Better than TV: my obsession with the Serial podcast and the case against Adnan Syed

One thing that I have learned as a result of launching this website is that aside from a recent reference link snafu that got me a ton of hits from Brazil, I am pretty much just talking to myself here most of the time. In that dancing-with-myself kind of spirit, I am going to post my thoughts on some podcasts I recently listened to. Besides sharing with the world how I get my nerd on, you will come to see that I probably have way too much time on my hands. Now, I know I am coming into this particular podcast party way late in the game, but since this story continues to develop and there is still a large divide of opinion among the internet world, I think it’s all still relevant.

For those who many not know, Serial season 1 featured a thrilling look at the convoluted conviction of Baltimore resident Adnan Syed in the 1999 murder of 17-year-old ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Show producer and host Sarah Koenig takes you on a journey that unfolds so slowly and skilled, you will feel like you are in the grasp of a fine Fincher film. Everything you thought you would think turns around on itself and you’ll find your inner dialogue splitting into halves and arguing over what to believe. If you have not yet listened to Serial – STOP – and download it now on iTunes for free. My particular theory will be best digested by those who are familiar with the case. I’d hate to use the word spoiler, because this is a real life murder of a real person and I don’t want to cheapen the loss of life, but for a lack of a better word I don’t want to spoil your Serial experience.

Beyond listening to the full Serial series, I also took in most of the Undisclosed podcast, which I would not recommend because besides being painfully biased and funded by the Free Adnan Trust, it’s defense lawyer perspective narration frequently turns into sloppy ramblings that are hard to follow and often contradicts it’s own points without being able to see the irony. Undisclosed does uncover a few really interesting and important facts that were discovered after the conclusion of Serial, but overall these didn’t really sway my opinion and working theory – as a matter of fact, I think they helped solidify it. So, if you can stomach a drawn-out everyone is out to get us type conspiracy theory drivel, then by all means, check Undisclosed out.

One last super important thing that I will reference is the only interview that Jay Wilds, the star witness and conviction linchpin, did since the trial ended and the Serial obsession began. This three part interview can be found on The Intercept’s website.

*Here we go*

I fully believe that the states timeline of the murder can be easily disproven, but despite this Adnan is 100% guilty. I must say that I was a little bit disappointed in the final episode because Koenig took the easy way out by not giving a more definitive conclusion than – I think he is wrongfully convicted but, I can’t say he is innocent.

Just say the guy is  G U I L T Y.

I was really on the fence about what I thought until the episode where Koenig went to visit Jay and there was something about the way she described her interaction with him and the types of things he said. Jay was surprised at the visit – not something I would think would be typical of a person who had completely fabricated a story about seeing his friend bury a body – I tend to think if that were the case you’d spend the rest of your life waiting for the other shoe to drop because you’d know there’s someone behind bars with nothing but time on their hands. Secondly, Jay made a comment about Adnan still not being able to admit committing the murder to himself.  All of a sudden, things began to click in my head and I realized Adnan likely suffers from some sort of Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissism, which would explain why people close to him were in disbelief that such a good, upbeat and popular guy could commit such an act. This would also explain why a theoretically guilty Adnan would think he was smarter than the cops, Jay would just do whatever he told him to do, and possibly be the motive for killing Hae (ie. you think someone lame like you can break up with someone awesome like me? I’ll show you how little you are).

The again, I doubt we will ever know the full motive for exactly why Adnan killed Hae. One motive I think we can put together that kept coming up and creating doubt was why Jay would lie so much. I think there are a myriad of valid reasons, many of which Jay points out in the Intercept interview (which I totally buy as the closest a real recount we will ever get to know). But here are my 4 top assessments:

  1. He was afraid of being pinned for the murder – I have to think that the first reaction when being taken in by the police for questioning of a murder is to make sure you don’t say anything that can get you in trouble or make you a suspect. I think for some people it’s like a physical defense mechanism to lie and misdirect to try to save themselves and much of the conflicting information provided by Jenn and Jay in the initial recordings could be explained by this.
  2. He will say anything to make sure the crazy guy he knows KILLS people is taken behind bars as fast as possible – I don’t doubt for one second that there was fear every time Jay saw Adnan after January 13th. However, we know that Jay is a drug dealer and his image comes off as more gangster-like than it actually is. I imagine this was a serious crux in his life where we was leaning between two worlds, one where he is all in and murder becomes apart of his life and the other where his own morality takes over and he knows he will lose his lifestyle, the drugs, money, etc. If you topple into the latter and spill it all, you may be worried about sharing the streets with someone who could kill you. This in no way excuses the lazy policework done in Baltimore and I do believe there was a lot of coaching thrown at Jay, I am just saying that this explains WHY he would be willing to mold his story to match any other evidence.
  3. He wanted to protect his family / didn’t want to go down for selling drugs during the 90’s war on drugs era / he was afraid of drug partner retaliation for being a snitch – refer to the Intercept interview.
  4. He was a total POTHEAD – I haven’t really seen anyone talking about the fact we know in ’99 Jay is the kind of guy who smokes multiple blunts per day and seems to always be high. If you’ve ever known a person who chronically uses copious amounts of marijuana, then you know their memory can be completely useless at times.

