Can fans of popular podcast Serial harness the power of the Internet and sway Maryland courts to re-open Adnan Syed’s post-conviction proceeding?
Rabia Chaudry, Syed’s advocate, recently launched a petition on Change.org hoping to accomplish just that. Chaudry argues that new information revealed by media since the airing of Serial raises significant doubts about the information presented in Syed’s trial nearly 15 years ago.
Serial told the story of the mysterious murder of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent trial and conviction of Syed, her former boyfriend. No DNA evidence was presented in the case, but prosecutors were able to corroborate statements from key witness Jay Wilds using Syed’s phone records.
Syed spoke at length with host Sarah Koenig about the details of the case and staunchly professed his innocence, while Wilds declined to be featured on the podcast. Since the finale aired with murky conclusions in mid-December, the Intercept has released a series of interviews with Wilds and state prosecutor Kevin Urick. Chaudry cites information offered in Wilds’ interview as inconsistent with statements he made while on the witness stand.
Specifically, Wilds changed the location at which he claims he first saw Lee’s deceased body, the time at which Syed contacted him, and the time at which the murder occurred. By offering a story contradicting the one he gave while under oath, Chaudry explains, Wilds implicitly admits to perjury and undercuts his credibility as a witness.
Chaudry also stresses evidence of religious and ethnic bias used against Syed used to sway the jury over the course of the trial. According to Chaudry, “Nearly 300 references to [Syed]’s religion and ethnicity were made in his trial.”
The petition has more than 17,000 signatures and is aiming to reach 25,000. A subreddit dedicated to the podcast has over 40,000 subscribers, though whether a majority of fans are certain enough of Syed’s innocence to support the petition is unclear.
At the close of the final episode of Serial, Koenig asserted, “As a juror, I vote to acquit Adnan Syed. I have to acquit. Even if in my heart of hearts I think Adnan killed Hae, I still have to acquit. That’s what the law requires of jurors.”
Image via Change.org