True crime makes us believe we are certain about people like Adnan Syed. We should be ashamed | Amelia Tait

- Advertisement -

I Know for sure if Adnan Syed was guilty. Syed, who has just overturned his sentence after serving nearly 23 years for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hee Min Lee, once said that only he and his killer could be 100% sure. That’s whether Syed was innocent – but no, sorry, I know. I have heard Serial – the 2014 podcast that popularized the Syed case – twice. I’ve spent countless hours on Reddit forums devoted to everything the podcast missed. I’ve seen comments made in telling vowels. I read excerpts from the doodle diary of a strangled teenager. I know whether Syed is the killer or not. Get rid of the judges, the jury and the executioners: replace them with me.

- Advertisement -

I’m being frankly outspoken – there’s a reason I didn’t tell you that I’m so convinced of Syed’s innocence or of his guilt. This is because I know logically that the certainty I have in my chest is not there at all. clearly I don’t know Was Syed murdered two decades ago; clearly I don’t know if he was implicated by corrupt detectives in the Baltimore Police Department. I am just one of 340 million listeners, and have been geographically and temporally removed from the matter as much as possible. But still, I’m sure – and I’m bothered by it, and also bothered by other people’s certainties.

True crime invites us to speculate, score points and take sides. I’ve seen the internet divide itself into “guilty” and “innocent” who gleefully sway each other and celebrate like sports fans when a new piece of evidence benefits their “team.” Large numbers of people spend their days playing detectives, digging into the lives of strangers, reading their diaries, even driving outside their homes. And many of them – like me – are like, So Pretty sure they got it fixed. Many of them are unwilling to believe that they actually know very little.


Syed’s sentence was vacated on September 19 because the state failed to share specific evidence about two potential suspects that could have helped her defense at trial (known as the Brady breach). Syed has been placed on home detention. The 41-year-old was not released from prison because he was found innocent – ​​rather, investigators are awaiting the results of DNA analysis before deciding to seek a new test. what is provedIt is, however, that Syed’s sentence was wrong and his rights were violated – the state was “morally compelled to take affirmative action”, as he had “lost faith in the integrity of the convict”.

Whether or not there is another test, it is possible that a smoke (or smokeless) gun will never be in this case. The identity of the killer may be one of those things the wider world may never know for sure – Serial host Sarah Koenig recently told the New York Times That, “there was no way” for the show’s producers to “say with certainty what happened”. Instead, Koenig said: “What we were pointing out in our story was that there were serious problems with the timeline of the case and the evidence in the case …

From Serial In The Dark: The True Crime Podcast That Changed Their Subjects’ Lives
- Advertisement -

“This kid goes to jail at the age of 18, based on a story that wasn’t accurate. That’s what we wanted people to think about: Putting aside the question of Adnan’s guilt or innocence, can we live with that system? ok with what works like this?

Of course, no one wants to “put aside the question of Adnan’s guilt or innocence” – no one has. when serial First broadcast, some listeners were disappoint That the final episode didn’t have a shocking, spinal-tingling revelation that could have put the matter to bed. Instead, it was a story about the failures and flaws of the American justice system – boo-ring! For many, it was far more fun to hunt deer and spend the next eight years becoming so sure about whether or not Syed did it.

To be honest, we should all be ashamed. It’s not a game – the people we’re talking about don’t deserve TV. Addressing the court before Syed’s sentence was overturned, Hee Min Lee’s brother, Young Lee, said: “This is not a podcast for me. This is real life that will never end. It’s been 20-plus years. it’s a nightmare.”

Serial paved the way for countless true crime podcasts and documentaries, and while Koenig held off on declaring whodunit, other producers have been less honest. I remember shortly after I finished the serial when I listened to a podcast on a friend’s recommendation, I felt a strange feeling of uneasiness., The hosts officially declared in the final episode that the person at the center of the case had indeed committed the crime—they made a big, grand show about a moment they thought they were talking to a murderer. But we do not understand anything. Our humps are just humps. As ProPublica reporter Pamela Koloff have pointed: These are the same biases that lead to misconceptions in the first place.

Can true crime flourish without inviting viewers to speculate? Maybe not. Style invites us to be entitled – it warmly welcomes us to the worst moments of other people’s lives. But as spectators and listeners, we must resist certainty—we must resist black-and-white thinking and confident declarations of innocence and guilt. We must accept that we are just spectators; that we know very little. If we don’t – if we continue to degrade each other, chase strangers and leave arrogant comments about our instincts – then we must admit that the only guilt we feel about Can be sure, he is our own.

  • Amelia Tait is a freelance feature writer

  • Do you have any opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at [email protected]


- Advertisement -

Recent Articles

Related Stories