If you listen to the Podcast Serial – a broadcast that addresses the conviction (or wrongful conviction) of Adnan Syed in Baltimore, you probably already know that the court has granted a hearing on his claim of ineffectiveness of counsel. Syed claims his trial attorney failed to communicate a willingness to discuss a plea to the prosecution and failed to investigate an alibi witness.
Art meets reality once again. Last week we discussed the film, The Newburgh Sting, about the terrorist prosecution arising out of Newburgh involving a claim of entrapment. What is the role of journalism and art in addressing a claim of injustice?
In Serial, Syed claims he was innocent, as he has claimed all along. Sara Koenig, the journalist who produces and hosts the show, reaches no conclusions. Now the court is going to hear evidence on his claim that he was willing to plead guilty. What could be more complicated?
Some thoughts about the intersection of life and art in this case:
First, one has to think that the tremendous publicity this case has garnered had a role in the court’s willingness to look at it. Post-conviction claims of ineffectiveness are almost routinely rejected.
Second, to what extent will Syed have to explain his very public innocence claim in relation to his claim he was interested in pleading guilty before trial? The evidence that he always claimed to be innocence is now recognized worldwide. How, if at all, should or will that play out in the litigation?
Third, for those litigators who listened to the defense attorney’s cross-examination on the show, we all must have had second thoughts about the condition of the attorney. She became ill and was disbarred and then died after the trial. While hindsight is 20-20, and knowing what happened after, her performance in court, at least, doesn’t seem like she is functioning well.
- Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Appeal to Be Heard in ‘Serial’ Murder Case, The New York Times (Feb. 7, 2015).
- NPR, Adnan Syed, Subject of ‘Serial’ Podcast, Granted Appeal (Feb. 7, 2015).