Ok, so now we can all stop saying “well why is he lying!”

One of the more useful things that Undisclosed brought up is that there was no wrestling match the day Hae was killed. We have the last two people who saw Hae both explaining that she was going to be back at school later for a wrestling match,  I think the best way to explain this is by using something Undisclosed tries to lean on heavily to help prove Adnan’s innocence – memory is bad. I think both people are mistaken about the which day they are recalling – there was no french fry stop, there was no chat about scoring a match on January 13th – and if that’s the case, it actually makes it easier to point a finger in Adnan’s direction because the lady running the concession stand can no longer claim there was nobody else in Hae’s car after school. This also widens the gap of time between 2:15pm when school let out and 3:15pm when Hae was a no show picking up her cousin. Maybe it’s that incoming call at 3:15pm that is the Adnan come pick me up from Best Buy and not at 2:36pm. Maybe Asia was totally mistaken about what day she saw Adnan after school.

If we take Jay’s Intercept interview as truth and we know it’s after midnight when Jay sees Hae’s body at the trunk pop, then that would explain why the blood settled before burial and why Jay was so dodgy about what kind of tools they used and where they came from (his grandmother’s house). Also, let’s throw out the cell phone records and tower data just like the defense wants and even then it seems to make a stronger case against Adnan.

I don’t claim to know exactly how it all went down and I haven’t taken the time myself to review every single piece of evidence (because, I sometimes have a life), but I am pretty confident in my personal thoughts on this. I think it’s a downright shame that the Baltimore Police Department didn’t put enough effort into this case. Being a believer in Adnan’s guilt, I wish they would have done something more so there would be no room for debate. I can’t help but feel bad for those who have put forth a tremendous amount of effort and money trying to free a murderer.

Just my 2¢: Comedy Central straps in for a rough ride

It was recently announced that Trevor Noah will be taking Jon Stewart’s spot as host of “The Daily Show” later this year. Trevor is a 31-year-old comedian from South Africa and has been a correspondent on the show three times. I can remember one of them specifically and I recalled feeling at the end of the segment that Trevor came off a bit haughty. Something about his takeover rubs me the wrong way and I wanted to figure out the root of that emotion. Unlike others, I wasn’t bothered by any of the tweets he came under fire for, because I think as a whole we have become unfairly hypersensitive about every little thing, and I’m also a big defender of comedy not having limits. Perhaps it is that in the episode I saw, Trevor’s delivery was at times a poor, stammering mess and yet he opted to wear a pristine three-piece suit that costs more than any item of clothing I will ever own, it was so inauthentic.  It was one of the few times the whole thing felt like someone just playing a smart guy role – and doing a bad job at it.  And, even though Trevor’s South African accent is truly beautiful, when used to deliver words that were bashing the American currency system, it came off totally condescending. All in, I think this guy couldn’t be any less relatable to the average Joe if he tried.

In all fairness, anyone coming into the seat has some huge shoes to fill. Jon Stewart has become the voice of the Everyman who has been able to break down his vast knowledge of the political underbelly in a way just about anyone can understand. He is unafraid to call it like he see’s it, and has become such a force that media outlets and Politician’s alike feel the need to respond to him. You know you are doing something right when the big dogs take up network airtime to address the rantings of some guy from New Jersey and his cable show.

Trevor Noah has no known political background and isn’t even from this country and yet he is now the one who will be calling out not only us Americans, but the entire system and all the corrupt players. Given the lack of credentials, I can’t imagine anyone of important merit is going to feel compelled to respond to him, and that will be a regrettable and possibly tanking loss for the show to take.

At the end of the day, if Comedy Central was going to hire a comedian to read the cue cards, I think they’ve made a big mistake by not hiring from the internal pool of established talent already on the show; Jason Jones, Samantha Bee, Aasif Mandvi, Al Madrigal. Any one of those familiar faces could get the job done and they already have the viewers trust.

