[S1E1] Famous Last Words
Mrs. Halter: But why do you have to go now, that's what college is for.Miles: I've told you why.Mrs. Halter: Because of some French poet's last words. A Great Perhaps? What does that even mean?Miles: That's what I need to find out.
[S1E1] Famous Last Words
As one would expect knowing who's behind this series' production, the lyrics of "Never Let Me Down Again" are perfectly aligned with the whole episode's story. The words can be read mostly through Ellie's point of view, but there are some parts that also apply to Joel, as we'll see. In the first part, the song tells of two people going on a journey together, the singer hopeful that this time will be better than the last: "I'm taking a ride with my best friend / I hope he never lets me down again / He knows where he's taking me / Taking me where I want to be / I'm taking a ride with my best friend"
Watson attempts to make a deal with Bullock to secure his release, claiming to know of easy opportunities for thievery along the way to Deadwood, but his pleas are cut short by Star, who arrives informing Bullock that the owner of the stolen horse has gathered together a drunken mob. Rather than turn Watson over to the angry mob, Bullock takes him out to face them and publicly hangs him on the front porch, afterward writing down Watson's last words and giving them, along with his marshal's badge, to a member of the mob to convey them to Watson's sister.
Adnan says now that he does in fact remember seeing Asia in the library. The thing he remembers about it is so high school. Asia used to go out with Adnan's friend Justin. And Justin had confided that Asia was a "proper young lady." In other words, Justin wasn't getting any.So Adnan remembers thinking he would now get to tease Justin about seeing Asia with her new boyfriend. Maybe the new guy was getting lucky, ha, ha. Anyway, Rabia calls Asia up. It's been a year since she wrote the letters, but she agrees to meet. Rabia And she told me, that day after school I went to the public library. And Adnan was sitting at a computer, checking email or something. And I sat down next to him. We started chatting. And Adnan was a very popular boy in school. He was handsome and popular with the ladies. So she was speaking to him. And her boyfriend shows up a little bit later with a friend. And she said her boyfriend was really angry at her, because he's like, why are you talking to him? You know, high school kids, why are you talking to him? Is he hitting on you? And she remembered very specifically that that day she went to her boyfriend's house with him, and they got snowed in. And it snowed really heavily that night. And she remembered that for the following two days, school was closed. So she had very specific details about why she remembered that day.Sarah KoenigAsia wrote out an affidavit on the spot. In it, she says she and Adnan spoke for about 15 to 20 minutes while she was waiting for her boyfriend to give her a ride. Quote, "We left around 2:40," unquote. Remember, Hae is supposed to be dead by 2:36. And then, the kicker-- "No attorney has ever contacted me about January 13, 1999 and the above information."So benefit of the doubt for a second-- maybe Adnan never actually showed the letters to Cristina Gutierrez, his attorney. Sure, he said he did, but who knows? Well, I know. Deep inside Gutierrez's notes on the case-- I have boxes and boxes of such stuff-- there's this in her handwriting. "Asia plus boyfriend saw him in library 2:15 to 3:15."Then there's another note, dated July 13. It's more than four months after Adnan's arrest. This is written by one of Gutierrez's law clerks, who visited Adnan in jail. Quote, "Asia McClain saw him in the library at 3:00. Asia boyfriend saw him too. Library may have cameras."Why, oh, why was this person never heard from at trial-- a solid, non-crazy, detail-oriented alibi witness in a case that so sorely needed alibi witnesses? I can't ask Christina Gutierrez, because she died in 2004.So I put that question to a few defense attorneys. And they said, well, alibi witnesses can be tricky, especially if it's just one person. Because then it becomes one person's word over another. A single witness like that can backfire under cross-examination. Or they might take the jury's focus away from the weaknesses in the state's case.So there are conceivable strategic reasons why Christina Gutierrez might not have wanted to put Asia McClain on the stand. But what is inconceivable, they all said, is to not ever contact Asia McClain, to never make the call, never check it out, never find out if her story helps or hurts your