A follow-up to the SerialDynasty podcast

Originally, I wanted to write a blog post to discuss some of the disagreements around facts that Bob and I had in his podcast. But when I started to put it together, it just seemed too long and too nit picky. Essentially, I think my views were represented fairly and I’m happy with the way things turned out. Despite the odd insult, which is par for the course with this type of thing, there’s been a lot of positive feedback and I’d like to try and keep the good vibe going.

The one big point I would like to make, however, is that I get the feeling that quite a few people think that if you understand and accept someone else’s point of view, you must also, by default, agree with it, which is definitely not the case. I see all Bob’s points, think some of them are valid, others not so much, and still remain convinced that Adnan is guilty.

So that said, If anyone has any questions in response to the podcast, I’d be happy to try to answer them preferably in the comments section here, but also on Twitter.

19 thoughts on “A follow-up to the SerialDynasty podcast

  1. JD: This is how I understand your position, please correct me if I have misunderstood…

    AB: You have misunderstood so I’m going to reply within the body of your comment as I think that will be easiest for readers.

    JD: There was no forensic evidence linking Adnan to the murder.

    AB: Apart from the palm print, this is true. But expecting that there must be DNA, fingerprints, blood spatter evidence is what’s come to be known as the CSI effect. Physical evidence is not a requirement for a conviction nor should it be.

    JD: The only witness has admitted on the record to giving a false account of the events.

    AB: Jay admitted in court at the trial that he had told multiple versions of his story to police. He was cross examined on this and held to account for his multiple stories and lies. The jury still accepted his version of events.

    It is very, very common for witnesses to initially lie to police. Go to any courthouse on any day, walk into a criminal trial or two, and you will see a witness who has told multiple versions of a story. This is the nature of crime. Juries are triers of fact. It’s their job to figure out the facts from the conflicting stories and versions of events.

    If you are referring to Jay’s Intercept interview, he does not, as you say, “admit on the record to giving a false account of the events.” He contradicts himself and, unfortunately, the reporter the reporter did not challenge him on the burial times contradiction.

    He could be a) mis-remembering the burial time years later or b) finally telling the truth about the burial time years later. If it is indeed (b) it could very well have been an inadvertent slip as opposed to an “admission” of giving a false account.

    JD: The cell evidence, on which the prosecutions timeline of the murder was based, has been eviscerated.

    AB: I completely disagree with you on this. The cell evidence has completely stood the test of time. The only point in dispute right now is the meaning of the AT&T fax coversheet and I am following up on that and hope to have more information soon.

    JD: The lividity evidence completely contradicts all the above.

    AB: No the “lividity evidence” does not. Let’s take a closer look.

    In order to conclude that the lividity evidence — meaning Undisclosed’s lividity theory — is definitive, You have to:

    1) Accept it’s possible to make definitive statements about a lividity in a decomposing body buried for three weeks. This is in itself debatable but for the sake of this discussion, I’ll go along with it.

    2) Accept the ME’s description of “full frontal lividity.” OK, since I’ve gone along with premise number 1, I’ll go along with this premise number 2, and assume the ME is competent. But I will also note that I found it extremely problematic that Undisclosed rips apart the ME’s testimony, treating her as not so competent, and then accepts at face value her full frontal lividity statement.

    3) Believe that taking into account the wide range of times given for lividity to fix in different body types and climactic conditions, it is absolutely not possible for the body to have been buried in the position it was at seven o’clock. Again, this is still up for debate in my opinion although, I will concede that it would be a finding on the far range of lividity estimates.

    4) Rule out the possibility that the body shifted after burial either due to interference from animals or possibly due to the criminals returning to the site and attempting to camouflage things further. This latter theory is supported by claims that Adnan asked Jay to return with him to the burial site and by the rocks on the grave that appear to have been added later.

    So, no, I don’t find the lividity evidence definitive or even particularly compelling.

    JD: AND YET you maintain the jury correctly “inferred” his guilt based on false evidence, including lies and pure fabrications stated in the prosecution’s closing arguments.

    AB: I’ve just explained whey I believe the evidence was sound and not false. There were not “pure fabrications” in the prosecution’s closing argument. A hypothetical narrative was constructed based on the facts, which is fine. Also, I believe one of Adnan’s early appeals attempted to argue this and failed.

    JD: On the Serial Dynasty podcast you stated close examination of the evidence is “nerdy”, and in your blog post you express that to address all the points about which you and Bob disagree (all evidence based) is “too nit picky”.

