Serial Podcast: Jay did his first interview and his story has changed yet again

Serial host Sarah Koenig
This story contains spoilers for the Serial Podcast, an offshoot of NPR’s This American Life. If you have not yet heard season one and wish to avoid spoilers, you may want to skip this.

Those of us who listened to season one of the excellent Serial Podcast were left with more questions than answers, most pointedly about Jay, the state’s key witness in the case against Adnan Syed. Adnan was convicted of the 1999 murder of Hae-Min Lee, an 18 year-old high school senior in Baltimore. Adnan was just 17 at the time and his conviction hinged on the testimony of his friend Jay Wilds, who claimed that Adnan killed Hae and enlisted him to help dispose of the body. Jay’s story about the night of the murder, and his role in helping Jay, changed several times during his testimony to police.

Up until now, Jay has refused to speak on the record about the podcast. Although he talked to Serial creator Sarah Koenig after she ambushed at his home, he would not grant an interview for the show. In a new interview with The Intercept, Jay relays what he claims happened on the night of the murder. Several details from that night have changed since Jay’s testimony. In court, Jay swore that Adnan first showed him Hae’s body, concealed in the trunk of Hae’s car, in the parking lot of a Best Buy. To The Intercept, Jay claims that Adnan showed him the body in the driveway of Jay’s grandmother’s house. Jay also adds the detail that Adnan called him while he was outside of his grandmother’s house. Adnan’s cellphone calls from that day were submitted into court records, and this supposed call to Jay is not listed at all. What’s more is that now Jay is claiming that he wasn’t present when Adnan buried Hae, that he just helped him dig the hole. He told police that he was there when Adnan buried Hae. The inconsistencies in Jay’s story make me question why he even did this interview at all.

The piece is long and it’s part one that’s been released from a three part interview. I’ll excerpt some here and you can read more at the source.

When Adnan loaned you his car on Jan. 13, 1999, did he tell you it was because he planned on murdering Hae?
No. I didn’t know that he planned to murder her that day. I didn’t think he was going to go kill her. We were in the car together during last period—he was ditching the last period. And I said, ‘Hey, I need to run to the mall ’cause I need to get a gift for Stephanie.’

He said then, ‘No, I gotta go do something. I’m going to be late for practice, so just drop me off. Take my car, take my cellphone. I’ll call you from someone else’s phone when I’m done.’

I said, ‘Alright, cool.’ I dropped him off at school, went to the mall, then when I was done, I go back to my friend Jenn’s house, where I normally go, sit and smoke with my friend.

Then he calls me and says, ‘Come pick me up.’

So I go to pick him up, and when I get there he says, ‘Oh shit, I did it.’ I say, ‘Did what?’ He says, ‘I killed Hae.’

At the Best Buy?

Is this when you first saw Hae’s body in the trunk of her car?
No. I saw her body later, in front of of my grandmother’s house where I was living. I didn’t tell the cops it was in front of my house because I didn’t want to involve my grandmother. I believe I told them it was in front of ‘Cathy’s [not her real name] house, but it was in front of my grandmother’s house. I know it didn’t happen anywhere other than my grandmother’s house. I remember the highway traffic to my right, and I remember standing there on the curb. I remember Adnan standing next to me.

Did you go to Leakin Park immediately after agreeing to help?
No. Adnan left and then returned to my house several hours later, closer to midnight in his own car. He came back with no tools or anything. He asked me if I had shovels, so I went inside my house and got some gardening tools. We got in his car and start driving. I asked him where we’re going and he says, ‘Didn’t you say everyone gets dumped in Leakin Park?’

I said, ‘Drug dealers, people who get killed by drug dealers,’ and I’m thinking to myself, ‘When did I ever say that?’ So, as I’m riding with him to the park and it starts raining and I’m thinking to myself as he pulls over—and I’m thinking this is the spot he’s chosen. I’m also thinking, ‘What’s making him think I’m totally okay with this?’ Like if a car goes by, and I jump out and wave at them saying, ‘Hey, this is a murderer right here.’ But I didn’t. I’m pretty sure it was my fear of going to prison for having a bunch of weed in my grandma’s house. He knew I was afraid of that.