case. That makes no sense whatsoever. That is not a strategy. That is a screw-up.When I first heard about the long-lost Asia letters and the lawyer's mistake, I thought, well, their fight is over, right? They've got an alibi witness who was never heard from. It's such a slam dunk. They're done.Adnan's family hired a new attorney, who filed a petition in court based on the Asia affidavit. His argument was that Adnan's trial could have turned out differently if Gutierrez had checked out Asia's story. And so Adnan should get some form of what's called post-conviction relief.The new lawyer figures he'll get Asia to come to the hearing. She'll vouch for her story. By this time, Asia had finished school and moved away. He finds an address on the West Coast, tries calling, sending messages-- nothing. Finally, he writes a letter to her, gives it to a private investigator, who goes out to Asia's house in hopes of delivering it.Asia's fiance comes to the door, opens it part way, tells the investigator that she cannot speak to Asia, but that from what he knows of Adnan's case, Adnan is guilty and deserved the punishment he got. Later, the investigator gets a call from the fiance. "We don't have to talk to you. Leave us alone."So Adnan's lawyer calls off the search for Asia, figuring once a witness turns on you like that, it's too risky to keep pushing. And then at Adnan's hearing on the new petition, it comes out that Asia had done the very thing they dreaded. Asia had called one of the prosecutors in Adnan's case, a guy named Kevin Urick, and undermined her own statement. This is from a recording of the hearing. Mr. Urick is testifying on the witness stand. Attorney Mr. Urick, how did you learn that the [INAUDIBLE] petition? Kevin Urick A young lady named Asia called me. Attorney And what did she say? Kevin Urick She was concerned, because she was being asked questions about an affidavit she'd written back at the time of the trial. She told me that she'd only written it because she was getting pressure from the family, and she basically wrote it to please them and get them off her back. Rabia I don't know what happened to her and why she would do this.Sarah KoenigHere's Rabia again. She says it's not true that Asia was bullied into writing that statement 15 years ago. And she can't fathom why Asia would discredit her own statement like that. Rabia I don't know why. The affidavit was written voluntarily. I'm an attorney. I'm a licensed attorney. I work on homeland security. I have no reason to make something like this up. I didn't even know she existed until after the conviction. Sarah Koenig So what do you think happened? Why would they have this sort of violent reaction to helping out Adnan now? Rabia I don't know. It was just really odd.Sarah KoenigSo who knows what would have happened if Asia had shown up? Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. After all, they had the original letters and the affidavit. That's all that should've mattered. But it didn't look good.It would be natural for the judge to wonder, why can't the defense produce this Asia person? Why is she making this call to a prosecutor? I mean, anyone would wonder. I wondered. I wondered if maybe she was pressured into writing that affidavit. And I wondered if she was hiding something.Like maybe she'd lied in those 1999 letters. Maybe she didn't really see Adnan at the library that day and had just wanted to insert herself into something exciting. And maybe now that she was grown up, she wanted nothing to do with any of it.So three, four months after I first sat down with Rabia, I had become fixated on finding Asia. I'm like a bloodhound on this thing. Because the whole case seemed to me to be teetering on her memories of that afternoon. I have to know if Adnan really was in the library at 2:36 PM.Because if he was, library equals innocent. It's so maddeningly simple. And maybe I can crack it if I could just talk to Asia.I write her a long, gentle, pleading letter and send it off to an address I find online. I'm calling people who know her or who I think might know her. I'm checking the same loop of Facebook, MyLife, LinkedIn sites over and over, trawling for clues about where she might be or how she might think.If you're wondering why I went so nuts on this story versus some other murder case, the best I can explain is this is the one that came to me. It wasn't halfway across the world or even next door. It came right to my lap. And if I could help get to the bottom of it, shouldn't I try?I start running down all the other information in Asia's 1999 letters. She mentioned there were security cameras