The Baltimore murder case that launched the true-crime podcast craze will be under scrutiny again, starting March 10, when HBO launches its four-part documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed.
The pay cabler is revisiting and updating the nearly two decades old case “get closer to the truth,” director Amy Berg told TV critics at TCA.
Syed was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999 when she was an 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the case that was presented in 1999 and the outcome,” Berg told TV critics.
After listening to Serial, she said she felt “very frustrated” and set about “trying to understand what actually happened and investigate the original investigation.”
“Three-and-a-half years later, I still feel very frustrated that police detectives didn’t do their jobs in a more thorough way. We probably wouldn’t be sitting here today if there was more of an investigation done at the time.”
“They did not even take color photos of the autopsy,” she criticized.
Lee’s family would not to participate in the project but they also had turned down Serial’s creator. But Berg did speak to a family friend speaking on their behalf and she got access to the victim’s journal..
Calling it important to bring Lee “to life” the series begins with journal entries dramatized via animation. “She started the journal when she mat Adnan, and the last entry is the night before she disappeared,” Berg said, explaining she wanted to make the series accessible for those who had not watched Serial, but fresh for people who did.
Syed friend Rabia Chaudry, who advocated for him in the podcast and in HBO’s project, credits both with changing perceptions about the case.
“In the era of… the highest anti-Muslim sentiment in this country ever, this is a story that has resonated across the hearts of this country,” she said.
“People don’t care that he’s a young American Muslim guy. His religion all of a sudden didn’t matter so much. Serial was able to do that. This documentary is…going to do it even further.”
Five years ago, Chaudry said, Syed came to terms with the fact he probably “would leave prison in a coffin.”
His conviction, however, was overturned in 2016, though a new trial has yet to be set as it bounces back and forth in appeals court.
Even so, Chaudry said, he has “a lot of hope” that, in the next couple years he will be home.
But Berg said she ends the documentary when it does because it “we’ve been waiting over two years for the trial,” and “the film might be the only new trial he will ever receive.”
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