    AB: You’re misinterpreting me. My point was that certain arguments and data are best discussed in certain ways under certain conditions — and I’m prepared to do it if people ask, as you just did. Otherwise you can end up drowning in (questionable) data not really suited for podcast dissection.

    JD: But, but, but… You are a journalist! A licensed Private Investigator! Professions that rely entirely on facts. So what is this? Did you get caught not having done enough research? And / or are you now just trying to save face among the Reddit guilters?

    AB: I don’t really find this kind of discourse productive. I try not to question people’s motivations but to focus on their arguments.

    JD: Come on! You believe Adnan is guilty, fine. Bring the facts. Argue evidence. You must be smarter than this. Inferring his guilt because the jury did (after being lied to repeatedly) isn’t good enough. Neither is the argument that no other viable theory exists. That’s just, pardon me, but downright crazy. It is.

    Bring it on! Go away, do your homework (not just the Reddit version of Coles Notes this time), and argue your position like a journalist. Start with a presumption of innocence and then hold the prosecution’s case up to the light. Does it still hold up? If yes, please nit pick and tell the world why you believe it does.

    AB: I’m sorry but I did start listening to the Serial podcast completely open to the idea that Adnan might very well be innocent, but after researching the case, I think the jury was right to find Adnan guilty. And once a defendant’s been convicted, the onus is on him to prove innocence or show that major errors were made at trial.

    So far, Adnan and his team have done neither.

      • I am going to address only your closing comment for reasons that should be self-evident.

        AB: I’m sorry but I did start listening to the Serial podcast completely open to the idea that Adnan might very well be innocent, but after researching the case, I think the jury was right to find Adnan guilty. And once a defendant’s been convicted, the onus is on him to prove innocence or show that major errors were made at trial.
        So far, Adnan and his team have done neither.

        JD: In one of the tweets you posted yesterday you acknowledged that you have not listened to every episode of Undisclosed. In it, through their own analysis coupled with interviews with independent experts, they have very thoroughly done just that. The Undisclosed team has, with facts, demonstrated that major errors were made at trial.

        Please, go listen to what has been uncovered and then I would welcome a continuation of the conversation. It is not otherwise a fair fight. I do not mean to be disparaging with my remarks, it’s just so difficult to believe you would reach these conclusions if you had all the information. Now that I realize you do not have all the information I see how futile it is to argue against your point of view.

        • If you think there’s something important in various podcasts or whatever, then YOU pull it out and present it. Except that you already did. And Ann proceeded to tear your claims apart quite easily. So now you try to obfuscate…

  2. Which of the cell pings that have “completely stood the test of time” place Adnan at the various crime scenes: 1) the site where Hae was killed; 2) the vehicle used to transport her body to the burial site; and 3) the burial site?

  3. “I see all Bob’s points, think some of them are valid, others not so much, and still remain convinced that Adnan is guilty.”

    Why does your or Bob’s opinion on Syed’s guilt or lack of guilt matter? The only thing that matters is the jury’s opinion, and whether or not Syed got a fair trial. He may very well be innocent, but if all the evidence points towards guilt, which it does, and the jury found him guilty, which they did, then it really doesn’t matter who thinks he’s guilty and who thinks he’s innocent. If he got a fair trial the case is closed until new evidence that exonerates him ever appears. Just because someone is convicted and Bob, Dick or Harry thinks he might be innocent doesn’t mean the trial wasn’t fair and the verdict just. And even if DNA evidence appears in the future that exonerates Syed, that still doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with his conviction by the evidence that existed at the time of his conviction.

    • “And even if DNA evidence appears in the future that exonerates Syed, that still doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with his conviction by the evidence that existed at the time of his conviction.”

      There is something wrong, if the Police and Prosecution had the DNA in 1999 and DID NOT test it, and it points to someone else who committed this horrific crime, an innocent man has sat in prison for 20 years.

      2 lives were lost on this tragic day and to say that there is nothing wrong with convicting a possibly innocent man, when the truth may have well be there the whole time is a crime in itself.

      • Prosecutors cannot withhold evidence from the defense team, and if they did there would have been a mistrial. Also, 1999-2015 is 16 years, not 20. But who cares about facts, right? This is all about outrage…

        • I actually didn’t say that they withheld evidence – if you read my comment I said that if they didn’t test the samples that they had at the time.

