Splitting Hairs, Not the moon

Information about Adnan Syed’s last appeal suggest that one of the central points of the appeal is that he wanted to cop a plea.

A plea bargain (had it been solicited or offered) would have required Adnan to admit in court, under oath, that he had killed Hae Min Lee.

He would have plead guilty to a reduced charge (like 2nd degree murder, perhaps) and in exchange he would have received a reduced sentence.

No SK. No Serial. No lingering questions.

And no justice for Hae, her broken family, her community, peers, and loved ones.

So when the most truculent and vociferous proponents of the “Free Adnan” movement speak exclusively of the collateral damage to Adnan and his supports, I have to wonder if they have lost sight of the heart of this story–the agony of a lost daughter, a lost girl, a broken-hearted family, and the physical reality of a young woman brutalized and murdered.

I would ask these people how can the bay and croon over a man accused of murder and stay so conspicuously indifferent to the real and only true victim in this story–Hae Min Lee.

The Korean American Women Left Out In the Cold By Serial

Sarah Koenig has done many things well in Serial. But she has a big tell which betrays a serious and inexcusable bias.

She constantly refers to this story of the murder of a vibrant young Korean American honors student as “Adnan’s case.”

This has never really been Adnan’s case.

This is Hae Min Lee’s case.

By focusing on Adnan, not Hae, Serial has willfully ignored some big unanswered questions.

1. Hae’s car

If Ronald Lee Moore was a burglar (rapist and murderer) wouldn’t he have stolen the car?!

(…and how did Jay know where the car was?)

The accident in December is more important than Sarah makes out. It gives Adnan a template for what happens on January 13th.

2. Hae’s culture

This is the area of reportage most visibly and cavernously neglected by Serial.

In order to understand how Hae was murdered and by whom you have to examine who she trusted and who she would not have trusted and why.

She would not under any circumstances have given a ride to a stranger. Which meant that her body would have had signs of Moore’s typical blunt-force assault, rape, and trauma if he had been involved. He would have had to subdue her against her will in public, in daylight.

Hae, and Hyang Suk were both from a culture and a community with a strong inculcated sense of xenophobia. Neither would have allowed a strange man in their car or house willingly.

Which means that in the timeline of the last known day of Hae Min Lee’s life you have to ask who would have had the ability to convince Hae to let him (or her or them) in? Who would she have allowed in her car on the way to picking up her young cousin?

Ronald? No way.

Jay? Maybe…but highly unlikely.

Adnan? Almost certainly.

There is a heartbreaking news clip from the time of the murder trial. Hae’s mother speaks in Korean as Hae’s brother translates.

She refers to the alleged murderer as Hae’s “friend.”

Not boyfriend.

Not lover.

The fact and force of her daughter’s murder devastated Hae’s mother. Yet even in that devastation she resorts to the word “friend” when describing her daughter’s alleged killer.

The fact of her daughter’s sexual contact with Adnan would have been terribly painful to acknowledge…because honor matters to Koreans. It is intimately layered into their language and culture.

It stays layered into their culture long after they have emigrated, long after the line one might draw between “Korean” and “Korean American.”

Hae Min Lee was a Korean American. Hae Min Lee was an American woman.

But she has yet to receive justice or anything like it from other American women who doggedly refuse to see her as a person, a sister, daughter, or friend who deserved both protecting from the law and a voice.

Serial may have done many things well, but in its haste to defend Adnan, it has left non-white, non-privileged women to fend for themselves once again.

I keep thinking about the phrase–a jury of your peers.

Did Adnan receive justice from a jury of his peers? Maybe, maybe not.

Did Hae, or Hyang Suk?

Absolutely not.

…they never had a chance.

Speaking Up for the Lee Women

Hae Min Lee’s mother spoke so eloquently in court that no further comment is necessary.

Every last soul with hands in the air lamenting the injustice of Adnan
Syed’s trial(s) should have her statement memorized…in the original Korean.


Because any sort of temporal acknowledgement of the merciless nature of grief does nothing to assuage that grief.

So you are obsessed with Serial? So you are already wondering how you will face life if they take a hiatus?

There is no hiatus for Hae’s mother. Her life is a daily, hourly, quotidian sweep of pain. Fifteen years will not have dulled that pain because her daughter will not be brought back.

What right do we have to approach that kind of pain with speculation and theories?

As though this real tragedy were a scripted drama.

It may truly be unconscionable to find diversion in the unending tragedy of murder if that contemplation objectifies both the victim and her family.

Her family as in–a murdered girl-child still does not afford the legal status as a male murder suspect.

