This viral podcast is the brainchild of journalist and master storyteller Sarah Koenig. Some time ago, Koenig became aware of the case of Adnan Syed – who at 17 was convinced of killing his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee. For the last 15 years Adnan has languished in a Baltimore jail, fervently maintaining his innocence.
Over 12 weeks, Koenig went over all the elements of the case like an autopsy. Each podcast episode looked at a different element of the case, from the courtroom to the alibi, the cell phone records and the spot where the body was found.
The case against Syed lay mainly in a few crucial elements – the testimony of a friend who stated that he helped Syed bury the body, some cell phone records that show his phone was near the burial site on the night of the murder and Syed’s own inability to explain where he was and what really happened that night. But nothing added up – the cell records did not fit the witness statement. Another witness swears she saw Syed at the library at the time of the murder – but was never asked to testify at the trial. And most of all – what was Syed’s motive? So the pair had broken up some weeks before. That doesn’t make him a killer. His arrest shocked the local community, who considered him a pretty good kid.
Koenig had regular phone calls with Syed, and she too came to think that he was perhaps not the kind of person ho could have committed this crime. But even she cannot refute some of the damning, although circumstantial, evidence.
Serial is storytelling at its absolute best. Koenig’s inquiring mind investigates all elements of the case without bias, but with honesty, tracking her changing opinions about Syed and the evidence at hand. It truly is a conundrum – and after 15 years, there are so many things we can never know. But 600,000 listeners became enraptured with the case, making it the most popular podcast of all time. It was several episodes in when I cottoned on to it, and I binged on the intelligent, engaging content until like many others I was back to waiting for a weekly dose. And best of all – Serial is free. (Thanks to great sponsors like MailChimp – or as the infamous girl in the intro says, Mailkimp.)
Through crowdsourcing Serial will be with us for another season, with another case dissected week by week. Let’s hope Koenig can make the magic happen again.