Serial Podcast, Episode 10: Does Cristina Gutierrez make Adnan seem more innocent?

Adnan Syed Serial

I wrote my initial thoughts on the Serial podcast here a few days ago, but because the case has stuck with me — like I’m sure it has for anyone reading this — I decided I’d do a couple of new posts related to new episodes, anything about the not-really-an-appeal-but-still process, and anything that strikes me. I waited about 24 hours to listen to Episode 10, and finally did so after work yesterday as I walked around downtown Fort Worth. I actually ducked into a bar and had a pint for the final 16 minutes or so, including the stuff about the Zach Whitman case —  which, in reality, could probably be the focus of Season 2 of Serial and it would captivate us all just as much. 

A couple of thoughts on Episode 10:

  • From a sheer psychological standpoint, it’s interesting to hear Adnan’s reverence for Cristina Gutierrez, even a full 10+ years after her passing. He still calls her “Ms. Gutierrez” and even though he seems to understand that her defense ultimately lacked the narrative that human brains (and jurors) seek, he still seems to almost love her. The family understands that despite her rep as a top defense attorney — and, in her prime, she appeared to be so — she somewhat messed up this case. You can legitimately argue that the bench session where she was accused of lying, etc. changed everything. And yet, Adnan, possibly in prison for 15 years in part because of that bench session, still has reverence for her. I think that proves that when you enter into a dynamic with someone that’s essentially based on your entire future, you’re going to see that dynamic in a potentially-skewed way. Your brain is going to process it differently than maybe an outsider would. It’s kind of analogous to the case as a whole: you can take different pieces of information and view them as “yes” for innocent or “yes” for guilty, depending on where you stand.
  • As for Cristina Gutierrez, I think she was probably an excellent defense attorney who was starting to hit a wall around the time of the Adnan case. That might have been the proverbial “final nail” in her career/life coffin, honestly. The narrative wasn’t there, and that’s what hurt Adnan. I don’t know if I would go as far as to say “she blew it” — although in the conventional sense, him being in prison means that she blew it — but she definitely didn’t bring an A-Game for this second trial.
  • Jay’s lawyer and the prosecution seems like a terrible thing that shouldn’t happen, and it is essentially like being paid by the state for testimony. I think the saddest thing for me about that sequence was that I could easily believe that happened. You watch TV shows like The Wire and whatnot, and you want to believe that inner-urban justice isn’t totally fucked up on its best day. Problem is, it is. About 100,000 people a year get convicted wrongfully of crimes. That’s a drop in the bucket globally, but Adnan could be one of 1999/2000’s 100K.
  • This has been mentioned on Reddit, but if Jay isn’t 100 percent down with his “Slim Wilds” life in Los Angeles, he should just write a book about what really happened.
  • The prejudice is a real thing here, honestly. You can argue that maybe it didn’t play a big role in the trial, but just think about this on face: 7 of the 12 jurors were African-American. Jay is essentially the witness on which everything hinges. He’s African-American. He was dressed up for trial and very polite. Adnan is an American citizen, but has Pakistani descent. We heard in Episode 10 how the bail hearing went, and we heard how the jurors ultimately understood that “some cultures view women differently.” There is almost no way that prejudice didn’t play some role in how this all shook out. (That ties back to a point I made in my first post, that Sarah Koenig not being black or Pakistani is maybe a bit dangerous for the “true reporting” aspect of all this.)

Alright, so give or take we probably have 2-3 episodes left of this show. (I would assume they do a show around “the appeal” in January.) At this point, then, what’s your singular reason for Adnan being innocent, and your No. 1 reason he’s guilty?

(Pause and reflect, then feel free to leave in the comments here.)

For Innocent: The entire focus of the case seemed to be that he changed his entire life for her, and when she wanted out, he needed to kill her. Maybe it’s the intervening 15 years, but he doesn’t sound like that at all. He sounds like he was hurt, but was still talking to other girls, smoking pot, etc, etc. Teenage shit. As such, the entire backbone of the prosecution’s argument seems wrong. Also, the timeline — while confusing — doesn’t seem to allow for a murder to happen, even in a 2:15pm to 3pm window. Too much has to go right.

For Guilty: The two worst things for me are the Leakin Park pings — so it seems he was there at a time the body was put there — and the stuff with Cathy’s apartment and them sitting on the floor stoned, then going and sitting in the car. There are inconsistencies with aspects of the story, sure, but if you take those two things straight on face, it certainly seems like he did something, he had a problem, he realized he had a problem, and him and Jay had to go discuss what to do with said problem.

The next episode is called “Rumors,” and there’s a hint of a discussion of psychopathy — at the end of Episode 10 — so it’ll be interesting to see what that covers; probably it will address various concepts around Adnan being a teenager, Pakistani-descent Ted Bundy. I don’t really buy that narrative, but eh. I also would like someone to mention this $1.71 credit card charge on Hae’s card.

Where do you stand with everything?

Ted Bauer

One Comment

  1. Innocent – Nothing adds up. Even if Adnan did kill Hae, there isn’t enough evidence to convict. In order for witness testimony to be considered, the jury would have to deem him credible. Jay’s definitely not credible. Without Jay, there is no case against Adnan. For Adnan to have done it, he would have to simultaneously be very smart & very stupid. Smart, for committing a crime without leaving a shred of evidence behind, & very stupid, for involving Jay.
    Guilty – For me to believe Adnan is guilty, I have to believe Jay’s story. But which version? The thing Adnan had going against him from the start is he was Hae’s ex-boyfriend. He was a usual suspect. Don was also a usual suspect, but he was cleared quickly. I can’t even come up with enough to argue guilt.
    As far as the Leakin Park pings, they make sense if Jay killed her. Jay had the phone & car. But again, the cell phone records are fairly unreliable, what they are calling ‘junk science.’
    Adnan being very stoned at Cathy’s explains his behavior to me. He appears to be kind of a novice at getting high, since he says ‘how do you get rid of a high?’ It is at Cathy’s house that Adnan receives a call telling him Hae is missing & telling him the police will be calling him, to which he responds, ‘what do I say?’ Easy enough to understand how a very stoned 17 year old who is on his way to mosque & having to field questions from police would be a little nervous. It was my understanding the police call came as they were leaving Cathy’s. It makes sense to me that the car remained parked while Adnan was on the phone with the police. And if you think Jay did it, then Jay would be VERY interested in what the police had to say.

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