I recently made the long journey from Richmond to Connecticut, a trek that has historically never gone well for me. But this time, it was different. Instead of fighting with shitty flights or overnight train rides or sitting in traffic alone, my roommate and I worked our schedules so that we could drive home together. The pro of this is multifaceted: it's always great to have a road companion, her car is new and she had a podcast planned out for us.
I could have gone either way originally on the podcast. On the pro side, I've never listened to one before so it would be interesting, but on the con side I've never listened to one and thought it could make me sleepy. However, we got it started. She popped on the first season of Serial.
My roommate didn't preface what exactly what we were listening to. It was 12 episodes (I thought chapters of a book), and it was about this guy who is serving a life sentence for a murder he may or may not have committed. It seemed like an interesting story. I quickly became enthralled in his life story, who he was and what exactly his relationship was with the victim.
About a half an hour in, I was telling my roommate how cool it was that they got actors to do the different parts of the story. It sounded so real. And it sounded so real because...
It was real. It wasn't just a story.
Just like that, Adnan Syed wasn't just a character in a podcast. He was a live person, who allowed me to have a glimpse into his life. I was hooked. I couldn't fathom what it was like for Adnan, to be accused (potentially wrongly) of the murder of his first love. I couldn't imagine what her at-the-time current boyfriend, Don, went through. Every character became a part of my waking thought.
While you can go almost anywhere online and read people's thoughts on his innocence, that's almost not even what hooked me the most. Do I think he's guilty? Perhaps. Is he innocent? He could be. I actually didn't formulate a strong opinion on that. I was obsessed with other details and thoughts. I was swirled with a mixture of emotions and feelings.
One of the strongest was something Adnan said in one of the last episodes: "I have a life, it's just not the one I was expecting." Here is this man who still maintains his innocence, years later. His innocence, which he would rather maintain than surrender in the hopes of getting out. In the face of adversity, he has built a life.
It was a statement that really resonated with me on another level too. At 17, while he was getting arrested, I am positive that is not what he was expecting. But because he's spent now almost that amount of time in jail, he did what he could do to make the best of his misfortune. And at 17, who really has any idea what their life would be like? Definitely not that, but you make do.
My second strongest sentiment at the conclusion of the podcast is how incredibly limited the evidence is on either side. I find it suffocating to think that someone could be convicted with such little evidence. Literally, all they had were some questionable phone records and one man's statement against another's.
Whether Adnan is innocent or guilty can't actually truly be proven, yet he is serving his life for it. It got me thinking of this account I once read about, where a man served something like 50 years for a crime he was later proven innocent in. How sad is that? It got me wondering, how many innocent people are in jail? My research has led me to estimate that it's way too many since the number isn't zero. (Their answer is up to 5 percent, which could be up to 100,000 people. Gross.)
My third biggest consideration about the podcast was, What would people say about me if I was convicted of a crime?
People would wholly say that Adnan was a good guy, a nice and respected person. But then they would mention that he's stolen before, and he exhibits a "dark side." I would think that most people don't think I'm a reasonable person to suspect could murder a person, but let's say I did. Would people think they could have predicted that? Would people point to me and say, "Oh yeah this one time in a basketball game she got super aggressive. I could totally see her killing someone"?
Hindsight is 20/20, so once people think there's a reason to tie what seemingly is a normal reaction to something or some childish misconduct can then be taken as a way to indicate murderous intent, they would do it. Would people do that to me? Who reasonably hasn't ever taken one misstep that could be an indicator of some "dark side?"
It's wild to think that this kid -- a child -- could be thrown such a curve ball, one that could reasonably happen anywhere, to anyone. I want answers, and thankfully, it looks like we might be getting it.
If you have no idea what case I'm talking about, invest the 12 hours into listening to the first season of Serial, and stay tuned as they're currently two episodes in on the second season.