Adnan Syed has spent almost two decades in prison serving a life sentence for the murder of Hae Min Lee, but now — after the popularity of the podcast Serial sparked new interest in his case — the 39-year-old has hope he will live life as a free man again.
While speaking to members of the Television Critics Association on Friday about the upcoming HBO docuseries The Case Against Adnan Syed, Rabia Chaudry — an attorney and childhood friend of Syed who has been actively working on getting Syed exonerated since his imprisonment — provided insight into what Syed’s life has been like since the 2014 launch of Serial.
Chaudry — who is featured in the HBO docuseries, which consists of four parts and will premiere March 10 — says Syed is well aware of his increased notoriety but often only finds out about developments in his new trial through updates from the guards and the media he is given access to.
“Adnan hears everything about himself from the news. The guards keep him updated. He gets all the newspapers and magazines,” Rabia said during the TCA panel at the Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.
She went on to explain that years ago Syed revealed to her that he believed “he probably would leave prison in a coffin,” but since the renewed interest in his exoneration, “now he has…a very strong ray of light.”
Attorney Susan Simpson, who is also an advocate for Syed and is featured in the docuseries, adds that while Serial raised Syed’s profile among the general public, she does not think it will impact a judge’s decision when considering his appeal.
“People always ask about the attention this case gets…how it affects the legal proceedings, but judges are independent; they’re not going to be affected by a TV show,” she said Friday, noting that the bigger impact from true-crime series has been the public’s education about the judicial process: “People see how the process works in real life. ‘Wait, this is how long it takes? We’re here three years later?'”
The Case Against Adnan Syed director Amy Berg promises her docuseries will be equally fascinating for both Serial superfans and those who have never heard of Syed. It will feature interviews with many of the subjects featured in Serial — including Asia McLain, Chaudry, and more — but will also highlight points of view from many new voices. Berg said Friday that she approached Hae’s family about being a part of the series but they ultimately chose not to appear on camera and their voice is heard via a family friend instead. Berg said she also approached Jay Wilds — Syed’s friend who was a key witness in the murder trial — about participating but “he has two kids and a wife” and is not in good health so ultimately decided not to appear.
The Case Against Adnan Syed premieres Sunday, March 10 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.