True Crime Takes

Where I speculate about who’s guilty, based on (admittedly) incomplete information and at times the smallest of clues…

Spoilers below….



Serial (NPR)

Adnan Syed: I suspect he’s guilty. He reveals his feelings of guilt in the interviews with Sarah Koenig. He’s actually not a very good liar. For instance, these are direct quotes from Syed, not coerced or given under duress but of his free will:

  • “I’m here because of my own stupid actions”
  • “who else can I blame but myself?”
  • “at the end of the day, I have to take some responsibility”

I don’t think someone who has been wrongfully convicted discusses his imprisonment that way. Syed also is caught lying about his motive:

  • “no one could ever come with any type of proof or anecdote or anything to ever say that I was ever mad at her, that I was ever angry with her, that I ever threatened her. That’s the only thing I can really hold onto. That is like my only firm handhold in this whole thing, that no one’s ever been able to prove it. No one ever has been able to provide any shred of evidence that I had anything but friendship toward her, like love and respect for her.”

This is directly contradicted by evidence from Hae’s letter to Syed and much other evidence. Unfortunately, there were many flaws in the case (e.g., the police account, the trial, the witnesses), and most people seem to focus on those legal issues (and the reasonable doubt they created) rather than Syed’s likely guilt, in my opinion.

Update: Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby (who is facing perjury charges for unrelated reasons) dropped the murder charges against Syed. The lawyer for the victim’s family disputes Mosby’s claims that the DNA evidence excludes Syed from being potentially guilty.




Deflategate (NFL)

Tom Brady: Guilty. His interviews with Bob Costas and Peter Alexander are tremendously damning. My favorite might be these exchanges:

Peter Alexander: “Is Tom Brady a cheater?”

Tom Brady: “I don’t believe so.”

Brady goes on to emphasize “It’s a very competitive league. Every team is trying to do the best they can to win every week.”

What would we think if I asked my students if they cheated on an exam, and their response was: “I don’t believe so…but it’s a very competitive class. Every student is trying to score as high as they can on the exam.” That sounds like a combo of confessing, excuse-making (that everyone is trying to get an edge), and rationalizing.



The Staircase (Netflix)

Michael Peterson: Undecided, but lean towards guilty. Full disclosure: I didn’t watch the whole documentary, much less watch it closely. But I was struck by Ep10 when Peterson is released and visits the gravesite with (whom I think is) the daughter of his dead wife. 

She asks: “Did you plant the roses?”
Peterson: “No, I didn’t. No, no, no.” Then he audibly says “ow” because he pricked himself with a rose. Oddly awkward for what should be a powerful moment.

Then we see him give her a half embrace and walk away from the gravesite. Why is he the first to leave? Is he uncomfortable standing there? She’s still trying to have a powerful emotional moment.

Their conversation follows:
Her: “Ten years later.”
Peterson: “I know.”
Her: “Still hurts.”
Peterson: “It will always hurt. It will never go away. Ever. None of it ever goes away. You never forget it. Always pain, always pain.”
What a remarkable set of statements from Peterson. He’s trying to empathize with her pain but does not actually say anything about his own emotions (his statements about pain are abstract and could refer to her’s). His response is so removed that it’s almost clinical—and it includes the inconceivable assertion that “You never forget it.”
Is Peterson really informing an adult woman that she will never forget her mother’s shocking and unexpected death? Who would ever need to be told that?! Maybe Peterson’s actually speaking for himself: “You never forget it” when you’re the killer. “None of it ever goes away,” he says. It sounds like he wishes it would.



Amanda Knox (Netflix)

Amanda Knox: Innocent; Rudy Guede: Guilty.



A Murder in the Park (Netflix)

Anthony Porter: Guilty; Alstory Simon: Innocent.



The Murders at Starved Rock (HBO Max)

Chester Weger: Guilty. His previous crime — the rape of a girl when he was younger — is not a coincidence. He confessed to police and didn’t discount that confession right after because it was genuine. He knew about the airplane flying above the day of the murder, and he wrote a letter to his father that borders on confessional and is riddled with guilt. Even if he didn’t kill the victims himself, he was involved in the murders and is guilty for that reason.



Sophie: A Murder in West Cork (Netflix)

Ian Bailey: Guilty. He’s a great talker and was pretty convincing about his innocence early on, but ultimately too much evidence stacked up. Bailey had a bad cut on his head and scratches on his arms the morning after the murder, but not the day before; he admitted he was guilty to multiple townspeople; he abused his partner in brutal ways that is completely consistent with a crime of passion. And he knew about the murder before he was formally notified. Now he’s a pathetic old man who got away with it, but he’s all alone.