Can Digital Media Influence Justice?


By Isabelle Walker

On February 6 2015 in Baltimore County, Maryland, USA, a young man who had spent nearly half his life in prison had his first hope of an appeal since his conviction 15 years ago. 

Adnan Syad was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, on 25 February 2000, following her 13 January disappearance and subsequent murder. Her body was found in a shallow grave on February 9 1999. 

In what was for the state an open and shut case of jealousy, pride and fatal obsession, Adnan was given a life sentence for the crime, despite consistently protesting his innocence. 

In 2014, former Baltimore Sun journalist, Sarah Koenig was approached by a family friend of Adnan’s. She was charged with the task of delving deeper into the case; interviewing numerous friends, family and teachers of both Hae and Adnan to investigate areas of the case that had previously been left untouched. 

What has followed is the podcast Serial, produced by Koenig, which has reached over 68 million people so far. It had 12 episodes in its first season, and it documents areas of the case Koenig has explored and thoroughly research in her capacity as an investigative journalist.  

It was the opinion of Adnan’s family and friends that the case had been severely botched at trial by a defence attorney (now deceased) who had made deliberate oversights in order to get a conviction and a subsequent appeal, to increase her fee. 

Koenig uncovered several flaws in the state case, a convincing alibi for Adnan, and numerous other holes in the case. As mentioned above, he has just last week been allowed an appeal.

Though Serial cannot take all the credit for the recent appeal, the ball began rolling thanks to the tireless work of Koenig, and the reach of the ever popular digital media form of podcasting. The internet is constantly finding ways to challenge convention and for important stories to reach the masses. 

Podcasting has been popular since its inception through iTunes and iPod, but never before has it had such a pivotal impact on the very essence of the justice system. Storytelling has always been an influencing force through society and the digital media is making that impact ever known, as well as easily available and digestible.