First person

Serial’s Rabia Chaudry won’t rest until Adnan Syed is exonerated of murder

Lawyer featured in popular podcast “Serial” has a new podcast of her own


Courtesy Rabia Chaudry


Shortly after Serial ended, I ran into a friend, a successful digital entrepreneur, who sat me down and gave me a “talking to.”

“It’s your turn to make a podcast now,” he said. I snorted and said, “yeah, not my thing.” I gave a litany of reasons why I would never do it, and assured him he was missing the mark. It wasn’t going to happen.

But it’s happening now. Today is the first episode of a new podcast, Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed, featuring attorneys Susan Simpson, Colin Miller, and yours truly. It came about less than a month ago, after Dennis Robinson, an attorney and trustee of Adnan’s legal fund, heard me speak about the case at a D.C. law firm. He realized how very few people had any idea what happened after the end of Serial and asked Susan and me to do this podcast. Thus, Undisclosed was born.

Our efforts will pick up where Serial left off — taking a second look at some of the ground Serial covered, examining evidence it didn’t touch upon, and getting into the nitty gritty details of the Adnan Syed case. Since the close of Serial, and independently of me, Susan and Colin have blogged extensively about the case. While neither of them have ever met or spoken to Adnan, between Susan’s Sherlock-like eye for detail and Colin’s Cardozo-like legal analysis, they’ve discovered dozens of new aspects that seem to further negate the State’s case, and also help point to what actually happened on January 13, 1999.

Our podcast won’t be a narrative masterpiece like Serial (not that it ever could, Sarah Koenig and her team set the bar as high as I’ve ever seen it). Instead it will take an investigative approach, getting into the weeds, and getting complicated.

Some people are concerned the podcast will be biased, an odd apprehension if you ask me. Since when does media, from radio to television to newspapers to blogs, not have a point of view? Some people choose Fox News. Others choose Al Jazeera. Every outlet, reporter, writer, and, yes, podcaster has a point of view. Mine just happens to be that Adnan is innocent, which is how I read the facts and evidence in the case. But, that does not suggest that this is how Susan and Colin read the facts of the case.

To date, I’ve used every platform I’ve been able to keep Adnan’s case in the public eye, and tell parts of the story that Serial didn’t. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Google hangouts; I’ve gotten to know digital media much more closely than I’ve ever wanted to. There is a method to my madness, and the method is all about advocacy, about making an impact on the actual case itself. The only point of ongoing publicity, which has little value in and of itself for me, is to help exonerate Adnan of the crime of murdering Hae Min Lee, and force the State to take responsibility for not putting the right person behind bars.

We are moving in that direction, finally, after 16 years. Adnan was recently granted the right to a new post-conviction appeal, which may eventually lead to a new trial. The alibi witness who could have helped acquit him 15 years ago, had she been contacted by his defense counsel, will finally get her testimony before a court. It’s not a guarantee of justice; overturning a conviction is no easy task. In many cases, before going to a new trial, the State will offer a plea deal. If that happens, I’ll encourage Adnan to take it.

A plea would be a relief for his family, and give him another chance at life, but still not really be justice. Justice, for both Adnan and Hae, means identifying and prosecuting her murderer, and finding out exactly what happened to this promising, talented, beautiful young woman on the day she was last seen alive. For me, this case will not be over until that happens. The work of Serial, Susan, Colin, and others will help us get there, and we’ll continue bringing our findings to the public in every way possible.

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