Her family as in–the Korean American community is thriving and active in Baltimore but Sarah Koenig could not find a single voice to represent their loss.

Not even Hae’s own voice. Sarah has conspicuously neglected Hae’s own voice.

A voice silenced, choked out: unrequited.

I have not heard a word to suggest that was ever about restoring justice to the victim at the heart of this story.

Playing the Devil’s Advocate

It is important to walk a mile in a person’s shoes. In some cases, perhaps most, the last mile is the hardest.

So you do. Because if you think your personal bias plus a handful of hours is enough, you have not thought about the…

Debilitating disease (she died from)

Her reputation as a bulldog defense lawyer.

Attorney client privilege.

I don’t expect Sarah to cover this, but I do expect it of us–armchair detectives all–

What would you do if he had told you he had killed that “b….” in cold blood?

What would you do if you knew he had planned it? Shaped it. Drawn in his accomplice?

Smoked weed after it was done?

Would you have put him on the stand? Would you have pushed for a plea bargain? Produced an alibi witness to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the jurors?

Perhaps. Perhaps if you were the lawyer he told his privileged truth to…you would have…

Would ya?

Perhaps, just perhaps both his attorney and his ex-girlfriend took the same dreadful truth to their graves, one shallow, one deep.

Who killed Hae Min Lee. Who?

Adnan and Occam’s Razor

Somewhere in my rhetorical or literary education i internalized the notion that to argue effectively for your own position you must argue (and acknowledge) the position of the opposition.

So here are some facts–

Cristina Gutierrez was widely, maybe universally, regarded as a bulldog defense lawyer–merciless and effective.

Her disbarment was voluntarily signed because she was suffering from the debilitating symptoms of MS. She could no longer practice law and therefore saw no point in fighting the disbarment.

The anonymous tipster was Adnan’s peer both in age and background.

At least one other person from his closest peer group reported that he had talked of how to cover a murder of a girlfriend.

Jay had no motive to kill Hae. Adnan did.

And this, not exactly a fact, more of a logical problem–

If Adnan did not kill Hae then Jay is either a liar and a murderer or a liar and police patsy.

Hae Min Lee deserves justice. If you believe Adnan is innocent then you must answer the question of who did kill her.

And why?

She Played Lacrosse?!

When I found the archival link to Hae Min Lee’s memorial I was grateful for a glimpse of Hae the way she was, not as a static prop for the Serial podcasts.

It is a dangerous thing to make the alleged perpetrator of a crime the hero of his own story without a balancing reference to his victim.

His victims.

Her friends were victims.

Her family members were victims.

Her teachers…coaches..co-workers.

And she has not been given life by the podcasts so far so focused on the man purported to have killed her.

And here is the first and easiest disagreement I have with Adnan Syed–All Asian girls do not look alike.

Hae played lacrosse. Which was and is pretty badass. If we are to be anything but serialistic voyeurs we will have to find the pictures, the voices, the memories of this young woman who was so much more than the last day of her life.

Pictures of Hae

I am haunted by the grief caused by the murder of a girl.

I am not convinced Sarah is. She seems to have an almost Capote-esque crush on the alleged the murderer.

Understandable. Why would he talk to her if she did not establish rapport? But in establishing a cozy rapport with the alleged killer she may have jettisoned her objectivity and an accurate m├ętier for the humanity of Hae Min Lee.

Sarah says she read Hae’s diaries. She has surely interviewed dozens of her classmates. She should be able to paint a better picture of this young woman who…

Believed rather recklessly in love

Made good grades

Had a solid plan for her future

Played lacrosse and helped the wrestling team

And left a hole in the heart of her community.

If you cannot conjure up the living girl, you cannot comprehend either the depth of her loss or the demand for justice.

A life was taken. What good is clever reporting if the one who lost the most is but a cartoonish shadow of the young woman who was Hae Min Lee?

Jay, Serial-podcast-Jay

I have a bad habit of wanting to adopt people, and one of the people I would like to adopt is Jay.

Jay without a last name Jay

Jay from Serial Jay.

I know we are all deeply imperfect, flawed, untrustworthy, which makes adoption risky for all parties, but the way Jay was described in this week’s Serial podcast made me want to adopt him.

It seems to me, a kid like Jay deserved a chance. And if he told a messy version of the truth–some version of the truth, then he was one more victim of a terrible, terrible crime.

That is something that echoes in nearly all the voices in this story–people now in there 30s grappling with a violent loss.

The effect of the murder of Hae Min Lee was so devastating for so many.

Where do you go? Where would you go with such a fragile, unbearable story?