I’m heartsick about the grand jury decision in Michael Brown’s killing, though not in the least surprised, so I’ll turn my attention to the story of another murder: Serial tells the story of the strangulation death of teenager Hae Min Lee in 1999 in greater Baltimore. The police charged her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted and is serving a life sentence. But maybe he didn’t do it…
Sarah Koenig, who contributes fabulous stories to This American Life, is putting together and broadcasting a review of the case – pointing out holes in the state’s case and discrepancies in Adnan’s. She interviewed several people who have never told their stories before, probed the validity of cell-tower records, re-created the route that Adnan and his supposed friend may have taken before and after the time investigators say Hae died.
The podcast has become the most downloaded on iTunes. Vogue called it “At once a throwback to the serialized radio broadcasts of the thirties and a relative of our contemporary TV epics…” It is far more than that.
Here’s an unsatisfying interview of Sarah by Slate’s Mike Pesca, which is interesting for the “meta” view of the layers that make the podcast so fascinating. It starts at about 12 minutes in.
Of course there’s been a backlash – and a backlash over the backlash of “white reporter privilege.” All major parties to this case are American, but many are hyphenated: Hae’s family came from Korea, Adnan’s from Pakistan. Jay Wilds, Adnan’s drug dealer buddy and as the action opens accessory-after-the-fact, has ancestors who came from Africa. Jay’s friend, Jennifer Pusateri, who implicates Adnan, by her photo, is the white minority in this saga.
I’m withholding judgment on the question of white privilege and retiring to listen to episodes seven, eight, and nine.