing the faults in our own logic. A differing view point, providing that it is well thought out and sound in its logic should be welcomed to the table. A group of people patting each other on the back isn’t the basis of improvement, it’s the very definition of a circle-jerk.
This is starting to feel a bit ranty, and I apologise for that. I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to attack the so called “Guilters” specifically, just this toxic mind-set that appears on both sides of the discussion. Maybe my bias is showing through here and I’m highlighting more of these examples from the Guilter side of the equation, but I promise you, the same toxicity is present in pockets of Camp Innocent also, it’s just that I’ve found the Guilters to be louder.
Undisclosed has highlighted many reasons for why the state’s version of events doesn’t seem to match reality, as well as showing off the oddities in the police investigation and in the evidence used to convict Adnan at trial. But it doesn’t matter, because no matter what Undisclosed or Fireman Bob uncover, there’ll be a swarm of angry Redditors figuring out a way to discredit it before you even manage unplug your earphones. Which would be fine, except their method of debunking all the new information is often just some variation of the words: “I don’t believe.” Their versions of events often require just as much, if not more speculation as the information they’re trying to debunk, but again, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not speculation if you really believe it and it just so happens to back up your case.
The innocent side of the scale is no less guilty of such transgressions. The findings dished out by Team Undisclosed and the Truth and Justice Podcast are indeed very compelling and thought provoking, but not all of it can be held up as the gospel truth. There’s a fair degree of wriggle room involved with these findings, which the hosts openly admit, but it doesn’t stop the extreme wings of the “adamantly innocent” crowd Jenny McCarthying the shit out of it. The extremists of both parties fail to realise they’re the two different sides of the same coin and neither one is particularly helpful when it comes to deciphering the truth. Speaking of which…
2. It doesn’t look like we’ll ever know the truth.
The role of podcasts like Undisclosed and Truth and Justice is to look into the information that was not covered in Serial and apply a degree of scrutiny that was missing from the initial investigation. Both podcasts have been monumentally helpful in painting a clearer picture of this case as a whole, but how much can we really know for sure? There’s still a whole lot of that picture that is open to interpretation. Huge empty spaces of canvas that when filled in could potentially render our current theories inert.
Short of uncovering a Paranormal Activity 3-esque stash of video recordings documenting every moment of every key player’s day, we have to accept that those blank spaces will most likely never see the tiniest stroke of a brush. It’s frustrating to think that even if Adnan is freed, he’ll never truly be able to prove his innocence beyond a shadow of a doubt. Those blank spaces give way to unfalsifiable theories that will keep the fires of guilt stoked in the minds of those desperate for answers.
1. Like it or not, Adnan got screwed.
Feelings of innocence or guilt aside, under the Sixth Amendment every citizen of the United States is guaranteed the right to a fair trial, and by the look of things, Adnan reeeally didn’t get one. Justin Brown’s most recent appeal brief gave the prosecution the long awaited spanking it was due, highlighting amongst other things, prosecutorial misconduct regarding alibi witnesses and the huge puckered butthole of a Brady violation in the cover sheet for the cell records. You remember the one, the one that said, “Hey Urick, don’t use this shit to convict people with incoming calls, ya big dummy, Only assholes would do that.” Y’know, the cover sheet that 16 years later, caused a key witness for the state to recant his testimony? Yeah, THAT cover sheet. The brief did such a great job of systematically demolishing the foundation of the state’s case that the same Judge that denied his initial appeal has granted the motion to re-open.
I know what some people are thinking;
“How could you say Adnan got screwed, he’s doing pretty well for a murderer, are you forgetting the real victim here?”
Well, yes you’re right hypothetical person. But if you’ve read this far into my article you’d know that whatever you think you know at this point is potentially complete horseshit. There’s too much ambiguity and administrative shadiness for you to be certain of guilt or innocence without looking like an asshole. Why not let the new information in, and let a judge decide whether or not we got the right guy? There’s a very distinct possibility that an innocent man has spent the best years of his life in prison just to maintain the idea that someone has paid for the injustice dealt out to Hae and her family.
Convicting a teenage scapegoat with such limited evidence is not justice. Keeping him in prison as more and more revelations are made is not justice. Denying Hae’s Mother the right to know what really happened to her daughter is certainly not justice. Why would you stand in the way of progress? Why would you stand in the way of possibly re-opening the investigation into Hae’s murder? Are you that determined to see someone pay right this second that you’d let a potentially innocent man rot? Can’t you even entertain the idea that maybe he didn’t do it?
I have a feeling that I’m not going to convince many people to stop being so unmovably resolute in their innocent/guilty stances, but at the very least I’d hope they’d open their minds just a little. Maybe just enough that we can take another shot at this justice thing and find out who actually is responsible for what happened on January 13th 1999, because as of right now, we don’t have a clue.