By now, it seems everyone in the world has heard of the addictive podcast that launched in 2014 and has many listeners mourning its end last month. I count myself among the avid listeners. Although I got a late start listening, I caught up within a week of listening to my first episode, and impatiently awaited the last few episodes becoming available on Thursdays throughout November and December (not cool skipping Thanksgiving, SK, not cool). I loved it. I thought everything from the music to the narration was perfect. It was like being sucked into the most addictive drama on TV, only it’s a real story. Which just goes to show that the truth can be stranger than fiction sometimes (mostly).
I think my main problem with the show is also the thing that made me love it so much: I still don’t know what to think about Adnan or the case itself. I think there is one thing I am sure of: from the get-go, the case was mishandled. From the police work to the courtroom behavior, it’s my opinion that Adnan did not always get fair treatment. And this was all before 9/11, so probably if the same case were to have come up a few years later, it would have been even more likely to result in jurors (and the media) being prejudiced against this young man. I’m not saying that that’s necessarily what happened, just that I think it’s possible, and that I think that humans, evolved as we may be, sometimes fall short when we try to be unbiased, no matter how hard we try.
It’s easy to pick someone on the show who seems seedy or suspicious and run with the idea that he or she must have done it. And I sort of think that’s what the cops did in this case, they took Adnan’s status in Hae’s life and decided that their breakup alone was enough to make him suspicious, and from that point on everything they turned up they automatically looked at with a tinted perspective (and not tinted in his favor). As I listened, I started wondering if, without letting my imagination run too wild, I could sort of keep an open mind about who may have committed the crime, and see where different trains of thought took me.
For example, there are some things I definitely find questionable about Don (this has already been discussed at length all over the internet). For example, his work schedule was odd that day (which he used as his alibi), and the police decided his alibi (working) was legit, despite the fact that his supervisor at the job he claimed to be at was his mother. That is not to say that I don’t believe Don is innocent—I do! But this is the sort of thinking I allowed myself to submerge myself in to really explore the case from every possible angle.
Each episode, I kind of mentally compiled a list of key players that were brought up and how they contribute to the story as a whole. I know that Serial only gives listeners pieces of a bigger puzzle, and that there are many things the show does not cover. I know that Rabia has given fans a lot of additional information, and Reddit has been overflowing with additional theories and information for the past few months now. But I tried my best to stick to the facts shared on the show and only read speculation posts to keep my thoughts flowing, and not get too swayed by anything that I thought was biased (and I know some of the stuff Rabia shares is totally objective, too, so I found her blog really interesting and supplementary to the podcast). That being said, I think sometimes people will come up with crazy, outlandish theories because they simply want to believe something about a person’s guilt or innocence, and a crazy, outlandish theory is the only type of theory that supports their belief.
At the end of all this listening and all this time pondering, I think I’ve come up with three possible scenarios. They certainly don’t account for everything, and I’m sure people on the internet will be quick to pick apart why my ideas are all wrong and tell me exactly why I’m a total idiot, but I’m hopeful that instead, we will be mature and use any discussion as a means to further explore the possibilities of the case, rather than to spread malice. I am not legally trained in any sense (I’m actually in pharmacy school, so basically the farthest thing from thinking like a lawyer).
Theory 1: Jay and Adnan were both members of a larger drug ring. This idea is not original, but I do have some specific thoughts on it I’d like to throw out there. I think the whole “Jay borrowing Adnan’s car to buy Stephanie a gift” thing seems, at best, sketchy. That whole line seems much more realistic if we consider that the two of them were doing something drug-related that morning when Adnan left school for a little while. I’m not sure exactly what to think about the drug stuff, because we only have what Jay says to go on. I can understand as a seventeen year old being afraid to tell cops about being involved in any sort of drug crimes, even though as someone older you can see clearly that it would be much preferable to say you were involved in something illegal like that rather than be prosecuted and penalized for first-degree murder. This would put Adnan and Jay together mid-morning and running around not at a mall. Maybe Adnan mentioned something about wanting to kill Hae to Jay and maybe not, I’m not really going to speculate on that, because there’s no way to know who’s lying. But regardless, it means Adnan leaves the car and phone with Jay to handle drug-dealing business, which is something Adnan probably didn’t want to mention to the cops when they came knocking to talk to him. Hence the “I lent the car so that Jay could buy Stephanie a present” thing. What makes no sense is why Jay goes along with this. The cops figure out Jay deals weed anyway, so Jay could implicate Adnan in dealing with him and not really hurt himself at all. The only thing I can think of is someone higher up telling Jay to keep his mouth shut about Adnan’s involvement in drugs (someone who potentially threatens him or has influence over him in some other way). So let’s just say, for the sake of this silly theory, that Jay and Adnan are dealers together, and Adnan kills Hae that afternoon and calls Jay for a ride/help (the ride thing doesn’t make sense since he has Hae’s car and ends up driving it for some time that afternoon—why not just call Jay and tell him to meet him at a certain time at the Park and Ride?). This would kind of explain why Jay and Adnan were acquainted, but not considered close friends, if they were involved in the same ring of drug-dealing. It would also explain why Adnan chose to go to Jay rather than a closer friend. Jay was involved in illegal activities that Adnan frequently saw him commit and committed alongside him, therefore he saw them as “partners in crime”—just took the crime way further than simple marijuana dealing when he asked Jay to help him bury a body. There are rampant inconsistencies with this idea, and it’s not a very complicated theory, either. It doesn’t explain the motive, just elaborates a little more on some of the reasons Jay and Adnan both lied throughout the investigation, trial, and podcast. I don’t know what to think about Stephanie, other than that I feel so sorry for the pain this case clearly caused her. I know many people wish she would speak about her experience, and I respect her decision not to. I can’t imagine what she must have gone through, and as just a young woman in high school. Her story might clear up some things, and would likely either contradict or corroborate Jay’s story. It would at least be nice to know if, as Jay says he showed up to her house that night to give her a gift, he actually gave her a gift or not. If he didn’t show up with a gift, I think that pretty much guarantees Jay and Adnan weren’t at the mall that morning. Maybe they were driving around scoping out a place to bury a body, in which case the first-degree thing becomes really important. Maybe they were just smoking a little weed before Adnan went back to school, or doing a little business. Regardless, I think Adnan and Jay being both involved in dealing at least explains some of the inconsistencies if you believe Adnan is guilty. It means basically nothing if you believe he’s innocent, just that he must have been pretty sneaky to drive around and deal while keeping his snooping mother from finding out.