inside the library. So my producer and I went to see the very nice manager there, Michelle Hamiel. Sarah Koenig Was there a security system back in '99 that could've been checked at the time? Michelle Hamiel Probably, yes. I'm going to say yes. Sarah Koenig OK. And what system was it? Michelle Hamiel I have no idea. [LAUGHING] It was an old system. Sarah Koenig Yeah. But you think probably video? Michelle Hamiel It was video. And that was part of set up. Every morning you put a videotape in. Sarah Koenig Were you guys recycling the videotapes? Michelle Hamiel Yes. I think it ran for a week. So you had a Monday tape, a Tuesday tape, a Wednesday tape, and so forth. Sarah Koenig So even if, on the very day that Asia had written her first letter, Adnan's lawyer had run out to find the security tape, it probably would have been nonexistent by then. But what about the computer Adnan was supposedly using to check his email? Sarah Koenig To use the computer, did people have to sign in, write their name down? Michelle Hamiel They did. Sarah Koenig And what was the system then? Michelle Hamiel Piece of paper and pencil. Sarah Koenig And those, by any chance, weren't logged meticulously and kept for 15 years, were they? Michelle Hamiel No. [LAUGHING]Sarah KoenigBummer. We got nothing. Then there was the mystery of Asia's boyfriend, Derek, and his friend Jerrod. All winter and spring, every time I went to Baltimore, I went to Derek's mom's house looking for him, and to Jerrod's window tinting business. And then finally-- Sarah Koenig All right, so you're Jerrod Johnson. Jerrod Johnson Yes, I am. Sarah Koenig You don't know how excited we are to be talking to you. I've been looking for you for, like, four months. Jerrod Johnson What did I do? Sarah Koenig You didn't do anything. But we were hoping maybe you remembered this moment. On January 13, 1999, do you have any memory, by any miracle, that you went to Woodlawn public library branch near Woodlawn High School to pick up Asia McClain with your friend Derek? Jerrod Johnson I have no idea. Asia McClain. Is that a person or a book? Sarah Koenig It's a person. Jerrod Johnson No, no recollection of it.Sarah KoenigScratch Jerrod. Derek was my last hope. Eventually I caught him at home. Considering I woke him up, he was exceedingly courteous. He showed me a photo of Asia and him all dressed up. They dated most of senior year. Sarah Koenig What's up here? Derek This is our senior prom. Yeah. Sarah Koenig You guys both look really beautiful. Derek Yeah. That's Asia, yeah.Sarah KoenigBut Derek couldn't remember that day either-- shocking, I know. He used to pick Asia up from school almost every day back then, either from the library or from the front of the school. And he says he spoke to a lot of her friends just to be polite. Derek And it's very possible that I could have spoken to the gentleman and her on that day. But it's very hard to remember 15 years later. But it sounds like this definitely could have happened. I don't think Asia would-- Asia's not the type of person that would lie just to-- Sarah Koenig That's what I'm wondering. Derek She's definitely not that type of person to get involved with a lie. She's not that type of person. So it seemed pretty credible to me.Sarah KoenigOne day I get a call on my cellphone from a blocked number. You guessed it-- Asia. I wish I could say that my charming, persuasive letter is what prompted Asia to call. But the truth is, she never got my letter. I had the wrong address. But she was calling because I'd followed up weeks later with a one-line email. And she was responding to that, a little confused. Asia McClain It's just crazy. I mean, I have a couple minutes if you want to chat about it.Sarah KoenigI recorded our conversation on the cell, which is why the sound quality is so bad. Sorry about that. Asia is now a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother. And she has not spent the last 15 years worrying about Adnan and whether he's guilty. Asia McClain I trust the court system to do their due diligence. Because I was never questioned. I was never informed of anything pertaining to the case. I don't know why he was convicted.Sarah KoenigAsia said she was spooked when the private investigator came to her house. I don't know if that's why she didn't testify at the hearing or why she made the call to the prosecutor. But she told me that when she got the knock at the door, quote, "that was not cool." Because to her, if Adnan did do it, quote, "the last thing you want is a murderer being pissed off at you, knowing where you live."But she had a remarkably clear memory of what