Earlier this week I received the following email from Rabia Chaudry about my essay criticizing Serial from a feminist perspective:
I just read your recent blog post and want to bring a couple of things to your attention. First, you are by all means entitled to being offended by my potty mouth, my best friend 25 years ago declared I have Tourettes (clearly I don’t and neither of us even knew what it meant, but it was a way of explaining my proclivity for profanity), and certainly my mouth leaves much to be desired.
That, however, has nothing to do with things called “facts”. The charge that I falsely accused someone of child molestation is, in fact, false. I accurately pointed out that Mr. B was someone who had been accused by his then wife, in public at the mosque, of such acts. I can connect you with her. You know, so you can actually investigate. Attached you’ll find a clip from Susan’s blog noting his arrest. If you’d like the actual report of the arrest, I can connect you with Susan who can provide it. The community had heard of it back in 1999, and had even internally identified the victim, but since it seems it wasn’t prosecuted in exchange for him not testifying in Adnan’s favor, no one ever understood what happened.
I suggest, as “private investigator”, you’d be better served to find out who this man was and whether he had in fact molested a child before defending him. It doesn’t behoove a PI to make pronouncements about anonymous figures. Kind of defeats your purpose.
I am appalled that someone who calls themselves an investigator would find the attention to autopsy reports “ghoulish”. Isn’t the job of an investigator to do exactly that? Find and then analyze the evidence? Instead of talking about the merits of the lividity issue, this is a rhetorical, baseless attack for the sake of — what, blog hits? If you have issues with the SUBSTANCE of Colin and Susan’s analysis, that would be worthy to see. Ad hominem attacks are easy, where’s your analysis on these issues?
When cell tower experts from across the country are calling us to say “hey that evidence was totally misused in Adnan’s trial” and medical experts are telling us Hae was not buried for at least 8 hours, would you have us ignore these experts? When the state’s only witness has once again changed his timeline, rendering the state’s use of the cell phone evidence useless, who do we believe now? The State? Jay?
Jay, who in fact has domestic violence charges on his record, perhaps needs a bit more scrutiny. And certainly the man who killed another young woman in a similar fashion six months prior, from the SAME SCHOOL, does too.
As for Imran’s note, I can connect you with him personally and you can ask about it. If it had any merit at all, the police and prosecution would have used it.
Lastly, as for the Baltimore City Police conduct, you may want to revisit much that’s been written about their corruption, take note of the pending DOJ investigation, and take a listen to our upcoming episode on Monday.
Here is my reply:
First off, let me get this out of the way. I’m not personally offended by your potty mouth, Rabia. I mentioned it as an example of why you’re a polarizing figure. Some people love a feisty woman keeping it real as she drops F-bombs in the fight against injustice. Others not so much. As I see it, the swearing is just how you roll.
Since you wrote me a frank email, I’m going to give you my honest answers. I’m also going to try really hard not to confuse people who aren’t up on every detail of this case while, at the same time, adding some background to my original blog essay.
The Adnan critic I referred to, who was accused of being a child molester by your friends, was sachabacha. He was attacked on Reddit after he posted anonymously there — making the allegation, later verified by Serial, that Adnan stole from the mosque, and another accusation, not featured on Serial, that Adnan’s brother had called him a “masterful liar.” This resulted in a vicious pile-on designed to shut sachabacha down.
Correct me if I’m wrong, Rabia, but I think it’s conceded now that sachabacha is not nor never was Bilal, so the ugly accusations levelled against him, by Adnan’s brother and others, were completely out of line. Luckily for sachabacha, he’s just an anonymous internet person because your crowd has shown no qualms about smearing innocent people including, among many others — Stephanie, Don, Don’s mother, Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary, and, most favourite of all, Jay. In short, pretty much anyone who’s not Adnan.
Here’s your own brother suggesting, with zero evidence, that Stephanie might have done it:
Accusations of murder are thrown around like they’re nothing, which is pretty ironic given that the goal of all this is to get a guy out of jail who’s ostensibly been wrongly convicted of murder.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all this finger pointing at innocent people is your fault, Rabia. People are going to do stupid things and you can’t stop that or be held responsible for every idiot on the internet, but if Saad were my little brother, I would have had a word with him. And if I were you, I also wouldn’t be praising Susan Simpson for her irresponsible exposure of Don’s completely irrelevant employment records.
— rabia chaudry (@rabiasquared) March 19, 2015
You and Simpson both say you believe Don’s innocent and then you send out tweets like this. Sure, your official line for putting confidential information about him on the internet is that these were documents filed in court and you need to show that the police were lax in their investigation of Don. Well, in answer to point one, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Here’s an NYT article on the problem with people posting documents from court cases on the internet. And two, Simpson has in no way established that the police did not properly investigate Don. They interviewed him multiple times, they searched his home and workplace, they checked his alibi. (Unlike Adnan, he actually had an alibi.) It’s just ridiculous to argue they should have investigated him more because he had some bad employee reviews. The police do not have unlimited resources and they had a far more likely suspect in Adnan Syed.
Dragging Don through the mud was the example I originally gave of Simpson crossing ethical boundaries yet you accused me of launching baseless ad hominem attacks on her and Colin MIller to get blog hits. Well, yes, I am a journalist so I do want my work to get read, but my critiques were neither baseless nor ad hominem. And since you asked, I’m happy to elaborate on Simpson’s and MIller’s bad habits.
Let’s start with Simpson who specializes in producing reams of irrelevant data, can’t see the forest for the trees, and doesn’t recognize the difference between an assumption and a fact. Here’s a classic example of the latter from one of her first Serial blog posts. For some reason she can’t wrap her head around the idea that Jay might have noticed that Hae’s corpse had no shoes. To show how preposterous this is, she writes:
Sure. Some time during Jay and Adnan’s post-murder road trip through western Baltimore, Adnan could have turned to Jay and said, “By the way, I’m leaving Hae’s shoes in her car.” But does that really sound plausible? Adnan told Jay about what he had decided to do with Hae’s shoes? Of all the things they could talk about, of all the things Adnan might have told Jay, one of them was, “Oh by the way, Hae’s shoes are in her car”? Of course, there’s another explanation for why Jay knows where Hae’s shoes were left. Because he’s the one that left them there. And saying “Adnan told me” is simply Jay’s way of answering everything every question the detectives ask about things only Adnan should have knowledge of.
Do you follow the lack of logic there? In Simpson’s opinion, it’s crazy that Jay would have known about Hae’s shoes therefore Jay was involved in murdering Hae. Not just as an accessory after the fact but as something more. This is a completely unjustified accusation based on a flawed leap of logic. What’s more, this type of magical transformation of assumption into fact happens multiple times in every one of her blog posts as well as on Undisclosed.
Here’s a more recent example from your podcast. Simpson believes that Cathy has the day that Adnan visited her house wrong, which is important because it’s also the day of the murder. Cathy says she remembers it was that specific day because she went to a conference. Simpson finds a “workshop” related to Cathy’s field of study that took place on a different day. She assumes, based on nothing, that Cathy must have been confused and attended this other workshop aka conference on another day. The Undisclosed crew declares Cathy is wrong. Again, an assumption is transformed into a fact.
You mentioned I’m a private investigator. I am and I’m also a journalist who writes about crime and courts. One of the things I’ve learned over decades in this business is that when you test your beautifully imagined and constructed theories in the real world, you often find out they’re wrong because people will give you facts and evidence that contradict them. Maybe, unbeknownst to Simpson, Cathy’s conference on January 13, 1999 was written in her diary. Maybe Cristina Gutierrez and her investigator double checked Cathy’s alibi because at trial Adnan’s lawyer references the building in which the conference was held. Maybe the prosecution checked it too, as is standard practice, because you don’t want your key witnesses blowing up on the stand. Maybe Simpson needs to actually talk to Cathy before declaring her a muddled mixer-upper who testified incorrectly 16 years ago.
But enough about Simpson. Let’s talk about Evidence Prof Colin Miller. You’re miffed that I called him ghoulish. Well, frankly, I thought it was better than creepy, which I also considered. You also suggest that I shouldn’t criticize him for investigating autopsy reports and analyzing the evidence. I actually have no problem with Miller playing amateur coroner if that’s his thing. My problem is with him posting his half-baked theories on the internet.
Although you chose to ignore it, I did explain in my essay that the issue with Miller’s blog posts is that there is no purpose to them. Take the one devoted to explaining why Hae’s head injuries demonstrate she couldn’t have been killed in the driver’s seat. In the prosecution’s closing arguments Kathleen Murphy argues that Hae was killed in the passenger seat. It’s only Jay, who wasn’t even there, who says Adnan told him Hae was killed in the driver’s seat. Basically the whole post, like all his other gruesome autopsy posts, is beside the point.
If this is some kind of intellectual exercise for Miller, he should go do it in privacy of his basement. Unless he reveals truly exculpatory evidence, there is simply no justification for putting this type of post on the internet without the permission and blessing of Hae’s family. It’s disrespectful and a violation of a murdered girl’s privacy in every possible way.
The other point that I should make while I am on the subject of Miller and Simpson is that the forensic evidence they discuss is open to interpretation. Their MO is to suggest an improbable hypothetical and show that it’s possible. They then try to demonstrate, unconvincingly, that the prosecution’s version of events must be wrong and theirs must be right. Sometimes, they even drag an expert in to help, which ultimately ends in a case of which lividity or cell phone expert are you going to believe? The whole exercise is futile and irrelevant. One expert’s interpretation of complex data is not going to spring Adnan from jail. Once a jury of your peers has found you guilty of murder and the appeals court has rejected all but your very last avenue of appeal, you need to find either a large legal loophole or major evidence that proves you innocent. Nothing else matters no matter how many supposedly fishy red herrings Simpson and Miller spot.
Unfortunately for Adnan, he’s been looking for that elusive proof of his innocence for 16 years with no success at all. Even now, with the Innocence Project and This American Life on his side, no one can suggest a remotely plausible version of who killed Hae Min Lee other than Adnan Syed. Your email suggests, Rabia, that you’re grasping at the straw that it was Roy Sharonnie Davis who strangled another Woodlawn high school student in 1998 but wasn’t convicted until 2004 on the basis of DNA. (Not to be confused with Deirdre Enright’s Ronald Lee Moore straw.)
The big problem with yours and Deirdre Enright’s third party theories is that there’s zero reason for Jay to be protecting some loser serial killer, be it Roy or Ronald, and even less reason for the cops to be framing Adnan and Jay to protect said serial killer. Not to mention that it’s highly unlikely that, after 16 years, nothing about this would have come to light. People almost always talk and this is exactly the stuff that lowlifes talk about.
Rabia, you make a big deal about how Jay’s a lying liar, which he is, but I’ve got to tell you that I find Jay a whole lot more credible than Adnan, who’s also been lying from the very beginning. On the day Hae disappeared, he told the police he asked her for a ride. Then he said he didn’t. Then he couldn’t remember the day at all, claiming it was just a regular day six weeks ago even though it was the very unregular day the police contacted him about his ex-girlfriend, who he had called three times the night before. And on and on.
Which brings us to the police. You ask me to believe the police didn’t think Imran’s email was important because they didn’t use it in court. Say what? Now, I’m supposed to put my faith in those same bumbling police who didn’t investigate Don properly and used Jay to frame Adnan to protect some rando serial killer. The same police you accused of corruption on your last episode of Undisclosed?
Rabia, I’m not naive about police. In my work, I criticize them when they deserve it and praise them when they do a good job. I’ve watched The Wire and read David Simon’s Homicide, which BTW features some good and dedicated Baltimore cops. I’ve seen nothing to indicate that Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary engaged in any kind of misconduct whatsoever. Sarah Koenig said they both had good reputations. Jim Trainum said the Hae Min Lee investigation was above average and that they investigated three suspects. Ritz told Koenig that, knowing that Jay was a liar, they corroborated every part of his story.
Unlike most people on the #FreeAdnan boards, I’ve also actually read those court cases involving Ritz that keep getting cited as proof that he’s the devil incarnate. In the Mable case, Ritz was one of dozens of people being sued: It was a civil case which never even made it to the discovery phase before the plaintiff dropped out so we have no idea how Ritz would have responded. Then there was another case where Ritz is mentioned in passing for using an interview technique practised by police forces across the country until the courts ordered it modified. That hardly sounds like a black mark agains his character. And most recently, another civil case came out, where Ritz has yet to respond to the allegations against him. So what to make of all this? It doesn’t strike me as at all out of the ordinary that a homicide cop in Baltimore would be named in a handful of lawsuits after decades of service. It comes with the territory just like getting snarked on by Susan Simpson. In the name of balance though, you might also want to consider this Baltimore Sun article about Ritz raising money for a child abuse center:
“He solicits all the golfers single-handedly and all the donations single-handedly,” said Ritz’s son, William. “He talks about it all year long, and then he stresses about it the last couple of months leading up to it.” Sometimes, like in police work, his diligence comes at the expense of his health. Last year, while canvassing Inner Harbor businesses for tournament sponsors and after working nearly 36 hours straight on cases, Ritz, physically spent, passed out on the street outside Power Plant Live. He regained consciousness as a few pedestrians helped him to his feet. But rather than seek immediate medical attention, he brushed himself off and headed home, only to continue fundraising later. (He subsequently sought medical attention.)
When I listened to Ritz on the latest episode of Undisclosed, I was struck by how much he sounded like a decent guy, unable to comprehend Jenn’s callous reaction to Hae’s death and Adnan’s plan to kill her. He had the same disbelieving reaction to Jay in episode one of Serial, asking him why he didn’t try to stop Adnan. Where you, Rabia, hear taps and rustling papers and conspiratorial corruption, I hear veteran homicide cops blown away by the casual cruelty and immorality of these kids. Imran’s awful email was yet another example. Hae’s life meant so little to Jay, Jenn and Imran. And to Adnan, who actually killed her.