Theory 2: Jay is caught up in a much more serious drug dealing ring than implied by him to the police, with some sort of drug lord over him who either forces Jay to commit the murder or commits the murder himself and then forces Jay to cover it up. That would explain why Jay goes to the police at all, and keeps changing his story (perhaps he was getting all sorts of crazy conflicting information from the person above him throughout the whole ordeal). My thoughts are: if Jay got his so-called “buddy” (even if they aren’t close, I still think Jay and Adnan were considered friendly to one another prior to this) put into prison for the rest of his life (many, many years when you’re talking about someone who’s only seventeen years old) and you know full well that he did nothing wrong, you must be a sick person. I know someone “looking nice” is not proof of anything, but hey, if people want to say that about Adnan I think it’s fair to say it for Jay too. He just doesn’t look like someone who would do that sort of thing to a friend. People make mistakes when they’re young and all that, but at eighteen you’re capable of knowing what your testimony is going to do to someone in Adnan’s position. If Jay hadn’t come to the police, I think it’s likely that no one ever would have been tried in the case, and it would have been considered an unsolved murder. I’m sure there would have been suspicions about Adnan, but really what was the state’s case without Jay? I doubt they would have had enough evidence to even get an indictment without Jay. So, again, my thoughts are either Adnan did it and Jay knows and feels like it’s his moral responsibility to turn him in and do everything in his power to get him locked up (including possibly making up stuff????) or Jay knows who did do it and is under intense heat to be sure that person does not get caught. In that case, Jay gets so freaked out that a fingerprint or hair may have been left behind that could be matched to the real murderer, and he decides that it’s safer to point the cops in a totally different direction (basically to distract them) rather than let them spend hours trying to figure out who did it, in which case the cops probably never would have gathered significant evidence against anyone and the case would have been dropped eventually. The only reason I think it’s most likely the person in this case who did it and would be making Jay cover for him/her would be some sort of drug overlord is that I can’t imagine who else in Jay’s world would wield that type of power over him, or fear (unless Adnan did it and really is threatening him, in which case I’d think Jay would keep his mouth shut out of fear?).
Theory 3: The infamous serial killer theory, but not the one you heard on the podcast. I completely understand why the Innocence Project is going through with the DNA testing against the serial killer they mentioned on Serial. That said, I think it’s unlikely that the DNA will match that serial killer. I think it’s much more likely that the young girl who was raped and strangled a year before Hae was strangled by the same person as Hae. This man apparently had a penchant for young girls, and although there was no evidence of rape, there’s also no reason this man had to have raped her. She could have put up such a valiant fight against the man that he decided to off her before sexually assaulting her because he was exhausted and did not think getting his jollies was worth the risk of her getting away at some point and telling the police of the incident. This theory has been discussed to some extent on Reddit, but I think it’s a real possibility that should be at least explored by people with the power to make a real difference.
I wonder what will happen in the future, with Adnan’s appeal this year. If it is unsuccessful, my understanding is that his last hope for potential exoneration will be over. In this case, if he did it, I really hope he will come forward. I know it would bring closure to many, many people, the most important of which are Hae’s friends and family members. It would not be costing him anything if he had no chance of getting out at that point. If he did not commit the murder, I hope that he gets exonerated. Either way, I hope that justice is served. It is sad that it seems like thus far justice has been completely absent from this case, for all involved in it. The fact that the population of listeners is very legitimately split on their belief regarding guilt or innocence just goes to show that realistically he never should have been sentenced. I would have to vote not guilty just because of that pesky “reasonable doubt” thing. But clearly some people are 100% convinced of his guilt, and to those people I’d like to ask what theory they utilize to explain away all the inconsistencies and confusing parts of the case. Maybe deep down I think he’s guilty, but that he shouldn’t have been convicted based on the evidence at trial (I’m not hiding my true feelings from you about the case, I’m just genuinely not sure what they are). Feel free to chime in if you have anything to share or add!