          I do not belive the police withheld DNA evidence, I rather believe they didn’t want to test the liquor bottle or rope incase it came back not support their theory of Adnan committing the murder. If the samples exist today to be tested they existed in 1999.

          But you seem intent on defending the ‘Adnan is guilty’ and I am sure you will respond with some long post about Adnan supporters rather not backing up any of your points with factual evidence.

          • The samples you are referring to could be tested today, so why haven’t they? Because the defense team refuses to have them tested because they’re afraid Syed’s DNA will turn up, and they know that even if it doesn’t turn up it doesn’t help their case from a legal standpoint. They are trying to try the case in a public arena where they know they can manipulate public opinion much easier than they can manipulate a jury.

            “But you seem intent on defending the ‘Adnan is guilty’ ”

            I’ve been defending the claim that Syed had a fair trial and that the verdict was just. Whether I or any other member of the public thinks he is guilty or innocent is irrelevant.

            “nd I am sure you will respond with some long post ”

            I can assure you that I would prefer wasting as little of my time as possible on this nonsense. The wikipedia article on the murder of Hae Min Lee looks good to me, and it’s very short. The reason it’s short is because anything else people try to add gets removed because it is biased crap. That’s the one thing we can count on wikipedia for, an obsession for a ‘neutral point of view’; even if an article has been rendered into gibberish by repeated edits, fixing it takes a lower priority than assuring a ‘neutral point of view’ does…

  4. I just wanted to point something out, and if you go back and listen to the podcast you might agree with this observation. Many of your points made in the podcast relied heavily on “I feel x” or “I just can’t understand x” or “why doesn’t Adnan behave like I think he should?”

    In listening to the podcast, it felt like many of your 12 points were explained by Bob in a way that you ultimately agreed with – for example, that ALL of Hae’s friends lacked concern in the first week of her disappearance (including Don who was her boyfriend at the time), so Adnan’s response was not particularly unique. It’s PURELY a matter of perspective and personal expectations (“I would have reacted in x manner, so he should have as well”), which is why it should NOT be considered evidence of a crime. A good detective/scientist knows to remove their own bias from the equation or they risk tainting the results.

    AB: Thanks for your comment. Because of the weird comment threading on this blog I am going to insert my response here like I did above as it makes it easier on readers.

    I think when the transcript comes out, you’ll see quite clearly that I wasn’t expecting people to respond or act as I would.

    Similarly, you say you believe Jay because you can’t understand why he would lie. My response would be that a good detective/scientist knows that the bounds of their understanding are NOT the bounds of possible reality. Maybe Hae saw Jay kissing Jenn and threatened to tell Stephanie. Maybe Jay was paid by someone to do it. I’m not saying these things are true, but the idea that you cannot even begin to fathom them as possibilities is troubling.

    AB: In order for Jay’s story to be a lie, someone else has to be involved. This isn’t just a question of who you or I believe. Undisclosed is now going with a theory that corrupt and/or incompetent police bamboozled Jay. There is zero evidence for that.

    Science isn’t about considering all theories, no matter how implausible, equally. We have a theory that Adnan killed Hae. It was present and proved in court. Now it’s up to the doubters to falisify that theory

    If you want to formulate out-there hypotheses, go ahead, but, according to the scientific method, the onus is on you to develop testable predictions and then gather data to test your predictions.

    So come up with how you’re going to test your hypotheses and then we’ll talk.

    I also wanted to point out that both in the podcast and in the comments here, you’ve made statements that lead me to believe you simply aren’t fact checking before you comment on certain things. For example, the closing arguments DID contain a lengthy list of factual inaccuracies that have nothing to do with hypotheticals (see this on Susan’s blog). Jay DID admit in that Intercept interview to giving false accounts to police (read the interview).

    AB: In my response I made the assumption that when JD said, “The only witness has admitted to giving a false account of events,” he was referring to Jay’s final court testimony since we knew back in 1999 that Jay gave multiple false accounts. So I meant Jay did not admit to lying in court and never has. There are many people on Twitter claiming he admits to perjury.

    I am very careful about getting facts straight. And, to be frank with you, I think I’m a lot more accurate that the Undisclosed team (although you probably won’t agree.)

    The cell evidence, as discussed in a recent Undisclosed, WAS irrelevant because all of the calls that might even remotely matter to the case are incoming (which every expert says shouldn’t be used), the prosecutor took all the notes from the tower tests and made mistakes in those notes, and the prosecutor only used a few pings in court, none of which actually showed what they claimed they showed. I’m not sure what your policy on outside links is, so I won’t include them here but a quick Google search on each topic will reveal the claims I’m making here to be accurate.

