The End Of Serial, Part Three

by Michelle Dean

Without Rabia Chaudry, a civil rights attorney in Maryland, there would have been no Serial. Chaudry is the family friend of Adnan Syed’s who approached Koenig about doing the story in the first place. She is personally convinced Syed is innocent, and had hoped Koenig would come to advocate for his release the way she had. At TIME yesterday, she recorded her disappointment with the way it played out instead:

A few weeks ago Koenig visited me do a follow-up interview. None of that interview made it into the remaining episodes, but at that time, and on the mic, she told me that after a year of investigating, she had failed to find a smoking gun. She found nothing that either condemned Adnan for certain, and nothing that exonerated him for certain.

It was not a punch to the gut, necessarily, but a quiet closing of a chapter that I had held open for 15 years. In the midst of the enormous coverage of the case and show, of hearty congratulations for staying on it, of lots of movement by the different teams of lawyers now working to help Adnan, I felt like a failure.

After making the decision unilaterally to get media involved, I’ve felt heavily responsible for the pain it’s forced Adnan and his loved ones to go through. It would be worth it, I hoped. Something concrete would surface. Koenig wouldn’t tolerate the fuzziness. She would dig till she struck rock.

Except Koenig didn’t. Chaudry adds that she nonetheless doesn’t regret taking the story to Koenig. And that Koenig still plans to follow the story, and that some good has come of the show. Still. I do not know Chaudry, though I interviewed her briefly for a piece. Reading the above three paragraphs made my own gut churn on her behalf anyway.

It is not unusual for subjects to feel disappointment with what journalist ultimately manage to dig up. Janet Malcolm’s The Journalist and the Murderer is pretty much entirely about the conflict between what the writer writes and what the subject is hoping she’ll write. But expecting the disconnect doesn’t make the experience less wrenching for everyone.