Making such a risky move the same year that Comedy Central lost “The Colbert Report” has left me scratching my head. I have loved “The Daily Show” for years and I really do hope there is some secret sauce to this whole thing and I’m proven wrong. I guess that only time will tell.

Just my 2¢

Megan

What do you think? Are you excited to see Trevor take over The Daily Show? Who would have been your top pick to replace Jon Stewart? Be sure to let me know in the comments section.

Current Events: I was Amanda Knox

I was really excited when the announcement was made on Friday that Amanda Knox was once again exonerated by the Italian courts for the murder of one of her college housemates, Meredith Kercher. The story was buried behind an endless looping of coverage of the Germanwings airline crash in France so it didn’t get much play and I thought I would write a little about it now.

In 2007, brutally murdered college student, Meredith Kercher was found inside her house by one of her three roommates, Amanda Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. Quickly and without any physical evidence, the italian prosecutor pointed a finger and Knox and her boyfriend. With the help of the media, Amanda Knox was condemned for a series of seemingly callous actions like taking a few pecks from her boyfriend while police searched her house and doing a cartwheel at the police station. Back in 2007, I was 22, and didn’t care about the news too much. Don’t get me wrong, I gobbled up the occasional news headline for conversational pieces, but couldn’t stay focused enough to actually digest a story. I, like the rest of the world looked at the Amanda Knox story and thought to myself that she must have done it and I hope she fried. About the time I outgrew my 20’s selfish phase (or did I ever? Still figuring that out), I began to find crime drama stories fascinating. Perhaps it was the mask of invincibility that faded off of me that lead me to indulging in a genre that is actually quite terrifying.

Even though I had paid attention to this story over several mediums, it was a 2013 episode of 20/20 that broke down the entire Amanda Knox story that left me jaw dropped. Seeing the big picture of the entire case there was no way this girl could have committed this murder. To start, there’s startling proof that the prosecutor, who looks like he rose from the grave specifically to take on this case, fluffed up a sexy headline grabbing story of a satanic sex party gone wrong just to advance his legacy. Secondly, there is photographic evidence of sloppy police work, unlogged police evidence and a strong case for tampering. Third, they have DNA and a confession of the actual person who killed Meredith but decided to cut him a sweetheart deal to serve just 16 years IF he confessed that Amanda and her BF were involved as well. And with that, Amanda was convicted of murder and served a long and painful 2 years inside an Italian prison until one of her appeals finally overturned the corrupt conviction. The girl got hosed and yet the hate directed at her on the streets of Italy was thick enough to cut with a knife.

Sure, it seems hard to explain the strange and emotionally distant behaviors of Knox at the time of the murder, but when I began to take into account the actual circumstances of her life at that moment, the picture made total sense. Amanda was a 20 years old kid from Seattle going to school abroad. It was by all accounts, her first taste of freedom and she was lucky enough to be living it in a country that offered her a range of experiences she would have never been able to find back home. Amanda had only known Meredith and moved into the house five weeks prior to her death and it seems with their busy schedules, they didn’t know each other all that well except for some friendly banter and the occasional bickering about matters such as cleanliness that roommates so often have. Meredith was a cute girl, I’d say far cuter than Amanda and so it’s not hard for me to relate to my inner 20 year old and think, gee I get a lot more attention when I am out solo over being on the prowl with a cuter and more outgoing girl my own age, so that makes it seem totally plausible that in 5 weeks neither took the time to develop any strong bonds. In addition, Amanda was in a brand new relationship with a boy and they were in that obsessed with each other phase, so I doubt she has much time to throw around at things like making girlfriends when her world was dominated by overwhelming first love.

Could I see 20 year old me smooching my love while he comforts me during a time of need? Yes. Could I see myself after a 18 hour day stretching my body and acting in a careless manner inside a police station? Yeah, especially if I had nothing to do with the murder and didn’t really know or care too much about the girl in question. After all, I am 20, I am selfish, my number one priority is to get back to drinking legally, making out with my boyfriend and learning Italian. Not to say that it isn’t a tragedy, it is. But we were all 20 once and being selfish and stupid goes along with the territory. For a lot of people, especially those who grew up in a household without it, empathy is something that grows and improves over a long period of time. And for the simple reason that she was lacking it, Amanda Knox lost her innocence and the best years of her life. It’s scary to think how quickly a good person’s life can derail.

