This is Part 2 of “Here’s why I became addicted to SERIAL:”, to read Part 1 of the story please click here.
What about Adnan’s case? He did pay an expensive attorney. We are all left wondering about this piece of the puzzle.
In this recent interview, Deirdra sites prosecutors for not responsibly presenting a well thought out case. They created a possible motivation to explain a murder, but that is working backwards. Most investigators start from physical evidence, like DNA, hair fibers, and fingerprints. Then, they look for motivation. In Adnan’s case, they went for motive first and did no testing. The investigators had fingernail clippings. If Hae Lee had struggled, DNA tests might have uncovered a viable lead. They had a liquor bottle with DNA. They had a rope near the body that might have been used to bind her. They found two hairs on her body that belonged neither to her or Adnan. She and others find it very odd to have biological evidence and never test it.
It is with the evidence that my hope for Adnan lies. Most people never have the opportunity to visit an evidence room. I am honored to be part of an elite club that has seen the artifacts of a community’s most infamous mysteries compiled into one space. When storage is your livelihood, this is one of the perks. And after hearing Adnan’s case, I have a heightened appreciation of its value.
I think those in charge of evidence handling realize the gravity of their work. The evidence contains within it the conviction of the guilty or the acquittal of the innocent. Evidence tracking is a simple process. Departments may vary some, but this here the gist:
Evidence is carefully collected on site. The officer brings evidence to the station and places it in temporary holding. This temporary space usually looks like a locker. The evidence must be secure so prosecution can maintain in court that the evidence has not been tampered with. If they cannot prove this, the defense can easily make arguments that will likely ensure freedom for the accused. The evidence stays in temporary storage until an evidence room technician can log the details and check it into long-term storage. Refrigerated lockers or drying cabinets are available for rape kits, wet, or bloody items. Once the items are in long-term storage, accurate records are kept on the handling of its whereabouts. Evidence can be checked out by attorneys, officers, court, or sent to a lab like Bode Technology Group. The evidence must be accounted for at all times. Evidence must be preserved as long as the convicted individual is incarcerated.
Deirdra explains the process for DNA testing in her interview. Today, many lab tests are increasingly easy to do…and fast. There are two types of DNA, nuclear and mitochondrial. Each type has different properties that make it suitable for testing depending on the variables. Because genetic coding is not my expertise, feel free to do your own research on why. Once lab tests are complete, DNA is then submitted to CODIS. CODIS is a national database of DNA. States collect DNA samples. If the state has elected to participate, they are responsible for submitting DNA to this national database. With this database, DNA can be matched to a suspect or victim if they are in the system.
In one of the final episodes of SERIAL, Deirdra reveals that her team has been digging into the cold case online database in Maryland. They found an Asian woman murdered six months after Hae Lee. They called the detectives, who were in the midst of uncovering a lead. A couple months later, these detectives had linked this Asian woman’s murder to a guy who had been released inadvertently. Somehow they had him in the system as a petty burglar. Detectives approached this man about the crime, and not long after their initial meeting he committed suicide. They were able to get a DNA sample and, through CODIS, link him to that case along with two other murders. Deirdra requested the date of his release. He had been released from a prison in Maryland 10 days prior to Hae Lee’s murder.
Spoiler alert over.
What I can be sure of, now more than ever before, is the value of proper evidence collection, handling, storage, and record keeping. Our justice system may take time to repair. But until then, we will rely on the innocence project and their ability to sort through the “stuff” that pertained to the case. Although many facilities are faced with the space challenges that it presents, it seems like a small price to pay for liberating the wrongly accused.