Is Adnan Syed Guilty? A New HBO Documentary Examines the Evidence Against Him After ‘Serial’

In 2014, when This American Life premiered the podcast Serial, people were instantly gripped by the 1999 murder of 18-year old high school student, Hae Min Lee, and the circumstances surrounding the investigation into her murder, specifically that of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the crime in 2000. The podcast has been downloaded more than 80 million times, according to Esquire.

For the last five years, Amy Berg has studied the case and put her findings into a documentary, which will be shown on HBO in four parts. The first episode of The Case Against Adnan Syed has already aired with the second episode set to air at 9 p.m. on March 17, 2019.

Berg spoke with Esquire about where the documentary starts saying, “So we picked up where Serial left off. They did such a great job at creating the interest and picking the case apart, and I felt like we had an opportunity to go even farther into what happened after Serial. Which is almost as interesting as the podcast.”

Berg’s past work

Berg is already well-versed in true crime documentaries. She created West of Memphis, about the West Memphis Three who were convicted of murdering three boys in 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas. She also made a documentary film about sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church called, Deliver Us From Evil.

Why Berg was drawn to the case

“Reading Hae’s journal it really moved me,” Berg said. “And then after talking to some of her friends, I felt like there was a reason to put this into a film series just to understand the cultural context and to see people’s faces. That to me warranted a show, for sure.”

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According to the documentary’s synopsis, the film “closely re-examines the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, from high school romance, forbidden love, and cultural conflict, to the aftermath of her disappearance, the original police investigation and the present day, when Syed awaits a new trial.”

‘New discoveries’

Since production began on the documentary in 2015, “new discoveries as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case,” have been made. Viewers will get to see all the findings and how they impact Syed’s case in the documentary.

Syed’s case

Since his murder conviction in 2000, Syed’s steadfastly maintained his innocence. There have been two significant breaks in his case since Serial became a national phenomenon.

Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed | Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images

The first break happened in June of 2016.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Syed’s conviction and granted him a new trial. This happened after new evidence came to light bringing into question the reliability of cell phone data that connected Syed to the crime scene. A witness, who could establish an alibi for Syed at the time of Lee’s death, would get the chance to testify in the new trial.

The second break took place in March 2018.

Then on March 29, 2018, after going to the Court of Special Appeals, Syed received a vacated conviction and a retrial.

Is Adnan Syed guilty?

This is something the families of Lee and Syed have wrestled with for the past two decades along with the rest of America since the premiere of Serial.

While we don’t know whether or not Syed is guilty, we’re getting a second look at the evidence and the events that led up to Lee’s murder in The Case Against Adnan Syed. Viewers can make their own inferences about Syed’s alleged innocence or guilt.