Serial, the hugely popular NPR true-crime podcast, premiered in 2014 and captured the attention of the nation. The series chronicled a team of journalists combing through decades-old evidence in attempts to exonerate or further confirm the conviction of Adnan Syed, a man that many believe was wrongfully convicted for the murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee in 1999.
Earlier this week HBO launched a documentary series that follows-up on the ongoing legal and investigative work spearheaded by Rabia Chaudry and turned into an award-winning podcast series by NPR’s Sarah Koenig. In the five years since Serial premiered, the case for Adnan’s exoneration has been built by his friends, attorneys, and countless amateur sleuths who obsessively pick-apart the available evidence in online forums. HBO’s The Case Against Adnan Syed follows the ongoing evidence collection, legal battles, and emotional struggles of all the families and communities affected by the murder.
The first episode premiered this Sunday and introduced another player in the unfolding saga – a private investigation firm was retained to help make the case for Adnan’s innocence. Hiring a PI firm to assist in a criminal defense or appeal is a tried-and-true route for those facing wrongful convictions. All of us at Beau Dietl & Associates are very interested to see what they uncover after all the police, journalists, and amateur sleuths have worked on the case for years. We know firsthand how essential evidence is often missed in initial investigations.
Private Investigators are uniquely capable of enhancing criminal investigations by:
- Finding evidence that has been overlooked by police
- Finding and interviewing witnesses who have been ignored by the police
- Finding and interviewing witnesses who have been uncooperative with the police, but more forthcoming with third-parties
- Examining previously collected evidence to determine if any original items or testimony was compromised
- Deploying and coordinating highly specialized forensic experts
Additionally, private investigators occupy a unique position when they investigate a criminal matter – they don’t have the pressure of solving the entire case, answering to elected officials, or facing a distressed public. Private investigators employed in a criminal defense case have only one job and they don’t need to win any popularity contests while they do it: they look for any and all evidence that helps prove their client’s innocence. That means that PIs are willing to pushback against police, ask hard questions, and look in unlikely places.
In my firm’s 34 years of practice, we have helped close cold cases, contributed to active investigations, and exonerated wrongfully accused individuals through our examination and collection of evidence. It is amazing and heartbreaking the kinds of things that sometimes go unexamined for years. We have recovered previously missed or untested DNA, ballistics data, and fingerprints. We’ve chased-down alibis and found key witnesses – people that the police were unable or unwilling to find during an initial investigation. Most recently, we’ve discovered exculpatory social media posts to help a wrongfully accused client – we collected and preserved crucial data before it was deleted by the true perpetrator.
While we cannot go into more detail about any of our cases due to our strict confidentiality policies – there are hundreds of publicly available stories of exonerations due to new evidence and investigation.
At our best, private investigators combine the single-minded passion of citizen-detectives, the expansive resources of private companies, and the connections and experience of law enforcement to provide invaluable contributions to the rightful closure of criminal cases.
We at BDA wish luck to our colleagues and peace of mind to the families of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee.