Adnan's Appeal Reminds Us How Real 'Serial' Is

by Maitri Suhas

Update: Entertainment Weekly reports that the prosecutors in Adnan Syed's case have moved to deny his appeal. Now that the court has heard from both the state (aka the prosecutors) and Syed's defense lawyers, they will issue a ruling. Now, we wait. The deluge of developments in the case of Adnan Syed since the end of the Serial has been almost as intriguing and frustrating as the 12 episodes of the podcast itself. Jay Wilds, the principle witness in the case, gave an in-depth interview with The Intercept about his experience with the murder and the trial. Last week, Kevin Urick gave a multiple-part interview to the same site, saying that he resolutely stands by the result of the case convicting Syed, and that the evidence (primarily the phone records) was clear-cut and irrefutable. On Wednesday, there was another development in Syed's case. As TIME reports, "A Maryland appeals court is considering whether Syed should be given permission to move forward his bid to overturn his murder conviction, and has asked the state to respond to the application by Wednesday."

The appeal in question is one that will attempt to overturn the decision to deny Syed post-conviction relief, and will reexamine whether or not the judge in the previous case "properly followed the law and legal precedent." This development is a harsh reminder that the subjects of Sarah Koenig's podcast are not static characters in a vacuum but real human persons whose lives are continually affected and altered by the case of Hae Min Lee's murder.

When Serial first began I ate it up voraciously, as so many others did. Koenig told Fresh Air's Terry Gross she "didn't expect her new podcast to get so much press," but says the attention helped keep her on her toes: "It was just a constant reminder of how careful we needed to be." Which begs the question — was Koenig more reckless when she began reinvestigating the 15 year old case? Is "investigating" even the appropriate word to use to describe her interaction with the case?

It's strange how the insular, edited entity of Serial has come into play and affected the real-time, raw, and difficult situation that influenced every person in the case. Koenig reached out to Dierdre Enright from the Innocence Project, who says "she plans to file a motion for DNA testing for never-tested physical evidence in the case. Depending on the results, the DNA evidence could be exculpatory."

Again, it reminds us that even though there are no longer new episodes every week, Adnan Syed is still a man incarcerated and trying to prove his innocence, and tragically, Hae Min Lee is still dead. It makes me feel guilty for my obsession with the podcast; what does it mean if I cared so deeply for and was so invested in these people when I reencountered them for 12 Thursdays, and after Serial ended, they faded to the back of my memory? Was I only listening for pure entertainment purposes and endorsing the type of flawed reporting that Koenig was at times guilty of?

I don't ask myself these questions after listening to This American Life or Radiolab, whose stories usually come to finite and satisfying resolutions. But is it my responsibility as a Serial fan to follow along with what happens to Syed now that the podcast is over and Koenig is no longer broadcasting it?

Is it still my business?

Image: Serialpodcast.org.