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.


Thank you for talking to The Intercept. You have a right to tell your story.

I wish I could say this to you directly–to say you are believed and that you did the right thing testifying and that I am sorry that your life has been put on display.

I feel bad for you and all the other students who knew Hae. You all were changed by Hae Min Lee’s murder.

And whatever else happened, you deserve to be believed.

A Letter to the Guilty

I was struck by a stranger’s assertion–a totally innocent person.

There are no totally innocent people. No one is that good. We ride our bicycles in the darkness without a light, go places and do things we simply should not. Not go. Not be. Not do.

It seems to me that putting two teenagers on display for a gruesome, heartless murder is a little like putting them into an ancient coliseum, only our lions are as digital as our judgement.

We say none of the things we should say. We are afraid of the truth. Simple, awful truth.

Truth: a young girl’s sexual partner can harm her. Irrevocably harm her.

Truth: there are great, tragic gaps in the story of Hae Min’s murder that should have been filled by adults–mentoring, listening, intervening, protecting.

People can be dangerous, prone to violence and heartbreak.


All our empty words cannot bring back the dead.

It is difficult for me to believe that Jay fabricated his story whole cloth. It makes more sense that he found himself trapped inside a story of violence and death and told parts of a terrible truth.

But “part of the truth” is not enough for any of us to survive. What we all need is naked truth, but naked truth is excoriating–tearing families, communities, faith, and assumptions.

Naked truth requires a Savior–

Our single and only Totally Innocent Man.

He died surrounded by the guilty

He died to pay for the last choking lonely terrible life of a girl who fell into the hands of violence.

He died for us, the broken.

Not just for the terrible secrets of two boys involved in a crime. But all of us as well.

All cries for justice and truth lead inexorably to the Cross…

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.

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?

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?

Hae Min Lee

Like millions of other listeners, I have become deeply entrenched in Serial, an episodic treatment of the murder of Hae Min Lee in 1999.

The podcasts are mostly riveting and leave the listener grasping for answers.

But some things demand to be confronted emotionally, not just in the clinical language of forensics, but in the enduring vortex of loss and grief.

I have hunted for archival traces Hae Min Lee–glimpses of the girl from before her life taken and then reduced to jurisprudential conjecture.

Who was Hae Min Lee to those who loved her? A picture, a memorial–something. I found this– a piece on her memorial.

She played lacrosse…

left a grieving family…

…a family whose grief is indicated mostly by their present silence. Surely they would be appalled by the surgical reduction of this vivid girl to…a piece of evidence not properly disposed of.

I keep returning to the snowstorm; days her family must have spent hoping and praying for her safe return.

When she could not.

Would not.


Because she had been rendered helpless, cold, and alone in the shallow grave, in the silence of falling snow.

It seems to me American justice requires a return to that quiet wood and all the things that were stolen from Hae Min Lee.

Perhaps we are all too accustomed to our fictional procedurals to realize that real crime leaves empty places in the heart and a grief that never lifts or relents.