7 things you should know about The case against Adnan Syed

The case against Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed, the center of the HBO docuserie. (Source: HBO Spain)

case against Adnan Syed


HBO Spain launches this docuseries on the issue that caused the current wave of true crime (The case against Adnan Syed)  in 2014, a podcast launched by a US public radio program became the most talked about the phenomenon of the year. Serial aspired to tell a single story for a whole season and debuted with a case that occurred more than a decade earlier outside of Baltimore: the murder of a high school student, Hae Min Lee, at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan. Syed.


The obsession of the Americans for the case was such that it is not strange that HBO today opens a docuseries that not only retells it, but promises new data that were unknown five years ago. The case against Adnan Syed is the last true crime that comes to us in this new popularity that the genre has acquired, precisely, from Serial, and there are 7 things you should know if you are interested in seeing it.


Who is Adnan Syed


The title of the docuseries, four chapters, bears the name of the accused of the death of the young woman, who has been in prison for 19 years for that crime. Syed was 17 when the events occurred, in 1999, and came from a family of Pakistani immigrants. He was a good student in high school, he played football and he had been secretly dating Hae Min Lee because he thought his family, very conservative, would not approve.


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He also smoked marijuana that was obtained by a friend of his, Jay Wilds, and was sentenced, in large part, by the triangulation data of his mobile phone, which placed him in the place where Lee’s body had been found, and by the testimony from Wilds himself, who claimed that Syed had confessed to having killed her.


Hae Min Lee, the victim


Hae Min Lee had emigrated from South Korea with her parents and was very popular and loved at the institute. He broke up with Syed because, apparently, he had grown tired of having to be seen in secret and, when he disappeared, on January 13, 1999, he was 18 years old. His family notified the police when he found out that he had not gone to pick up one of his cousins. His body was found a month later in Leakin Park, just outside of Baltimore.


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Her family has never wanted to know anything about all the attempts to tell the story again, although she has asked more than once to not forget that the real victim in all of history is her.


The phenomenon of ‘Serial’


None of this was known beyond a small part of the state of Maryland until Sarah Koening and her colleagues began researching and preparing the first season of Serial. That podcast was born as a digital spin-off of This American life, a veteran NPR program that tells the daily stories of several ordinary citizens for an hour. The idea that Ira Glass, director of the program, and Koenig had was to turn the concept around and narrate a single story for several chapters.


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That they dealt with the murder of Hae Min Lee and the condemnation of Adnan Syed occurred because a friend of the Syed family had sent This American life material to be included in one of their programs, but never had. Koening and his team were still investigating and tying things up while Serial was broadcasting through their website, although in reality it never interested them too much to offer a conclusive resolution to the question of whether Syed was guilty or had been unjustly accused.


What Serial wanted was to explore the memory, the social environment in which the case took place and the legal twists and turns that lead a 17-year-old to be sentenced to life imprisonment. And he also pointed out the doubts surrounding his conviction, of course.


Rabia Chaudry, the driving force


The one who initially contacted Sarah Koenig, and put all the machinery in gear, was Rabia Chaudry, an attorney who knew Syed since they were children and who has always claimed that there was not enough evidence to convict him. She continued with her own podcast, Unresolved, to tell what the case was about after the end of Serial, and she has been behind the appeals to get a new trial.


The fashion of true crime


The case against Adnan Syed will be released in the midst of a revived interest in the genre True Crime whose point of origin can be found in three events that occurred between the autumn of 2014 and 2015: the launch of Serial and the docu-series The Jinx and Making a murderer. The first became the most downloaded podcast in the history of iTunes, while the other two not only had great success, but they achieved a second life in the real world.


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The Jinx, for example, ended with a revelation of Robert Durst, his subject, who was seen the same day he was arrested for murder, and Making a murderer managed to give visibility to the conviction of Steven Avery, also for murder, while his lawyers They asked for a new trial. The three titles fostered a frenzy of research on the part of their fans on the internet and led to the appearance of a multitude of docuseries on more or less known and more or less shocking cases.


The director, Amy Ber

(Source: HBO Spain)

The one in charge of revisiting Syed’s case is Amy Berg, veteran producer, and documentary director who has experience in touching thorny issues. His are Deliver us from evil, about the sexual abuse committed by a Catholic priest in several parishes in the United States, nominated for the Oscar in 2007, and West of Memphis, the story of three teenagers accused without conclusive evidence of the murder of three children.


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In an interview for Esquire, Berg explains that he has been working on the series for three and a half years and that his main purpose was to go beyond the headlines that could have been the case, and also a little beyond where Serial was able to reach. “The challenge has been to examine the gray areas and see what another potential narrative would be like and move emotionally through the story. That’s my strong point, I suppose: take something like this and create a movie that can help people understand in a different way. “


An addictive story


If it was so easy to get hooked on Serial, it was not only because of the manner in which Sarah Koenig presented the information she had, but because there are more doubts around the case than certainties. Syed himself can not offer a better explanation than “I do not remember” many of the questions he is asked about what happened the day Hae Min Lee disappeared, and the way in which their respective family and cultural environments play a role. In the research, it is also very interesting.


‘The case against Adnan Syed’ is available every Monday on HBO Spain.


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