Adnan’s Story Book Review

Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After SerialAdnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The summer of 2016 has proven to be a pretty good few months for Adrian Syed. With the murder conviction of Hae Min Lee being vacated and the release of a best—selling book he contributed to chronicling the days leading up to his arrest and the subsequent years, it seems as if Adnan’s luck is finally turning around.

Adnan’s Story, written by Rabia Chaudry with contributions from Adnan himself via various letters, was a much-anticipated body of work. Since following the Serial podcast, as well as both the Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed, and Truth and Justice (formally Serial Dynasty) podcasts, I couldn’t help but want more after the seasons focused on Adnan’s case ended. (Which by the way, I thought the titles of these three key podcasts were cleverly woven into the book cover.) But many of us are waiting with bated breath to know what happens next in this fascinating story of whodunit. Unfortunately for Hae Min Lee, this was not just a story, it was real life, her life that was tragically ended at the hands of another.

I originally purchased the hardcover version of this book, but after only a few chapters in, I resigned to purchase the audiobook version. The main reason being the difficulty in following the story through the text. The audio version of the book was much more easier to follow, than the text version. I really respect Rabia, but if I’m being honest, the book was written as if sentences were thrown together, and not a coherent account of the details. It failed to flow artistically or even in a well thought manner. Books go through numerous rounds of edits between the author and the editor/publisher. But this really seemed to be lacking, and read like the first or second draft of the book had actually been published. For someone as smart and talented as Rabia with a law degree, you would expect a much higher quality of writing. It puzzles me the number of reviews praising the writing of this book.

I found myself reading along with the audio version a few times, and identified several points throughout the text version that have errors. However, these errors were corrected in the audio version, and hopefully will be corrected in future iterations of the written text. Additionally, the flow of the book was not the easiest to follow as it jumped back and forth instead of chronologically. I can’t see a legitimate reason for writing this particular story in a non-linear way. Parts of the book were super redundant, and not for any obvious reason.

Ideally, the book would have begun with the reports of Hae’s disappearance and Adnan’s ultimate arrest. Then an explanation as to who Rabia is and her relation to Adnan and his family followed by the chronological details of the case unfolding, sprinkled with tidbits about Rabia, ultimately leading up to the inception of Serial, the appeals and the present day.

The last few chapters were pretty decent, and this may be because it takes place in the last 2-3 years so it is fairly recent events, OR because it’s first-hand information of Rabia and her interactions with Sarah Koneig, Susan Simpson, Collin Miller, and Bob Ruff. The last few chapters are essentially about Rabia’s life. I will admit that I enjoyed reading about the strained dynamic between Rabia and Sarah and for me it explained why I felt Rabia was a bit cold whenever she mentioned Sarah in interviews.

What can be assessed from the writing, and from Rabia herself, is that she is not nearly as familiar with the case and the minute details as you might think for someone writing a book about it. I totally respect that she wanted to capitalize on the popularity surrounding Serial and the case itself. But afier hearing/reading the letters that Adnan has written over the years, we all know how well spoken and how good his letters and his writings are. So while up against a self-inflicted deadline, given the opportunity, I think Adnan would have written an amazingly beautifully crafted harmonious manuscript. I’m really curious about Adnan’s thoughts on the book itself or if he’s been able to read it in part or its entirety. But my gut tells me his focus is on his appeal right now and that Rabia was the one doing the heavy lifting save for the few letters Adnan wrote for inclusion in the book.

As for the book’s contents, there was not much new information included in the book that those who haven’t been following the podcasts and online readings, would not be aware of already. So I’m a bit biased in that aspect. What I did enjoy were the personal details of Adnan’s life in prison, and how his family was coping with his imprisonment. I also believe that including the guidance that Christina Gutierrez gave him about refraining from contacting anyone outside of his immediate family prior to the trial helped put things in perceptive for outsiders. It is pretty clear to me that this book was written for an audience that is only familiar with Serial. This book was written to tie together, Undisclosed, Truth and Justice and both Collin Miller and Susan Simpson’s blog posts and legal commentary. For those of us well versed in the three podcasts and practicing attorneys, there was not much new.

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Living a Lie: A Deal Worth $3000, Jay Wilds and Neighbor Boy

If you haven’t heard season 1 of the Serial podcast,  the follow-up podcast Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed, or my previous post this post will not make much sense.