    AB: As I said above, I will post something on the incoming calls and the AT&T fax cover sheet, but it’s taking time.

    Thanks for your comment and hope you didn’t mind the interruptions.

    • Beeny: You do realize that there are little errors by cops and prosecutors in every murder investigation, right? And of course it’s the defense’s job to portray any error as grave and serious rather than the equivalent of failing to dot “i”s and cross “t”s. But unless the entire case hinges on an error, they’re mostly irrelevant. The defense then uses those irrelevant errors to try to foster doubt around the entire case by suggesting something along the lines of, “If they can’t even get THAT right, how can we expect them to get THIS right?”.

      The Syed defenders engage in a debating strategy that RationalWiki calls a ‘Gish Gallop’ after the Creationists who use it frequently. Rational Wiki describes it as: ” The Gish Gallop is the debating technique of drowning an opponent in such a torrent of small arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer or address each one in real time. More often than not, these myriad arguments are full of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments — the only condition is that there be many of them, not that they be particularly compelling on their own.”

      This is one of the reasons why I haven’t even bothered to listed to the original Serial podcast before commenting here. Although this puts me at a disadvantage when debating those who have listened to the podcast, it also means I don’t have to waste my time verifying every half-baked or irrelevant claim put forth by people who’s motives are obviously not to achieve clarity, but rather to obfuscate enough to exhaust opponents and prompt those opponents to realize they are wasting their time debating with disingenuous people and therefore give up. Which of course makes the Gish Galloper feel triumphant and gives the impression that the Gish Galloper has won the debate and that his or her point of view is correct.

      It’s also possible that some people engaging in Gish Galloping behavior may not realize that what they’re doing is a Gish Gallop, and erroneously believe that they are debating in a reasonable manner, simply because they have no formal training in rhetoric, and they’ve seen so much ostensibly successful Gish Galloping on the internet that they have come to accept Gish Galloping as a proper way to debate.

      • Sounds like appeal to authority there. Labeling the efforts of Syed supporters as a style of debate and simply brushing away everything by virtue of calling it “Gish Galloping” doesn’t discredit or disprove any single piece of what they’ve unconvered. Maybe instead of wasting your time acting like publishing large amounts information is an attempt to obfuscate, you could spend that time chipping away at that info and disprove or discredit it properly.

        • “Sounds like appeal to authority there.”

          Well, not any more than using words that appear in a dictionary to form one’s argument would be an appeal to authority fallacy. In order for what I wrote to be fallacious as an appeal to authority, several factors would have to be in place that aren’t. First, RationalWiki’s definition of Gish Galloping would have to include something about the Syed case, which it doesn’t (an appeal to authority would be if I had said that RationalWiki says that Syed is guilty, therefore he must be). Also, my observation was not about any particular claim put forth by Syed supporters. Remember, logical fallacies can only occur in logical arguments. You may have a valid criticism of my portrayal of Syed supporters engaging in Gish Galloping, but it would not be on the basis of appeal to authority. For example, you could either argue that Syed supporters don’t engage in Gish Galloping, or you could argue that even if some Syed supporters engage in Gish Galloping, that doesn’t mean all of them do. Or you could point out what I already did, that the very definition of Gish Galloping includes valid claims. But since you proceeded to accuse me of “brushing away everything by virtue of calling it “Gish Galloping” “, which means my accusation of Gish Galloping “doesn’t discredit or disprove any single piece of what they’ve unconvered. (sic)”, you are creating a strawman argument, because, as I stated in my quote from RationalWiki’s definition of Gish Gallop, claims made in a Gish Gallop are not necessarily invalid.

          “Maybe instead of wasting your time acting like publishing large amounts information is an attempt to obfuscate, you could spend that time chipping away at that info and disprove or discredit it properly.”

          Well I think you’ve failed to see the point of what I was saying. The reason Gish Gallops are so infuriating and exhausting is because they never dump claims that HAVE been chipped away and discredited. That’s because the entire purpose of Gish Galloping isn’t to achieve the progress that is the purpose of honest debate; that is, to process complex information into clearer and easier to understand results, hopefully arriving at a logically consistent conclusion supported by facts, the purpose of Gish Galloping is to make certain information as difficult as possible to process.