Did you and Adnan dig the grave?
Yes we dig for about 40 minutes and we dig and dig, and he’s digging less and less. And at a certain point I say, ‘Well fuck, I’m finished. I’m fucking done.’ And Adnan’s like, ‘Oh, well, you’re not going to help me move her are you?’ And I’m like ‘No, I’m not gonna help you move her.’ He says, ‘Ok, well, I’m gonna need you to drive back to her car.”

Where was Hae’s car?
Somewhere up around a corner up a hill, parked in a strange neighborhood. It’s just on the street. I didn’t know it was that close. He said, ‘I’m gonna drive back down there [to the grave]. You follow me some of the way, and then I’ll take care of it.’

You drove him to Hae’s car nearby?
Yes. We get into his car, and he drives up around the corner to Hae’s car. He says, ‘OK, follow me halfway back down the hill [towards the grave site],” so he doesn’t have to walk all the way back up the hill to get back to me in his car. I follow him halfway back down the hill, park, smoke some cigarettes. He’s gone with Hae’s car.

It takes him about half an hour, 45 minutes, and he comes back with gloves on, panting, like, ‘She was really heavy.’ That’s all he says. That’s about burying her.

Adnan had just buried Hae on his own?
Yes. When we were digging the hole, it’s not like Hae’s body was just lying next to us. She was still in the trunk.

Why is this story different from what you originally told the police? Why has your story changed over time?
Well first of all, I wasn’t openly willing to cooperate with the police. It wasn’t until they made it clear they weren’t interested in my ‘procurement’ of pot that I began to open up any. And then I would only give them information pertaining to my interaction with someone or where I was. They had to chase me around before they could corner me to talk to me, and there came a point where I was just sick of talking to them. And they wouldn’t stop interviewing me or questioning me. I wasn’t fully cooperating, so if they said, ‘Well, we have on phone records that you talked to Jenn.’ I’d say, ‘Nope, I didn’t talk to Jenn.’ Until Jenn told me that she talked with the cops and that it was ok if I did too.

I stonewalled them that way. No — until they told me they weren’t trying to prosecute me for selling weed, or trying to get any of my friends in trouble. People had lives and were trying to get into college and stuff like that. Getting them in trouble for anything that they knew or that I had told them — I couldn’t have that.

I guess I was being kind of a jury on whether or not people needed to be involved or whatever, but these people didn’t have anything to do with it, and I knew they didn’t have anything to do with it.

That’s the best way I can account for the inconsistencies. Once the police made it clear that my drug dealing wasn’t gonna affect the outcome of what was going on, I became a little bit more transparent.

[From The Intercept]

It’s making my brain hurt to think of all the ways that Jay’s story has changed. I had a lot of help with this story from reddit, where sleuths are comparing this interview to Jay and his friend Jen’s testimony. You can check out their thread for even more detailed discussion about this. Commenters on Entertainment Weekly are pointing out that Jay’s story has now changed three times.

I don’t know if Adnan is guilty, but now that we’re hearing from Jay I have even more doubt that his testimony was enough to convict Adnan. I’m very interested to learn the results of the DNA tests ordered by The Innocence Project. I also wonder how Serial is going to dissect Jay’s interview. I hope they do an interim podcast to discuss this. It’s a major development.

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45 Responses to “Serial Podcast: Jay did his first interview and his story has changed yet again”

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  1. nicole says:

    He also changed the timeline completely, making a lot of what they tried to figure out on Serial pointless. In one episode they say that trying to recreate Jays timeline was like plotting someone’s dream and it’s looking more and more like that. Also fishy that he comes out with this after Serial is done and they will no longer be investigating the changes.

    I dunno…I go back and forth about Adnan’s guilt. It’s real life and usually in real life the simplest and most obvious explanation is the right one, as opposed to complex murder plots (by Jay). I keep going back to Jay knowing where the car was. But every new detail exposes more and more reasonable doubt.

  2. Sugar says:

    Jay did it. He’s so shady.

    • Samtha says:

      I agree. At the very least, his inconsistencies scream REASONABLE DOUBT.

