Sunday 19 November 2017

'He's serving life plus 30 years - there's nowhere to go but up' - Serial's Rabia Chaudry on new appeal for Andan Syed

This article contains spoilers for those still working their way through the Serial podcast.

Clare Cullen

Clare Cullen

The woman whose conviction that Adnad Syed was innocent spurred the creation of the wildly popular Serial podcast appeared on Newstalk FM this morning to discuss developments in the case.

Adnan Syed, who is currently serving life plus thirty years in prison for the 1999 conviction of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, has been granted an appeal hearing. He will appeal his murder conviction and sentence under the auspices of failure by council. His lawyer is accused of failing to seek a plea deal and failing to chase key witness Asia McClain.

Rabia Chaudry, a close family friend of the Syeds, contacted journalist Sarah Koenig about Adnan's case, asking the investigative reporter to have a look. This action started the podcast which was to become the fastest podcast to reach 5m downloads on iTunes - ever.

Chaudry spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the "remarkable" outcome of the podcast.

"We get a second chance at a post appeal conviction".

"He's serving life - In the US, 'life' means life. He's serving life plus 30 years. It can't get worse than living his life and... dying in prison".

Key witness Asia McClain is another trump card in Adnan's case, which was taken on by 'The Innocence Project' during the course of the Serial podcast.

"She didn't quite understand (that she was so important to the case)".

"She had been encouraged not to testify. She listened to the podcast and contacted Sarah to say 'no, that's not what happened'".

"The podcast has opened amazing avenues to go back and re-look at this case".

"I am still in a state of disbelief... to see the global response... the hours being put in - on their own time".

Caudry says that Adnan has not experienced the full extent of the popularity of the podcast, not having Internet in prison.

"He can't understand in real-time that everyone from Buzzfeed to the Washington Post are covering his appeal - but hundreds of people have written him, if not thousands, so he understands".

"He's grateful and hopeful - very hopeful - but cautiously so. It's been a difficult fifteen years".

Caudry thinks the effect of the podcast continues far beyond the 30-minute episodes.

"The podcast has forced Jay to open his mouth. In that interview, he essentially admitted to committing perjury - the state no longer has a case".

The water-cooler aspect of Serial has seen a real-life man, serving time for murder, turned into a discussion point for the "guilty, not guilty conversation".

Caudry says that the "info-tainment" aspect of the podcast was something they had to deal with. "If it didn't exist in this way... it would not have gotten the response. If Sarah had not told the story in an engaging and entertaining way.... it would not have been so popular".

"We needed it. I have to recognise that we needed it. It really made Baltimore legal community very cautious - the world is watching. It has only helped us".

Caudry says her only disappointment is that Serial didn't exonerate Adnan.

"I contacted an investigative journalist because I thought one would have the tools to investigate in a way no-one had before. (While) I'm disappointed there was no smoking gun to exonerate Adnan... Sarah was able to point out holes in the State's case".

Caudry is convinced of Adnan's innocence and sure the appeal will result in a new trial.

"I've always believed him. He's always maintained his innocence. Not once, before or since, in fifteen years, has he been violent to another person".

The application for post-conviction relief was made in January 2014 and was granted on the sixth of February 2015.

The podcast debuted in October 2014 and went to number one on iTunes even before it was released. It ran for twelve weeks, ending on the 18th December 2014.

One thing serial did not do was provide an alternative killer. Deirdre Enright of the Innocent Project said in the podcast that "I always tell people, you don't have to find who did it - but you do have to".

One of the theories floated by the Innocence Project was that Hae Min Lee was killed by Ronald Lee Moore, a serial killer who was released from a Maryland prison two weeks before Lee's disappearance and who has been linked by authorities to two rapes and a woman's murder.

However, the Innocent project have several avenues to contest Adnan's conviction.  "The combined efforts of Sarah Koenig and Syed's team of supporters have already revealed many significant new facts that were never presented to the jury, and our investigation is far from complete."

Serial is a spin-off of This American Life, a radio show and podcast.


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