SERIAL podcast takes a serious turn for listeners
KEVIN NELSON | THE USD VISTA | MANAGING EDITOR
In 1999, Hin Mae Lee, an 18- year-old student from Baltimore, Maryland was found murdered in Leakin Park in the heart of Baltimore, MD. Six weeks after her death her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was arrested and charged with her murder. In the weeks that followed Syed was convicted of her murder in what seemed to be a straightforward case for the District Attorney’s office. Despite constant appeals from Syed, most onlookers dismissed his innocent pleas and Syed’s case seemed to have been put to rest.
Fast forward to 2014, when Syed’s case was brought to the attention of Sarah Koenig, a radio personality and established journalist. In the months that followed, Koenig decided to dig deeper into the murder and even interviewed Syed. What followed would turn into one of the most mind-boggling and interesting crime stories of all time. Koeing decided to bring this case to the light through a weekly podcast she called Serial. With episodes ranging about 60 minutes long Koeing dove into every aspect of the investigation and trial.
Between Oct. 3, 2014 and Oct.18, 2014 Koieng released 10 episodes. Those episodes were downloaded a total of 68 million times, leading Serial to become the most popular podcast in iTunes history. From cell phone records to alibis and testimonies, Koieng searched to find the truth with Syed’s case. Her analysis of the events led to public uproar over how the investigation and trial were handled. Although it is still unclear if Syed is guilty, Serial’s first season has helped gain Syed a second chance at a trial. The past two weeks Syed has been in court with his new defense who are arguing that he did not get a sufficient and fair defense during the original trial. It may take weeks for the judge to rule on the decision for a retrial, turning this story into a real life cliffhanger.
After a long hiatus Koieng returned for season two of Serial on Dec.10, 2015. This season Koieng will investigate the famous case of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a Sergeant in U.S. Army, was captured in Iraq in a suspicious turn of events. Bergdahl was held by the Taliban for five years before a controversial trade of prisoners by President Barack Obama. In this season Koieng has gained unprecedented access to Bergdahl through exclusive interviews with Academy Award winning director Adam Boal.
Sophomore Amy Maltz is an avid listener of the series and comments on why it sparks her interest.
“It’s cool because it revisits a real life case,” Maltz said. “I always hear about things that are wrong in our justice system and in this case, they are unraveling a mystery that is based on true events of someone who is actually behind bars at this very moment.”
In the past month, Serial has turned into a frenzy of real life cliff hangers. Bergdahl was put on Federal Court Marshall by the U.S. government on Dec.13 while Syed was able to get new hearings that could result in a new trial. Koieng and her staff are trying to stay on top of everything, but it’s not just her in on the action anymore. Her podcast has led to other listeners wanting to help. Hundreds of listeners have poured over the facts and dug deeper into the information. In Syed’s case it even brought the attention of new lawyers who believe he was poorly and unfairly represented during his case.
Whether Syed and Bergdahl are innocent or guilty, Koeing and the Serial cast have created some of the most interesting and dramatic podcasts to date, and has listeners questioning what story is next.