The Case Against Adnan Syed

The Case Against Adnan Syed. (Photo supplied: Showmax)
The Case Against Adnan Syed. (Photo supplied: Showmax)


4/5 Stars


18 years after he was sentenced to life plus 30 years in jail, this true-crime investigation takes a fresh look into the case against Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.


When Serial came out in 2014 I was deep into the story of Adnan Syed which affected me on another level. I don’t know if it is because I have a brother who is the same age as him who was also a senior (Matric) in high school in 1999.

Like all the other Serial fans I got sucked into threads on Twitter and other forums, discussed it with other fans and I have kept abreast of the case too as the years have gone by.

Five years after the award-winning podcast, director Amy Berg brings a follow up in the HBO documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed.

In the first three episodes, those who may not be familiar with the podcast are brought up to date with the case, the detective work and the witnesses used to testify. For those who listened to the podcast, there is also a lot of new information that we haven’t heard before and we get to see footage of the original trial.

While the investigation unfolds we also get a look at how Adnan's legal team is preparing for his appeal. The State's only evidence against Adnan was their witness Jay Wilds and cellphone tower data, which has now been brought into doubt.

We also get unprecedented access into private investigators who have been looking into the case, they uncover new leads, track down people and ask questions the detectives never did, shedding light on the very shoddy work the police did. 

One interesting revelation for me personally was that Hae Min's new boyfriend, Don, who was 22 and who worked with her, had a relationship with one of her best friend's shortly after her death. That sent shivers down my spine.

There is also a closer inspection into the man who discovered her body in Leakin Park, Jay Wilds, and the two witnesses who were connected to Jay, Jennifer Pusateri and Kristi Vinson. There is a startling scene which sends both of them spiralling when the filmmaker reveals important information around the date that Hae Min was killed and their testimonies.

One thing that the podcast lacked for me was humanity which Berg has incorporated throughout the series. We get to know Adnan's family and community, his close friend and lawyer, Rabia Chaudry, who has championed his case, their high school friends all appear to talk about the effect Hae Min's death and Adnan's conviction has affected them, and we even get to hear from a friend of Hae Min's family, who have refused to participate.

And we hear from Hae Min Lee herself in an interview in which she talks about sport, school and juggling her personal life. Berg has been heavily criticised for using her diary in the series, I am on the fence about it. I feel like for the first time we get a sense of who she was and where her head was at. Her diary entries are typical ramblings of a 17-year-old who experiences everything at a heightened level. On the other hand though, who would want their 17-year-old self's thoughts to be read out? I do wonder how they got access to that diary.

The case has also taken a personal toll on Asia McClain, the potential alibi witness and the cellphone date specialist, Abraham Waranowitz. Asia has been vilified on social media and Abraham is dealing with his own guilt surrounding his testimony.

One of the things that has stuck with me after watching this show is what one of their classmates said: "This is an interesting case but it's people's lives."

At this point both parties seem to be victims of the American justice system: For Adnan a miscarriage of justice and for Hae Min, the possibility that true justice hasn't prevailed.

Where Serial wasn’t sure Adnan was innocent, Berg's work presents, a reasonable doubt. 



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