When I was a journalism student at Syracuse University, we were given an assignment before the first semester of freshman year started to pick a story, and create a multi-media presentation telling that story (interviews, photos, video footage, a soundtrack). I picked an amazing topic, but in my best effort, and don’t really recall getting an excellent grade on it. But in all, the grades didn’t really matter too much. The point of the project wasn’t to get the best grade, it was to learn about storytelling. Previous to this project, I don’t know if I had ever heard the term “storytelling.” Sure, I had written a limitless number of essays, and even newspaper articles prior to college, but I never truly learned how to tell a narrative based in fact. The first time I listened to Serial, I thought “this is what my professors were trying to teach me.” The way Serial weaves a story is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered… it’s a completely fascinating and enthralling experience, through what some may say, is an antiquated communication mode. As a podcast enthusiast, to me, this art form is thriving, and Serial only helped to push it further in to the spotlight, and demonstrate the power a well-constructed story through a solely auditory experience.
Back to my journalism education… like any college student, my career aspirations changed over time. I started as a newspaper journalism major, ended as a public relations major, and don’t currently have a job doing either of those things. A consistent aspiration I held throughout not just college, but my entire life, and even today as an adult, was going to law school. Obviously, that hasn’t happened (yet… maybe when I win the lottery), but I have such an interest in the legal system and legal process. I even enjoyed jury duty (and wanted to be selected… but I wasn’t) — so subject matter like Serial has always interested me, and I was hooked from episode 1. I’m a problem solver. And I want answers. I’m 100 percent deep into it all… the plausible theories, the implausible theories, the Reddit threads, the recapping Podcasts. So, on the eve of the final episode, indulge me as I use this time to place all of my thoughts about Serial into one place.
Until a few days ago (when I went on a Serial Reddit bender), I was 75% convinced that Adnan was not guilty. Over the past few days, I’ve fallen more in to the “Adnan did it” camp. Why? Because the only plausible theories that I can come up with that are fully baked with a story, a motive, and less loose ends, are the ones which center on the belief that Adnan is guilty. The main item that I would point to in the pro-Adnan camp was this: why would Adnan agree to do this podcast? Throughout not only the entire trial, but the appeals, the conversations with family and friends, with lawyers, he has been so adamant that he is innocent. Why would he agree to delve back into this so deeply, when there’s a risk that he could be exposed? That his family would find out everything for the last 15 years has been a lie?
That said, this still lingers in my mind every time I shift back in to the “Adnan did it” viewpoint. I don’t think he’s a psychopath, but I do think that he’s not telling us everything. There is a lot of information about the relationship between Jay and Adnan that we don’t know. Letting a random friend borrow your car? And the cell phone you just bought? It’s definitely an eyebrow raiser. Not to mention the fact that Jay apparently borrowed his car on multiple occasions, according to Adnan’s friend from the track team. And why was Jay so angry when Sarah interviewed him? Adnan isn’t angry, and he’s the one sitting in prison for life. And what about the Nisha call? I think we can all agree that the call log between the hours of 2pm and 4pm is questionable, but Nisha testified at trial that Adnan had her talk to Jay when he was working at the video store. Now, we all know that’s not the correct day, but it does point to Jay and Adnan being in contact after the crime was committed, because Jay wasn’t hired at the video store until after the murder took place. So, we can assume that after the crime was committed, they stayed in touch, and were on good enough terms for Adnan to visit Jay’s work, and have him talk to Nisha. At some point, that relationship soured, because in his police interview, Jay calls Adnan his “ex-friend,” and at the trial, Adnan calls Jay “pathetic.” It’s pretty clear that there are two things we can surmise from the evidence we have: Jay was 100% involved. Something soured between him and Adnan, and he knew where Hae’s car was.
So, here are the two most-plausible theories that I think are out there:
Adnan planned to kill Hae with Jay, and snuck up on her to do it.
- The last person to see Hae alive is Inez, the woman who runs the snack place at Woodlawn. She notes that Hae got out of her car, while it was running, to get a snack. If we pair that with Summer’s conversation with Sarah Koenig, we know that Hae was in the gym for longer than just getting a snack, giving ample time for someone to get in to her running, unlocked car. According to the autopsy (which Sarah hasn’t referred to, but has been discussed on Reddit), Hae was not only strangled, but had her head slammed in to something — with the injuries likely being someone pushing her from behind. So, Adnan gets in to Hae’s car, threatens her to drive to the pre-determined location and commits the crime with Jay watching.
Adnan planned to kill Hae with Jay, and didn’t sneak up on her to do it.
- At some point after Hae gets a snack, she picks up Adnan voluntarily. He asks her to drop him off at whatever pre-determined location. Jay is there, and the murder occurs.
A few other odds and ends, that don’t really fit into a sound narrative:
- Stephanie is very perplexing. Why was she the only person supporting Jay at the trial? Was she in love with Adnan and was mad that Adnan danced with Hae at homecoming? Was Jay indeed, stepping out on her?
- Jay and Jen’s relationship is just odd. Was there anything more than friendship there? They were obviously so close that he would call her after the crime was committed. I am not ruling out her being involved.
- I read an alternative theory on Reddit that Hae ran in to Jay in the mall visiting Don, and saw him cheating on Stephanie with Jen. He follows her to her car, and the crime ensues.
All in all, I don’t expect any answers to come out of this, but I won’t be disappointed in that. I think this has changed everyone’s perspective on the legal system, crimes and character perception. You have to think, if I were accused of a crime… what would people say about me?
Next time, on Serial.