      • moomoo says:

        +1 In my heart I believe Adnan is innocent, but even for those who think he definitely did it (who knows, really?), there just wasn’t enough to convict him.

  3. MelissaManifesto says:

    I’m very confused about this Serial Podcast. What is it about exactly? Why is everyone fascinated with it? Someone please tell me.

    • nicole says:

      It sounds really boring when it’s explained.

      It’s a reporter who investigates a murder from 1999. Someone has been convicted of it based on fairly flimsy evidence (this guy Jay’s changing evidence). They go into all the statements and timelines, cell phone towers, etc. The convicted, Adnan Syed, takes part and comes across as quite charming. Again, it sounds boring when it’s explained but the way they do it is so good – tracking down and talking to the people involved, poking holes in the flimsy story, questioning the defence lawyers tactics.

      I just did it a disservice, download the first episode and you’ll be hooked.

      I found they were also respectful of the victim being a real person and not sensationalizing for entertainment.

  4. Lb says:

    I think both Adnan and Jay were likely involved. However that’s just speculation. I still think there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support a conviction and Adnan’s attorney did a poor job.

  5. Kimmy says:

    I also have no clue whether or not Adnan is guilty. but After listening to Serial and all of the inconsistencies with their CHIEF witness, HOW in the world was guilt proven beyond reasonable doubt?

    Everything about Jay seems shady. Jen too. I think those two are hiding something and that there is an unknown third party involved. Adnan fits in somehow too, but those two and the lies…

    • lirko says:

      This, exactly. Very frustrating. Not saying Adnan didn’t have something to do with it, but they certainly didn’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. And yes, Jay is super shady.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I think it is possible that Adnan was involved, but right now I don’t think it is probable that he was involved.

      The one and ONLY thing that connects him to the murder is Jay’s story, which has changed so many times. He is not credible, and it is his credibility alone that ties Adnan to the crime.

      Serial didn’t talk about it, but Stephanie also saw Adnan at school that afternoon. Around 3:00, by the guidance counselor’s office. He was in his track clothes. She was interviewed about this by police.

    • QQ says:

      EXACTLY!! like even IF he did it Nothing that was presented on the show, much less this shady ass Jay Is Enough to have gotten a conviction

      Also : At best I think MAYBE role reversal

      Also This was a Guilt Deflection FAIL if there ever was one

      Also Professional Jurors REALLY are needed in this Country: How are they gonna tell you to NOT make anything of the fact Adnan Isnt testifying and they all proceed to tell Sarah That They felt a BIG way about it???! WTF

  6. K says:

    Can I just say, I love your coverage of this podcast. It’s like two of my favorite work-commute related modes of entertainment have collided!

  7. Mary says:

    I think Jay did it and framed Adnan. I would like to hear from Stephanie now!

    • Tiffany :) says:

      A lot of people don’t know this because Serial didn’t cover it, but Stephanie told police that she saw Adnan that afternoon around 3:00, in his track clothes at school near the guidance counselor’s office. I’d like to hear more from her too!

    • Chris says:

      If that ‘s the case, then dopey Jay is Keyser Soze. I’m not seeing it…

    • lirko says:

      See, I think Stephanie might be able to shed some light on this situation as well. And do you remember her friend saying from the get go she refused to speak of the murder in any capacity, even though Hae was her friend, too? She was very close to both of these guys…she’s got to know something.

  8. Joy says:

    I don’t know if Adnan did it, but I am very glad the innocence project jumped on this.

  9. african woman says:

    i watch crime channels alot ,and to me ,it looks like jay is telling the story Adnan would have told ,the whole thing is a twist

  10. Luca76 says:

    Jay is so shady. He is obviously hiding something whether or not Adnan is guilty who can say??? This is so crazy.

  11. Hope says:

    I don’t think Adnan is innocent but I alsonthink he shouldn’t have been convicted based on the evidence known at the time. There was nothing but the testimony of a drug dealer who lied and changed his story with the cops. Something happened during the unrecorded time Jaybwas interviewed with the police, I feel like what was said then changed everything in this case and we’ll never know what that was.

    Friends and I are obsessed with Serial and discuss it often trying to figure it all out.