For the last several months now I’ve been mildly obsessed with the case surrounding the disappearance and murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore City/County in 1999.  I pray that her family and Adnan’s gets real justice.

After I finished the Undisclosed podcast I discovered the Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff podcast. Somewhere around the middle of the season Bob rebranded the podcast from its original name of Serial Dynasty.

Episode 18 of the “Truth & Justice” Podcast was shocking! Halfway thru Bob drops a bombshell… that he had been communicating with Jay Wilds for weeks.  My mouth dropped open and my heart skipped a beat!

Bob appealed to Jay by professing his belief that Jay was innocent in the murder case of Hae Min Lee.  Bob disclosed that he was sure that Jay had essentially been puppeteered by the police and coerced into confessing any involvement in the case.  Although Jay did not confirm Bob’s suspicions, surprisingly, he did not deny them either.

Ultimately, this just confirmed one of my theories in this case.  That Jay really was not involved in the disappearance and ultimately the murder of Hae.

Bob mentioned that he actually felt bad for Jay.  And I can understand Bob’s feelings.  I think that once Jay got involved he quickly got in over his head and before he could realize what was happening he had potentially just screwed himself.  And all for what may have seemed like a deal he couldn’t pass up, when it was all said and done, he really had just offered his friend or close associate up for something Jay had no actual knowledge of.

Let’s examine this…in my opinion, the cops probably had a small drug charge on Jay that they were using against him.  Claiming to file charges and arrest him on possession charges if he didn’t give them information on who they suspected was involved which was Adnan.

The cops, like Bob hypothesized, likely told Jay that they knew Adnan was guilty of murdering Hae, and that Jay needed to cooperate and provide additional details.  I’m convinced that Jay didn’t believe them at first, but they were probably very persuasive.  Convinced at some point that the cops did actually have some real evidence of Adnan’s involvement in Hae’s murder, Jay likely began painting a picture of the last few weeks he had spent with Adnan.

The first thing that probably came out was that his girlfriend Stephanie’s birthday was January 13th.  It was a significant date not just because it was the day that Hae went missing but because it was also Stephanie’s birthday.  So that had to be part of the narrative, because clearly if Adnan was really close friends with Stephanie, Jay’s girlfriend, and had gotten her a birthday gift, and advised Jay to do the same.  So I suspect the narrative that was heard at trial was built around the mall trip etc. and Stephanie’s birthday.  But at this point Jay is already singing. Painting a picture of Adnan that the cops wanted and needed in order to frame the state’s case.

At some point during the many chats with the police and interrogations, Jay had to realize that his lies and claims had gotten him far deeper than he had ever imagined his Crimestoppers “anonymous tip” would get him.  He just wanted to collect $2500 well $3000 when it was all said and done.

The thing is most people probably know that the tip you provide to Crimestoppers is only paid out if it results in the solving or conviction of the case. So unless you have some guilty knowledge or real awareness of the facts surrounding a case, it’s not a very lucrative decision.

Knowing what he knows now, I’m almost certain Jay would have made much different choices when it comes to his claims and involvement in this case altogether. I can probably bet that if he had the chance to do it all over again:

  • he would have kept his mouth shut and taken his chances with the ‘probably’ minor drug charge he was facing, rather than be intimidated by the Baltimore Police
  • send an associate to jail,
  • involve his best friend Jen in a crazy mess
  • and essentially be at the mercy of the prosecutor and charging officers for years and years to come.

Looking back now that Jay has moved away and has a wife and family of his own he wants to protect, who wouldn’t choose a few days or weeks in jail over a lifetime of harassment and accusatory claims against themselves.

Photo of now 35-year old Adnan Syed at his PCR hearing in Baltimore, February 2016.

It’s really a shame that Jay was so selfish in this, because it was certainly not worth sending an innocent man to jail.  Who knows whether he knew it from the beginning, sometime after Adnan’s arrest, or if it wasn’t until he was at the trial that he became aware his actions had sent a close associate to jail for a crime he had not committed.

