Serial Backstory: Adnan’s Family, Hae’s Brother, and the Afterlife of Murder

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Photo of Adnan Syed via Jonathan Hanson/The Guardian
Photo of Adnan Syed via Jonathan Hanson/The Guardian

Serial is now officially the most popular podcast of all time. For most people, it’s an intriguing or entertaining story; for a few people–most of whom live in Baltimore, where the murder at the center of the series took place, it’s hitting all too close to home.

If you’re enjoying Serial, consider spending time with these stories that the put the podcast into context:

+The wonderful Jon Ronson interviews Adnan Syed’s family, who still live in West Baltimore. It’s a heartbreaking account of how the murder, the trial, and their aftermath have shattered the family. Adnan’s dad spends hours alone, praying; his older brother is completely estranged from the family; his younger brother is haunted by the idea that his family will never be whole again.

+Hae’s brother’s post on Reddit, in which he praises the podcast but also reminds its rabid fans that “TO ME IT’S REAL LIFE. To you listeners, it’s another murder mystery, crime drama, another episode of CSI.”

+This Guardian article, about how Redditors are finding out details (full names, social media profiles, etc.) of people mentioned in the podcast. “Serial is, after all, not a work of fiction. It is about real people. Real people who also, as the story unfolds, have Google, Facebook and Reddit accounts. And who are really in prison, or really in danger of ending up in trouble with law enforcement, or even just with their privacy violated, as a result of all this,” Michelle Dean writes.

None of this means I plan on quitting podcast, of course. But it’s a good idea to keep the human side of the story in mind when we indulge in our fandom.



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  1. This hits close to home in more than one way. I don’t remember anything about this murder and the subsequent trials. Not even a flicker of recognition.

    However, I knew Christina Gutierrez for many years, her brother being one of my closest friends since the first day of college. She was a brilliant attorney, and most attorneys who knew her agree with this, even if she beat them in court. She argued before the Supreme Court, America’s highest legal authority, twice before she was 40. This is something that very few attorneys do. She had several precedent-setting cases, which are still cited. She was raising two adopted children as a single mother and managing a law practice.

    Tina did have her problems, most stemming from her illnesses, including diabetes and MS. She started failing long before anyone realized anything was seriously wrong, including her. She tried to keep going long after she should have stopped to concentrate on her health and her children. Tina was a tough gal, but as I said for years, if I ever got into any trouble, I’d want her to be my attorney and in my corner.

    It’s haunting hearing her voice after all of these years and it’s sad to know that her life is being judged on this one case. Listen to what Adnan says about her, even with all that happened and know that that was the Christina Gutierrez that fought for her clients with everything that she had.

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