    • lirko says:

      I also think those unrecorded interviews are extremely problematic. And why Jay got away with such glaring inconsistencies is pretty compelling evidence in itself. And remember how that juror who voted to convict Adnan was blown away that Jay never served time?! ..ugh! Just so much ugh!

  12. Wilma says:

    In the end I don’t feel they got the wrong guy, but it’s better to let ten guilty men go on flimsy evidence than lock up one innocent. The defence really f-ed up. Adnan should have been put on the stand, lots of inconsistencies should have been pointed out in a way the jury could understand.

  13. BrownBelle says:

    So. People forgive Adnan’s shi**y memory, but Jay is supposed to have a perfect memory? This serial thing has gotten out of hand.

    • K says:

      I understand where you are coming from – memory is certainly incredibly fallible, and it can be seen as pretty problematic to dig up an old case that is built so strongly around that very thing. However, I think the issue lies in the fact that Adnan was put away for life primarily based on this one persons testimony, which itself has so many holes. I have no idea if Adnan is guilty or not – I certainly don’t think that this is a black and white case. However, I do have an issue with a kid being incarcerated for the entirety of his life based on Jay’s testimony alone.

      • Debbie says:

        I agree and when he explains why his story changed with the police to begin with it makes perfect sense.

        I think it is easy to remember they were kids in very strange and sad circumstances.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      It isn’t that Jay is remembering incorrectly. He has said he was intentionally lying to police. He said in court that he lied in ALL of his pre-trial interviews. A man was put in prison for decades, based ONLY on the words of a person who has admitted he has not told the truth about this event.

      It would be foolish not to doubt Jay.

      • K says:

        Exactly. The problem with Adnan’s sentence is that it is based solely on Jay’s testimony. Any amount of critical thinking allows us to see how sketchy this is

      • Emma33 says:

        Great point. I used to do a lot of volunteer work researching asylum seekers’s claims. It really opened my eyes to this firm idea we have of “truth”, and the assumption that’s often made that if someone tells one lie then nothing they say can be believed.

        In my experience, people can lie for many reasons. Sometimes everything they say is a lie, but other times they are trying to protect themselves, their family, or are just embellishing the truth to make whatever they are saying seem more credible.

        So, I don’t think Jay’s lies necessarily mean that Adnan didn’t commit the murder. But, I do think that they weaken his testimony and made it essential to find corroborating evidence to put before a jury.

    • lirko says:

      To be fair, a lot of people think the whole criminal justice system is kind of out of hand.

  14. Tiffany :) says:

    One interesting twist I read about on View from LL2 yesterday:
    It appears that Jay testified in court that in police his interview on Feb. 28th, he gave the police the wrong location of Hae’s car. Court records state he “eventually lead them to her car” around April 13th,….but the inventory of Hae’s car took place on Feb. 28th. Did they already have her car before he told them the “correct” location?

  15. Tiffany :) says:

    The thing that makes this so intriguing is that there are so many parts out there, it is up to us to put them together.

    I found on the Serial website that Adnan came to Psychology class late at 1:27, based on his teachers notes of attendance that day. Then, I just found on Rabia Chaudry’s blog that in the attorney notes, it says that Adnan was at school at 1:13, because Mrs. Stucky printed out a recommendation letter for him at that time.

    Some have theorized he was late to psych because he was with Jay, but clearly he was back at school earlier than 1:27, but was with Mrs. Stucky instead of psych class.

  16. Courtney says:

    Sorry, but if I bury a body I would remember EVERY detail about that day.

  17. Debbie says:

    Funny once I read his interview even with the recent story changes I now believe Jay. His reasons for his story changing make sense when you look at his world and what it meant for him to talk to cops.

    This interview made me feel more convinced that Adnan did it and Jay was just after the fact involved.

    • Wilma says:

      I believe Jay too, but there is no way to proof this case with actual physical evidence (unless the new testing brings up new evidence). My gut goes with Jay, and I think the jury’s gut went with Jay, but that is not the way to decide a man’s guilt.

      • Megan says:

        I don’t think Adnan should be in prison because there is a mountain of reasonable doubt, but I do think he did it. However, even thinking that as a juror I would have acquitted.

