Adnan Syed, True Crime

Karl Merton Ferron/TNS via ZUMA Wire

Adnan Syed, whose case was the subject of Serial's first season, was granted a new trial by a Baltimore judge yesterday.

What does this mean? For time being, his conviction for ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee's 1999 murder has been set aside. Attorneys for Syed, who has spent the past 16 years in prison, will argue his case in court, hoping a fair trial, new alibi witness and cell tower issue will result in a different outcome. Recent developments have renewed public interest in the circumstances surrounding Lee's tragic death, and there's no shortage of theories from a host of Internet sleuths. 

Many of these Serial fan-based theories involve Jay Wilds, a key witness whose testimony backed the state of Maryland's case against Syed in 2000. According to Wilds, he helped Syed (who has consistently maintained his own innocence and insists he had no involvement whatsoever in Lee's death) bury the body but was not involved in the act of strangulation that killed her. Later, in a 2014 interview with The Intercept, Wilds claimed he only helped Syed dispose of Lee's body because "was convinced that I would be going to jail for a long time if he [Syed] turned me in for drug dealing, especially to high school kids."

There's a common question among many Internet sleuths as to why Wilds would involve himself in a murder cover-up even if he were fearful of drug-related allegations getting him into trouble. Wilds, who has consistently maintained he had nothing to do with Lee's murder itself, later explained to The Intercept that he was "running [drug] operations" from his grandmother's house and didn't want to ruin her life. "I was also around a bunch of people earlier the day, and I didn't want them to get f--ked up with homicide," he said.

But the court of public opinion isn't entirely convinced. As one Internet sleuth put it on the Reddit sub r/serialpodcast, "Jay is involved. This fact cannot be disputed."


Courtesy: Serial

Some Serial fans theorize that Wilds and Syed premeditated Lee's murder and the disposal of her body afterwards, while others believe Wilds acted alone, and Syed was not even aware of Lee's murder or burial. If you believe this latter theory, Wilds set Syed up and then testified in order to frame him for Lee's murder.

Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and longtime family friend of the Syeds. She first reached out to Serial's Sarah Koenig about Lee's murder and the trial that followed; in the wake of Serial's success, Chaudry launched a followup podcast called Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed. Although Chaudry initially argued Wilds was responsible for Lee's death, further digging into Syed's trial and the events leading up to it have caused her to question her original stance.

"For most of the last ten years I've thought it's him [Wilds]. That's the truth," Chaudry said at a panel last year, per the Washingtonian. "Now, I'm not so sure."

"I think Jay knows who did it," she added. "I think Jay is close to whoever did it."

There are countless whodunnit theories involving Syed, Wilds and a handful of varying mutual friends and acquaintances. Mental Floss excerpted some of the hardest-to-believe possible scenarios to have surfaced in the wake of Serial, including one that a random serial killer could be to blame for Lee's death.

Sadly, nothing changes the fact that a promising young woman's life was taken so senselessly some 17 years ago. Lee's family has expressed their dismay at her case being revisited all these years later. In February following Syed's post-conviction motion hearing, Lee's family released a statement, saying (via the New York Times), "The events of this past week have reopened wounds few can imagine. It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae."

As of now, no new trial date has been set for Syed. His attorney Justin Brown tweeted Friday that Syed "has been informed of the decision" to grant him a new trial, adding, "Adnan has been informed of the decision. He's extremely happy about it, but he understands we still have a long way to go."

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