It was actually considered a long shot for the Italian High Court to reach a final decision in Amanda’s favor, and after all she has been thorough by being wrongfully convicted twice, it’s nice to think there is always hope, even in situations where injustice has run amuck. I know she will breathe a little easier each night and day, just as she should.

What do you think about the Amanda Knox case? Post your thoughts in the comments section.

Just my 2¢: Classic Shamecraft

Welcome back,

I had a very interesting interaction this morning on Facebook and it inspired me to take a look at what I call shamecraft, a gathering of like minded, though not necessarily right minded, individuals who sit high on their mighty horses trying to police everyone’s morality. The typical tactics being; reacting overly sensitive to a matter at hand, voicing a very specific outrage (typically based on little to no facts, just feelings), finding others who are like-minded and gravitate to controversy and then trying to verbally beat an apology out of whomever created the source of the outrage. The internet can be a low down dirty place where the most meekish accountant can throw off his gloves and be in a constant verbal Fight Club, slinging around words he would never utter in real life. I think it’s the anonymity of it all that makes people embrace the worst of themselves and I guess when there are no consequences most people are failing to tame the monsters that rest deep inside.

It was an article I read about an editor at Vogue who posted a picture of a homeless person sitting down in the street, reading the magazine – the editor added the caption “Paris is full of surprises. . . and @voguemagazine readers even in unexpected corners!” Now, when I read this I thought two things; man, Paris is so cool even the homeless are interested in fashion, then hey, it’s really great to know because I have a huge stack of magazines I would have never thought to donate to a homeless shelter.  Of course these kind of optimistic reactions were swiftly muted by the raging mob that would attack this woman.  Not all mob members are equal, you have the more calm folks who stick to simple name calling and then you get the more extreme side that will wish harm in every way imaginable. Who are these kinds of people that were brought up in a way that they would actually wish someone bodily harm or to become unemployed and penniless? Would they want a bunch of people wishing that on them? I bet if all of these people were willing to step out of the shadows and allow us to dissect the complete history and words of their actions there would be a thousand things they themselves could be thrown to the wolves for. I am sure it could be done if you look closely enough at anyone.

In the Vogue situation, a public apology was later released after the editor posed initial resistance to the backlash by asking people why they considered what she was doing to be cruel. I can just imagine the magazine stockholders gathering frantically, voting with ease to throw the editor under the bus and issue and apology rather than risk any possible loss in profits. So what played out more like the begrudged action of apologizing has only fed into the rage mob’s ego and made their monsters stronger. At what point is enough enough? Who exactly does and does not have a freedom of expression? Who is the person who is determining exactly how much morality each stranger on the street should possess and exactly how they should use it?

So, I posted some of my feelings and a link to the story and got a quick response from one of those FB Friend-ish types that you don’t really that well and haven’t spoken to directly for several years. This person claimed that the Vogue situation was exploiting homeless and that the wealthy editor should have been giving that person money. An interesting thought, but not one I agreed with since the photo was a real life moment and not staged, and also I doubt the tweeted photo drove up sales of Vogue magazine in any way. I also suggested to Friend-ish that we have no idea who this editor is on the inside, for all we know she could be the most charitable living editor in the business today and its not up to strangers to tell her how to spend her money. Bottom line is that in my opinion we just don’t know enough to judge, but I did appreciate the FB Friend-ish’s point of view because it give me a chance to gather that particular train of thought. I did however, found out the gratitude was one sided when Friend-ish quickly ended the conversation by unfriending me after reading my response. To each their own, but it’s kind of amusing and a bit serendipitious that someone became so easily offended by something so slight. Don’t worry, I will not be losing any sleep, I love a good debate, I love when my ways of thinking are challenged and my mind is opened to making connections I may have not thought of on my own. I can only conclude that Frend-ish’s real motive in initiating the conversation on my page was just to give me a piece of her mind and maybe teach me a thing or two, and that makes her come off more like a member of the rage mob than not. So, it’s important to pay close attention to your social media connections because as you can see, they are everywhere.

Just my 2¢

Megan

What are your thoughts? Are we as a society becoming too sensitive? Are you guilty of participating in shamecraft? Be sure to leave some feedback in the comments section. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this bog and share with your friends!