happened on January 13, 1999. She had an internship at the time, and so she got out of school much earlier than everyone else. Derek was supposed to come get her at the library along with Jerrod, but they were very late. She remembers seeing Adnan come in after Woodlawn let out for the day. Asia McClain Adnan came in. He sat at the table. And we weren't really close friends or anything like that, but we knew each other. And we chatted or whatever. And I can't remember. I think I must have asked him how he was doing or whatever, and he said fine. And he told me that him and Hae had broke up. And I was like, oh, well, that's a bummer. And I was like, what happened? And he was like, oh, well, she is seeing this other guy, some white dude. But he was pretty chill about it. He was just like, you know, well, if she doesn't want to be with me, then that's fine. I just wish the best for her-- that kind of attitude.Sarah KoenigI'm not sure why Asia's memory of this interaction is so clear all these years later. My best guess is that, because she wrote it down at the time in those letters and then the affidavit, that the details somehow stuck. Sarah Koenig Do you remember what time you were talking, this would have happened in the library? Do you remember what time that conversation would have happened? Asia McClain I don't. Because I know school let out around 2:15. So it was probably around 2:30. Sarah Koenig Because you had said you got out of school earlier than other people. So were you there, were you at the library, before 2:15? Asia McClain Oh, yeah, I had been at the library for a few hours. Sarah Koenig Oh wow. Asia McClain Yeah, I was pretty pissed when Derek showed up. And he asked me who Adnan was. That was teenager boy language. He's like, you know, who the hell is that?And I said, don't even start with me. Because you're a few hours late. Don't worry about who that is, you know? I remember that day, because that was the day that it snowed. Sarah Koenig Were there snow days after that, do you remember? Asia McClain I want to say there was, because I think that was like the first snow of the year. I wouldn't have even remembered if it hadn't have been for the snow. And the whole-- I just remember being so pissed about Derek being late and then getting snowed in at his house. And it was the first snow of that year. Sarah Koenig The snow is important. Hae disappeared on a Wednesday. That night there was a huge ice storm, which is unusual in Maryland. It ended up being a state emergency. And school was closed for the rest of the week.Asia started asking me questions about the case. Wasn't there DNA evidence? And what exactly was Jay's part in the whole thing? She wasn't sure Adnan was guilty. She said things I've now heard from so many people since. He seemed like he cared about Hae. He didn't seem angry or upset. I thought there was more proof. Asia McClain Even that day, I didn't walk away thinking, oh, I just started something. Do you know what I mean? If you want to base his innocence off of his composure at that moment, I would say he's innocent. But I'm 32 years old now, and I know that there's people out there capable of heinous acts that can keep a calm demeanor, you know? And I know that there are people who flip out on a moment's notice and do something that they regret for the rest of their lives. Even now, it would be nice if there was some technicality, something that would prove his innocence. Great, you know? One less evil person I've met in my life, you know? Sarah Koenig But I think, Asia, you might be that technicality. Do you see what I mean? If you're saying that you saw him on this day at that time, that means the state's timeline for their whole theory of the case doesn't make any sense. Asia McClain It's a possibility. Sarah Koenig Because they're saying he was in the car with her at the very time that you're saying, no, I saw him at the library, and we were talking. Do you know what I mean? That's exactly the window where they're saying she was murdered. Asia McClain [SIGH]Sarah KoenigIn case you couldn't hear that, it was a sigh. And I completely understand that sigh. That's how I feel a lot of the time. Because I talk to Adnan regularly, and he just doesn't seem like a murderer. A few minutes after I hung up with Asia, Adnan called on schedule. Adnan Syed Hey, Sarah, how are you doing? Sarah Koenig I'm good. I'm good. So I was just talking to Asia McClain. Adnan OK. Sarah Koenig You don't sound very excited. Adnan I had a-- well, I really-- Sarah Koenig This was not the reaction I expected. I felt like I'd just interviewed an ivory-billed woodp