  18. Davividavid says:

    From Jay’s first recorded statement:
    “and ah she’s kind of like laying against a log and he asked me to help him dig. We argued some more than ah I started digging a hole.” From the new interview:
    “When we were digging the hole, it’s not like Hae’s body was just lying next to us. She was still in the trunk.”

    • InVain says:

      Thank you for pointing that out…. I feel like you could do that with every comment Jay has ever made at any point in time and find the same glaring inconsistencies. I’m torn about Adnan’s guilt in all of this, but I’m utterly disgusted that Jay single handedly put him in prison!

  19. WTF says:

    I LOVE SERIAL!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have read all of Jay’s interviews now, and I don’t necessarily think that he did it, but he is definitely lying. The reporter that interviewed Jay didn’t really ask him the questions that everyone wants to know (why does your story keep changing? Do you have any guilt about the lies that you told at trial? Why did you call Jenn at a time when you said you were at her house?)
    She just let him tell a self-serving story about how he is the victim in all of this.

    I don’t even know if I’m 100% convinced of Adnan’s innocence. Some little part of me feels like he’s too good to be true and I just don’t trust that. But even with my doubt, I know that he shouldn’t be in prison. That’s not the way our system is supposed to work. Before we take away something as basic as freedom, we should at least have to overcome reasonable doubt.

    • Ravensdaughter says:


      The process of this first season of “Serial” was so powerful. As a person “outside” the legal system, take a somewhat shady murder conviction and examine it from EVERY possible angle. In the beginning Sarah was fixed on the guilt or innocence of Adnan-given every shred of information she could find or pull from people close to the case. By the end, Sarah had moved to an entirely different question-did the legal process work in Adnan’s case? Sarah’s final answer was a resounding “NO”, mainly because the solid evidence that remained was almost nothing.

      Or, to put the bottom line in a more compelling way: was justice served in a Adnan’s case?

      I am a (civil) attorney, and I have many theories myself. For instance, my main focus is on the defense attorney-I would like to know a GREAT deal more about her. My question goes beyond whether she was effective; I wonder if she was even competent to represent him at at the SECOND trial, the one that mattered. I could go on for quite some time, but working within the system, I have read numerous articles in professional journals of the high level of difficulty involved in presenting a Motion for Ineffective Counsel and pushing it through the system successfully, even if the attorney has since been disbarred. Realistically, we have no traction here as far as exonerating Adnan.

      Adnan’s repeated commentary about the fact that he has gone through the process and the result is the result and he has to live with it might sound strange, but in the world of the criminal justice system, a guilty verdict is the result he has been handed and there IS little he can do about it the verdict. Successful appeals are always a longshot. The only recourse he has now is the parole process.

      What I want to take from Adnan’s story is hope-at least for now-that there is a way that justice CAN be served, but through a path that is not universally available: the Innocence Project. They work within the restrictions of the system and they have delivered meaningful results.

      I would like to hear additional commentary from Sarah and her team. I would also encourage readers to go to The Innocence Project site and see examples of cases that don’t pass muster in the system given updated evidence AND very hard work on the part of a non-profit organizations in pushing motions through the court system. Also, experience the joy of seeing justice served!

      Sarah opened our eyes and drew in some big players as far as moving the ball forward on one of the most important social issues I can think of: justice in the (American) legal system.

      As we await the second season-yaaay-in delicious anticipation, I encourage everyone look back on this very compelling season of “Serial” and give it further thought.

      Also, I’ll play Ira Glass here. If you appreciate programming like “Serial”, chip in a few bucks to pay for it….

      • Ravensdaughter says:

        I skimmed over the episodes again, and perhaps I am underestimating the potential of the petition that Adnan’s attorneys recently filed for Ineffective Counsel to offer Adnan relief. The focus of the reviewing judge- the failure of Gutierrez to seek a plea deal despite her client’s requests in both trials-is a HUGE oversight, to the point of attorney malpractice! Maybe Adnan will receive relief after all, although the kind of relief he could be provided is a open question. (Remember I am NOT a criminal attorney).

        Stay tuned. I personally am subscribing to the e-mail updates from “Serial”….