          So maybe instead of knee-jerk reactions that cause you to jump to the defense of the indefensible (Gish Galloping), perhaps you should be making concerted efforts to hold yourself and fellow Syed supporters to a higher standard of debate than Gish Galloping. Afterall, if Syed supporters don’t engage in Gish Galloping, then they don’t need to defend themselves against accusations of Gish Galloping. And if they do engage in Gish Galloping, maybe they should start debating in a less disingenuous manner, if in fact they are sincere in their ostensible purpose to achieve justice.

          Anyway, expanding on my observation, while RationalWiki coined the term Gish Gallop from list-form arguments made by Creationists, I tend to associate Gish Galloping with the 9/11 Truther movement. The 9/11 Truther movement has confused people so thoroughly that its effects have permeated every aspect of cultural discourse. In fact, I doubt the Syed Serial podcast would have had any traction whatsoever if it had aired before 9/11. The 9/11 Truther movement and their refinement of the Gish Gallop method has primed our society for acceptance of half-baked theories, conspiratorial or otherwise…

  5. I listened to the episode of Serial Dynasty that featured you. I felt that your 12 points were well organized and you seem to have a great feel on your beliefs. Keep it up!

  6. Hi Ann,

    Thank you for presenting your thoughts on Serial Dynasty. I really enjoyed the episode and am impressed with how respectful both you and Bob were in discussing your cases. After listening to the debate and seeing the source documents, I can’t help but side with Bob. You mentioned that these documents were not available to you at the time of the podcast, but what are your thoughts now that you have access to the source documents?

    What are some things that still convinces you that Adnan is guilty?

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it.

      Let’s start with the Imran affair. The source document that Bob quoted from was decidedly not available at the time. Bob got it from a private members-only forum.

      It quotes a teacher who says that Imran H. was not Adnan’s good friend and that he was a straight arrow. Maryland court documents show Imran H. was arrested on drug charges in 2000. His friends say he was a stoner. That doesn’t sound straight arrow to me. I have no reason to put a whole lot of faith in this teacher’s judgment.

      Nothing my sources said about Imran has yet been shown to be wrong. That said, I do understand why people don’t like anonymous sources because I’m not particularly fond of them either, but I’m standing by my sources on this one.

      Another disagreement Bob and I had was on whether Adnan was very worried that Hae disappeared and discussed this at Krista’s party. Bob said he was. There is, however, no documentation that supports this claim. Becky’s diary, which Bob referenced, was written not contemporaneously but after Hae’s body was found. It says Adnan was talking about being worried about Hae on the Tuesday after they returned to school. But Adnan didn’t attend school that day. He was off for a Muslim holiday. So again, contradictory accounts.

      Then there’s the question of Jay’s plea deal. Bob produced a document from Adnan’s appeal lawyers saying Urick asked for leniency on Jay’s behalf but it’s not clear whether Urick was asking for leniency in the context of the plea that was negotiated or above and beyond that plea. Certainly, if it’s the latter, I agree that is very bad, but there’s no evidence that it was the latter.

      There’s another point, I’d like to make. I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years. One of the first big lessons you learn is that people get things wrong and misrepresent facts all the time. This is seldom done intentionally or in bad faith. It just happens. When it’s not your job to get facts right, you get a lot of things wrong. I have to be very careful at dinner parties not to say “How do you KNow that?” and “Sorry, I don’t think that’s the case.” I’d be a social pariah if I hadn’t learned to hold my tongue about some of nonsense people spout.

      I like Bob and I think he’s done a great job convincing people to talk to him on his podcast. Hats off to him for the interviews he’s landed. But he doesn’t have the knowledge that comes with 30-plus years of talking to people, evaluating information and fact-checking any more than I have his knowledge of fire-fighting. He oversimplified a lot of stuff.

      I understand that many people will interpret this as me in denial about everything he says but that’s not the case. From my perspective, I feel like I’ve been cast in the role of fact checker to someone who’s playing it way too fast and loose with the facts.

      I see Adnan Syed’s backers as Gish Gallopers and myself as the person put in the unenviable position of responding.


  7. Ann,

    Thank you for your instructive and persuasive work on Serial. You cut right through issues that are difficult for many of us to discern. Your analysis of the Undisclosed team also was illuminating. Your discussion with Bob finally brought the big picture into focus for me.

  8. Were you able to find out what the disclaimer on the cover sheet really referred to, if anything? I have a feeling that it was just a standard disclaimer, as you stated, but wondered if you’d found anything more.

Tell us what you really think