by Pamela Taylor-Barnett


“Hey, you HAVE to download this podcast, ‘Serial’” my friend said.  “I don’t do podcasts”, I responded dismissively – not yet having had my ears opened to this (not so new) form of narrative.  I was stuck in my ways, I’ll admit. Podcasts were boring, or audio-books – which were something my parents needed for their compulsory I’m-now-retired-I-have-to-drive-across-the-Nullabor journey. Not for me.

“No, seriously, you will love it, get it,” he insisted.  I sighed.  “Ok…”

One episode in and I’m thinking “Wow, this is different.” By Episode three I’ll admit, I was wondering if this series still had me.  I took a pause for a few weeks.

Then I drove to Canberra, from Melbourne.  I do this from time to time and I love the solitude. Do you get enough solitude? There is nothing like sinking into much needed solitude… I digress.

I have become that annoying friend now, who says “Hey, you HAVE to download this podcast, ‘Serial’”. It literally took my breath away in a couple of episodes.  I would be convinced that Adnan was not guilty and then I would hear the journalist put together some other facts and gasp.  Then, almost moments later I’d flip again.

Serial is podcast of a 12 episodes. It was put together by a journalist, Sarah Koenig, who became fascinated by the case of Adnan Syed, a 17 year old who has thus far served 15 years of a life sentence for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.  He still firmly claims innocence.  Over the course of a year, with a team of people, Koenig unpacked the case – intensively.  They researched every nook and cranny, interviewed many people the police didn’t, listened to audio and transcript, and spoke with Adnan and lawyers.

You HAVE to listen to this because:

  • It will make you think about what a lawyer’s duties are – did Adnan’s lawyer completely ‘screw up’? Did she fail to put evidence before the jury? Did she ask the right questions? Did she research – I mean really deep research, and how much research can you be expected to do as a lawyer on limited time? But this is a man’s life at stake… Whew. When we say we feel called to the law, we feel called to help, is this what some barristers mean when they give up their whole time to researching answers?
  • It will make you question society and community attitudes towards race and religion. Adnan is Muslim.
  • You will probably wonder about our system of justice (yes, this was in Baltimore, but we too have juries, lawyers and judges, and difficult appeals processes).
  • It will make you remember humans are fallible. We all perceive things, and remember things differently – and the danger of that in a courtroom. Truly, how dangerous. Was that person stoned or did they look anxious? Was there a phone booth in that building? Yes? No? Surely someone knows!! That sort of uncertainty scares me.
  • It will bring home for listeners the danger of relying on technology evidence, especially without experts, (in this case, it was phone towers that a mobile was connected to, and times of calls).
  • You will hear from jurors. Yes, they spoke about what went on. It’s interesting.
  • Plea bargains – what is their effect? Really? What about off the record conversations?
  • Finally, it’s an interesting story of young people, friends, and a tragic murder. It just happens to be true, it’s not fiction. And as a result of all this research, Adnan has been allowed to appeal his conviction, with lawyers filing these document recently.

I don’t know if Adnan did or did not kill Hae. But I would not have been able to convict on the evidence Serial gave me.  But the jurors did not have that evidence.

So, I say it to you, emerging and new lawyers… “You HAVE to download this podcast, Serial”.