Just my 2¢: So, about that Brian Williams

As I sit back to watch yet another episode of NBC’s recently lackluster Nightly News, I wanted to take a moment to share a little bit of my thoughts on the Brian Williams scandal. It’s been several weeks now since BW has been bumped out of the chair, and I blame myself, really. I remember watching that Rangers game live on TV and I got so excited when a two-shot of Brian and Tom Hanks sitting in the stands popped on my screen. At that very moment I thought to myself, wow, how cool is it that two of the most upstanding public figures are actually friends (this is not at all an exaggeration despite what you will come to learn about me).  And then boom, that very night after the game Brian says something to the press that incited the snowball that knocked the great Brian Williams off of his throne. People were outraged and seemingly excited by the whole thing. But, I was not. I like Brian Williams, and even though Lester Holt is a fine broadcaster, I’d prefer his dark and sinister voice delivering the intro packages to Dateline and not my news rundown. For those of you who don’t know, Brian was caught talking about going down in a helicopter overseas, when it actually turns out he was in an different one that did technically go down, but in the exact way it was suppose to and not in a crash as he implied. Ok, this is bad, but is it really banish worthy? Oh boy, if someone was fact checking my life, I would be exiled off the planet along with almost everyone I know.

This left me thinking to myself, who hasn’t done the equivalent of telling a tall tale about crashing on an aircraft? Personally, I have actually told a tall tale about crashing on an aircraft! You see, I come from a long line of exaggerators, no really, I’m pretty sure my great–great-great-grandsomething was the ruler of The Valley of Selective Memories and then was married off to the queen of Make Believeia and they spent their days breeding unicorns and spinning thread into gold. It was quite the pairing. Of course, the inherent traits and wealth dwindled through time and each generation got a little more normal and poorer. So, I am lousy at making thread into anything really, but your girl can still spin a tale.

I was once working on a documentary that sent me back to Detroit for the very first time since I had moved away at age 14 1. The city was cold, dark and depressing and made me feel the same sick way that walking into a war museum always does. After a day, I caught a flight down to Tampa and just after hitting our cruising altitude we hit an air pocket, the entire plane went dark and suddenly we began dropping altitude.

Now, do you think this calm description is anywhere close to how I recalled the story for the first 5 years I told it? Heck no! Here is how 20 something me told the glory story:

I was on a plane making the very same trip that me and my family took every year to visit Disneyworld 2, and I was feeling all emotional because fate had brought me back to my hometown and made me face the reality of the depth of poverty and depression my neighbors have been going through 3. Anyway, those planes can really hold up, so part of me thinks that just maybe that exact same TWA aircraft from my childhood and my whole life was coming full circle 4. As soon as we leveled off the entire plane lost power and we were falling thousands of feet into a sea of orange clouds 5. The big, strong man next to me coward in fear and we gripped tightly onto our shared armrest. Not one word was spoken by anyone on the plane, but the sharp ping from everyone’s gasps filled the air 6. Eventually, we leveled off but for a full hour afterwards nobody from the crew surfaced. When we got close to the Tampa airport we were making circles with other aircraft, which was very odd. Figuring this was for an emergency landing, I began to sweat through my clothes and work on the Skymall sudoku, praying that God not to let me die before I solved one of these freaking things 7. Once we landed safely, I was so overjoyed, I ran out of the airport 8 and got down on my knees and literally 9 kissed the sidewalk.

So, you can see the first hand de-evolution of my tale as time went by. The whole thing became more emotionally distant and less important as I filled my mental scrapbook with so many other exciting life experiences. I know I am no journalist and there is suppose to be a fine line of trust there, but it seems like a pretty easy thing to jump from one row to another, so long as you are staying in the same ballpark 10. I just have a hard time thinking that a man should lose his entire career when at this point he is really just reading news that his media outlet has already put their own spin on anyway.

Just my

Megan

FOOTNOTES:
1 Exaggeration #1, I technically lived in the suburbs 30 minutes north of Detroit!
2 Nope, we always flew into Orlando.
3 I have never known anyone to live in Detroit’s city limits
4 Yeah, TWA went out of business in 2001, well before this happened, but at least I added the word maybe.
5 I have no aviation skills, it could have been 200 feet for all I know.
6 Shockingly, this part is true.
7 Still all true, though I found out after we landed they were doing construction on the runway and that was the reason for the airline conga line.
8 30 minutes later once I got my baggage – but who needs to hear that?
9 NOT literally!
10 Ok, in this case, it’s jumping full sections.

Beyond The End: Wrap up

There you have it, in no particular order! Thanks for taking the time to stick this out with me, there will be a lot more stuff coming out soon.  Be sure to follow my blog and share on your social media.

A very special thank you goes out to my Cousin, Jennifer Miller, who helped me clean up and edit my last few postings.

I welcome anyone who wants to offer up any additional film couple suggestions in the comments section. Let me know what you think about my conclusions and anything else you would like to see.

Until next time,

Megan