Serial: Adnan Syed trial discussed by Rabia Chaudry
'We already feel vindicated and believe his exoneration is a foregone conclusion,' she tells EW
Almost 17 months after the last episode of Serial season 1 debuted, the podcast’s subject is back in the news: Adnan Syed, who was convicted of killing Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend, after her 1999 murder, will face a new trial.
As the news spread of Syed’s legal victory on Thursday, one of his most ardent supporters, family friend and lawyer Rabia Chaudry — who herself co-hosts Undisclosed, another podcast about Syed’s case, and wrote a book on the topic as well — was overcome with emotion.
“I called my husband, then my brother, then contacted Adnan’s family, then sent emails to the Undisclosed team, then went online to see what the world was saying,” Chaudry tells EW via email.
Since April 2015, Chaudry, evidence professor Colin Miller, and lawyer/blogger Susan Simpson have worked on the Undisclosed podcast as an independent complement to Serial. They dug into new information that the Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder-led production didn’t touch, which lend more evidence to the case that Syed may have been wrongly convicted of Lee’s murder.
Meanwhile, Chaudry’s book, called Adnan’s Story: Murder, Justice, and The Case That Captivated a Nation, “will reexamine the investigation that led to Adnan Syed’s arrest, share his life in prison, discuss new evidence and possibilities that have since come to light,” according to St. Martin’s Press. (Chaudry added a note in the book’s first printing that will address that “groundbreaking development” of Syed’s new trial.)
As for the prosecution, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released a statement about Syed’s retrial on Thursday: “It is the continued desire of the Attorney General to seek justice in the murder of Hae Min Lee. The court ruled in the State’s favor on a number of issues, but there does appear to be at least one ground that will need to be resolved by the appellate courts. The State’s responsibility remains to pursue justice, and to defend what it believes is a valid conviction.”
In the wake of all this, Chaudry emailed EW about Syed’s vacated conviction, his family’s response to the news, and why she believes a new trial won’t even happen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you find out about the news?
RABIA CHAUDRY: Adnan’s attorney Justin Brown called me after he called the family and right before he made the news public.
Have you been able to speak to Adnan yet?
No, the prison currently has phone access on alternate days, and he had called me the day before the ruling. So Thursday he wasn’t able to call anyone, and his lawyer couldn’t reach him either. We expect the guards have told him or he has seen it on the news!
How do you think he reacted to the news? How has his family?
He will probably be calling me today or tomorrow, and then I’ll know how he reacted, but I assume with gratitude and a little disbelief, like the rest of us. His family is overjoyed and grateful, and for the first time in many years his father talked about how hard it has been for him, but also laughed and smiled for the first time I’ve seen in a very long time.
Are you confident in the new trial?
I am absolutely confident if this case goes to trial again we will get a full acquittal. There is no evidence linking Adnan to the crime. In fact, the medical evidence, which I detail in my upcoming book, all but exonerates him.
Is there a sense of vindication — or are you waiting for the new trial’s outcome?
We already feel vindicated and believe his exoneration is a foregone conclusion now. It’s just a matter of time.
On what grounds do you foresee the attorney general appealing Judge Welch’s ruling? Do you feel confident a new trial still would take place?
I don’t know what grounds they will appeal on. … I actually think the state will eventually opt, after exhausting appeals, not to retry the case. They should know they have no way to win.
For those who might not quite understand the legalese, can you explain the significance of the cell towers (which prompted Judge Welch’s ruling) and Asia McClain’s affidavit will have in the forthcoming trial?
If there is a new trial, we will likely be able to keep all the cell tower evidence out of court because the fax cover sheet that came with the cell records makes it clear that they are not reliable in determining the location of the caller, which is how the state used them at the trial in 2000. Asia will be presented as an alibi, as will other witnesses who saw Adnan at school that day.
How do you anticipate your podcast will change along with the new trial?
Undisclosed will still continue to cover Adnan’s case but also stick to the new case we will be examining this season, in order to hopefully help exonerate another innocent man.
Is there anything else you wanted to add about Thursday’s news?
That it is important to understand Adnan is no longer a convicted man. His conviction has been vacated, and he now faces murder charges anew, with the presumption of innocence.
This interview has been edited and condensed.