Can you imagine being Adnan…being arrested for the murder of your ex-girlfriend whom you loved and not knowing why you were being targeted as her murderer? And then learning that someone you thought was your friend had actually gone to the cops and accused you of the heinous act, and having absolutely no idea why this guy would make up this lie. And more so, how this huge misunderstanding wasn’t cleared up, then you end up being tried and convicted.  I’d be dumbfounded and blaming myself for even being in the same social circle as someone who could do something like that.

Neighbor Boy

The neighbor boy portion was also very interesting…I actually believe that what we’ve heard on Serial and Undisclosed about the personality and character traits of Neighbor boy is probably a combination of both Neighbor Boy and Jay Wilds.

My assessment was that Jay possessed more of the “blabbermouth” quality that was pinned on Neighbor boy than Neighbor Boy (NB) actually did.  NB seemed like a guy that sorta wanted to be liked by people so he would just share interesting info and stories he had heard or experienced. But not in a ‘I’ve got a secret’ type of way, more of a social conversation… ‘Did you hear about …’ kind of way.

According to NB, Jay told him that Adnan had murdered Hae and showed him (Jay) Hae’s body in the trunk of a car.  NB also stated to Bob Ruff that according to Jay, because Adnan was Jay’s weed supplier that Jay had expected to see a large amount of weed in the trunk when Adnan supposedly went to ‘pop the trunk’ but was surprised to see a dead body instead.  Which to me is hardly believable that Adnan was Jay’s supplier.

The cast of characters in this story is just unbelievable. If Hollywood doesn’t take this real life drama and turn it into a movie, they’re losing out on a huge pay day! I don’t want to make light of a serious situation but I could come up with a great cast….maybe my next post?

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Serially Obsessed!

IMG_9276The story of a missing high school honor student who was later found dead and her recent ex-boyfriend who was charged with her murder in Maryland back in 1999 has been my latest obsession for the last few weeks. If by now, you have not heard about the SERIAL podcast that began in October of 2014, then you must be living in a cave.

I first learned about this podcast about a year ago when the Today Show did a segment on it as the last episode was preparing to be released for season 1.  I have never really got into the whole “podcast” thing so I didn’t pay it too much attention then. But for whatever reason I recently heard the first episode of Serial’s season 1 and was immediately hooked. It is great for traveling so I binged through it quickly.

For quick background information on the case, SSerialerial provides a “partially unbiased” look into what happened on the afternoon of January 13th 1999, and the events that followed.  Essentially, a Korean-American female high school senior, Hae Min Lee, went missing on January 13 in 1999.  Her body was found a few weeks later in the city of Baltimore and her recent Pakistani-American ex-boyfriend and classmate, Adnan Syed, was charged with her murder.

The thing that makes this case so interesting is the cast of characters involved in the resulting trial, but more than anything it is the lack of real evidence against Adnan that somehow got him convicted and the fact that he very much seems like the most unluckiest person alive.

After I finished listening to SERIAL, I had my own theory, which I’ll share in a later post, on the case but was still a bit hesitant to make a firm assertion as to who I thought was guilty/involved etc.  So as many others have stated, Serial left me with more questions than I was comfortable with.

Luckily I immediately began listening to what I’ll call the sister podcast series entitled “Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed” which unlike SERIAL was very biased towards the innocence of Adnan.  But after episode 10 of Undisclosed, which I had to listen to at least 4 times to understand what they were trying to explain, I was convinced that Adnan was the lead character in a series of very unfortunate events, and that he was wrongfully convicted.

For me this case is even more interesting because 10 years ago I lived in Baltimore county not too far from Woodlawn high school, the school the victim and her boyfriend attended, and I’m familiar with several of the locations mentioned in the case.

But for me this is/was a case of more than just guilt or innocence. It is a case of justice and our very flawed legal system and our even more flawed prison and reform system. Whether you believe Adnan is guilty or not, one thing that is certain is that his court case was a complete circus and undoubtedly should not have led to his conviction.

Because of my past career plans to complete law school and pursue a career in the legal system, this case and all of the hoopla surrounding it have made me strongly reconsider my decision against going to law school.  I’m excited about a few things I have in the works that will allow me to explore an old and now refreshed passion of mine. And I’m also excited to see what will happen with this ongoing case, as recently a Baltimore City judge granted Adnan’s request for a post conviction hearing relief to reopen his case.

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