On Sunday, March 10, HBO is premiering its new documentary, The Case Against Adnan Syed. The show will be a four-hour special and, according to an HBO press release from June 2018, will present “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case” and feature “exclusive access to Syed, the defense team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed, and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement.” But what do you need to know before you can sit down and tune in to the latest true crime doc? We’ve got all the background and context you might be missing. Check it out.
Who is Adnan Syed?
Adnan Syed was a teenager from Baltimore, Maryland who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Hae, who was last seen at school, went missing on January 13, 1999 right before a snowstorm. A month later, the 18-year-old’s body was found in Leakin Park in Baltimore and Adnan, 17 at the time, became the prime suspect. Though he has maintained his innocence ever since, he was found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment and sentenced to life in 2000. A decade and a half later, in 2016, the Baltimore Sun reported that his conviction had been vacated and he would be granted a new trial based on his previous counsel’s failure to enter introduce certain pieces of evidence at his first trial. In March 2018, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld that ruling, but the Baltimore Sun says that Maryland’s highest court overturned it on March 8, 2019, which meant that he wouldn’t be getting a new trial after all. He’s now been in prison for over 20 years.
How did Adnan Syed become famous?
In 2014, Adnan’s case was covered on the first season of Serial, a true crime podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. Throughout the episodes, the host introduced listeners to Adnan and the mystery or whether or not he was innocent. By the end of the series, she didn’t share a clear opinion either way, but she did reveal that the case against him didn’t seem like it should’ve been enough to convict him of the murder. The evidence that she helped to uncover and publicize included both an alibi and cell tower records that directly contradict the prosecution’s narrative of the crime. The podcast raised enough questions about Adnan’s guilt that it set him on the path for a new trial — and changed the landscape of podcasts and media.
What other podcasts has Adnan Syed’s case been featured on?
Serial didn’t just inspire a whole explosion of true crime podcasts, it also generated an insane amount of interest in Adnan himself. On Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed, they picked up where Serial had left off, shining light on information that hadn’t been covered by Koenig and that they believe definitively proved the innocence of the now 30-something. Truth & Justice also looked into Adnan and Hae’s story in their first season, and True Crime Obsessed reexamined it in a series for their paid supporters. Crime Writers On has discussed Adnan’s story and updates in his case in several episodes. On Crime Junkie, they dedicated a whole episode titled “ADNAN: What Serial Didn’t Tell You,” to the case. Adnan’s story has also now been featured in investigative and news coverage, including the HBO doc.
Who killed Hae Min Lee?
Though Adnan is still the main suspect in the case, podcasts and media investigations have pointed to a few other suspects. Jay Wilds, the man who claims to have been Adnan’s accomplice and was the star witness for the prosecution in the case against him, is one target of much suspicion. Fans of Serial also suggest that a man named Don, Hae’s boyfriend at the time she went missing, was not as heavily investigated for the crime as he should have been. And further Internet sleuths have uncovered Roy S. Davis as a possibility, who was charged in 2003 with the sexual assault and murder of Jada Danita Lambert, another Baltimore 18-year-old whose bod in May 1998.
Who is Rabia Chaudry?
Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and author who helped bring national attention to Adnan’s case. A childhood friend of his, she’s been involved with his story since the beginning — and she was the one who first introduced the case to Koenig for Serial. She’s also one of the Undisclosed hosts and has written several other articles on the subject, as well as her own book, Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial, which was published in 2016. She’s been a driving force behind getting media attention for Adnan and hopefully helping him to be found not guilty of the crime.
“Adnan is my younger brother’s best friend and like a brother to me as well,” she wrote for The Guardian in 2016. “One way or the other Adnan is likely to come home soon, but I’ll continue to work with investigators until we make it clear to the world that he is innocent of this terrible crime. And then we must all challenge the state to reopen the investigation into the murder of Hae Min Lee.”
My book "Adnan's Story" is now available for preorder in paperback w a new afterword. It's a NY Times bestseller and is critically acclaimed, w starred reviews in @PublishersWkly & @KirkusReviews. Read it before the new HBO documentary airs!#FreeAdnan https://t.co/Lp5Yjdv9GR pic.twitter.com/W0wmtrvneh
— rabia O'chaudry (@rabiasquared) February 12, 2019
How can I watch The Case Against Adnan Syed?
If you have HBO included with your cable subscription, you can watch it as it airs on the channel or on HBO GO. If you don’t have cable, you can sign up for a free 7-day trial of HBO Now.