In her attempt to explain away the Imran email, Simpson told a convoluted tale of two Imrans, claiming erroneously that the writer wasn’t really Adnan’s good friend but another Imran altogether. This is a perfect example of tunnel vision. Imran’s email looks bad for Adnan so Simpson dismisses it and, worse yet, starts making stuff up to fit her Adnan is innocent theory.
— The View From LL2 (@TheViewFromLL2) May 9, 2015
Thanks for offering to put me in touch with Imran H, Rabia. If the offer still stands after this article, I would love to take you up on it. I would like to hear why he wrote what he did and see the apology email he’s rumoured to have sent. I’m a believer in redemption. It’s one of the reasons I feel far more sympathetic to Jay than Adnan — because Jay actually owned up to what he did. While I wish he had gone to jail for his part in the crime, he didn’t so time to let it go. As far as I’m concerned Jay has paid his debt to society. What’s more he’s apologized and shown remorse.
You mention the domestic assault charges he later faced, and say they deserve more scrutiny despite being dropped. You are right that we absolutely do need to hear his ex-girlfriend’s side of things before swallowing the explanation he gave the Intercept.
Since I wrote my essay, there have been more than 500 comments about it. A number of people agreed with me that Sarah Koenig was indeed wrong to brush off well- documented warning signs of intimate partner violence, but argued that wasn’t proof Adnan killed Hae. They were right, of course, but my essay wasn’t about laying out the entire case against Adnan. It was about the oddness of Koenig’s unfeminist ouevre being so lauded at this particular point in time, where we are supposedly so concerned about women’s issues.
So, for the record, let me tell you why I’m convinced Adnan is guilty.
- Adnan should remember what happened on that very un-normal day. He was called by police the same day his ex-girlfriend disappeared. He was interviewed by police two weeks later. The whole “I can’t remember that normal day six weeks ago” schtick is total BS. And Koenig was a sucker for believing it. There is no good explanation for why Adnan has no alibi. He was aware the day Hae went missing something was seriously wrong.
- Jay has no reason for framing Adnan nor does anyone else let alone Roy Sharonnie Davis or Ronald Lee Moore, who, between the two of them, probably have the combined IQ of a cactus plant.
- Adnan has no explanation whatsoever as to how he landed in this position. Yes, I know Deirdre Enright said innocent people often can’t help their case. But she was talking about not being able to find a body in a field as opposed to having no idea whatsoever why your buddy Jay might want to frame you for murder. People who work with killers will also tell you that this vaguey-vague “someone must have framed me but I don’t know why” explanation is a pretty common one among the guilty.
- Adnan has consistently lied about how people reacted to Hae’s disppearance, claiming it was no big deal, which is completely implausible. Hae had a new a boyfriend, a class trip to France booked, and university to look forward to. There was no way she’d take off to California in the middle of her senior year.
- Adnan’s good friend Imran appears to have been actively trying to discourage Hae’s California friends from looking for her a week after her disappearance, when, according to Adnan, no one was concerned she was gone.
- Adnan had no reason for lending Jay his car. The idea that he was concerned about Jay getting a birthday present for Stephanie is laughable.
- Adnan lied about asking Hae for a ride, contradicting the testimony of Krista and Debbie.
- Adnan wrote “I’m going to kill” on a break-up note from Hae telling him to back off. (If you think that’s no biggie, let me know how you feel about it when you see your daughters writing a note like that and then discover the recipient’s decorated it with “I’m going to kill.”)
- Adnan exhibited other stalkery behaviour towards Hae. She hid from him at school and wrote in her diary that he was possessive.
- Adnan never tried to contact Hae after January 13th even though he called her three times the night before.
- There is no explanation for the Nisha call other than an improbable butt dial.
- Adnan’s cell phone records place him in Leakin Park burying Hae’s body.
So that’s it for now, Rabia, 12 points and counting. I’ve probably left something off the list and if I remember it, I’ll add it later. But the bottom line is, just like the jury, I’m convinced way beyond a reasonable doubt that your guy is guilty.
If you ever find some evidence that shows I’m wrong — like the stuff you said a while back that your PI has dug up — let me know. Likewise, if Adnan decides to admit to his crime, show remorse and ask for forgiveness, I’d like to hear.
Otherwise Rabia, I don’t think this is a gulf that can be crossed. I just can’t get behind the campaign to free a guy who killed his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend and has never once said he feels a single bit of remorse.
There was no miscarriage of justice in the case of Adnan Syed. The fact that he’s in jail is justice.