The Guilt (or Innocence?) of Adnan Syed – Serial Podcast

The murder of Hae Min Lee, a popular senior at a Baltimore high-school in 1999, has captured the attention of many Americans. This is due in large part to a well-produced and masterfully presented piece of journalism channeled through the medium of podcasting.  The podcast is called Serial. Over the course of 12 episodes, Sarah Koenig, the host of the show, slowly unpacks the story of Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, the man charged and sentenced with her murder.

Millions have already downloaded the podcast, and thousands continue to discuss the details with fevered interest in online forums, asking whether or not Adnan Syed is truly guilty.

After first hearing about the podcast through Hello Internet, another excellent podcast, I quickly downloaded the series. I was instantly hooked. I listened to all 12 episodes over the course of a day and a half, hitting the play button whenever I could.

I don’t want to spoil any of the details for those who might want to dive into the teenage world of Adnan Syed, but I will say that his conviction isn’t straightforward. It’s a mess, a confusing tangle of conflicting stories, questionable evidence (at times), and heartbreak.

That’s partly why the story is so compelling. It isn’t perfectly clear. As you listen to Adnan tell his story from prison, and as you listen to Sarah wrestle with the evidence, you quickly feel conflicted. At times you feel like Adnan is truly innocent, a man caught in a web of unfortunate circumstances. At other times, you can’t help but wonder if the man is simply diabolical, a liar of consistently epic proportions.

We just don’t know for certain. And that’s the struggle… or at least that’s the thing that kept surfacing and resurfacing in my mind. I just want to know. If he is innocent, I want justice to be made right. If he’s truly guilty, then let him serve out his days. But I can’t know. None of us can enter his mind, uncap his memories, and flip through the photographs.

All of this reminded me that what we really desire, what we really want when justice is on the line, is a Judge that understands the details of the situation with perfect clarity, even down to the motives.  No need for fallible witnesses. No obscured data.  No lies.

The Day of Judgment, as described in the bible, is indeed a day of reckoning when everything will be laid bare, when even every idle word will be brought into account, and all will be judged fairly. The apostle Paul says it like this in one place,

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Cor 5:10)

On the one hand, there is tremendous comfort in this. There is a Day coming when all of the wrongs and injustices of this world will be dealt with. Nothing will slip under the rug. Confusion will not cloud. Every last ounce of evidence will be weighed perfectly. Justice will reign. And we cannot help but rejoice in that. Our hearts ache for justice.

On the other hand, this is a terrifying reality for sinful humanity. While we may never unlawfully take the life of another human being, we nevertheless fall wildly short of God’s perfect standard, doing and saying and thinking things we ought not. And this, it must be stressed, does not bode well for us. The penalty for sin is hell.

Perhaps you’ve never thought about Jesus Christ or hell or God as Judge. Maybe you’re wondering how a person could ever make it to heaven, given such high standards. There is an answer. It is encapsulated in what the bible calls the gospel. It is what the bible is all about really, if you have never read it.

Now if you’re reading this and are wondering what God has to say about the gospel (how sinners can be made right with Him), I would encourage you to do one of two things. You could just go to the bible itself, to, say, the Gospel of John and start reading. If, however, you would like to read a short book that presents to you Jesus (who He is, what He has done, and how you can know Him), I’d turn your attention to this book, which can be downloaded for free as a PDF. It is a fantastic little volume, and I heartily recommend it to you.  Just click the image below.

 

3 Comments

  1. Jared January 27, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    Austin, thanks for this meditation. Like you, I devoured Serial and was glad for how many things it made me think about, including the subject of this article.

    • Austin Brown January 27, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

      Glad to hear you found the podcast interesting as well! Yeah, the whole notion of lying is so incredibly frustrating, isn’t it? So much effort and money and time is poured into this because someone is lying. It just made me long for an authority to come along and say, “No more illusions. No more trickery. Here is the guilty party.”

      I gotta say, my heart, for whatever reason (perhaps how the podcast was fashioned), wants Adnan to be innocent. Maybe it is a case not unlike Shawshank Redemption? But alas, my head quickly jumps in and says, “I doubt it.”

  2. Allen Blackwood January 28, 2015 at 6:23 am #

    Another very interesting NPR Podcast to check out is ‘Invisibilia.’

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