Call me old-fashioned but I just found out that Serial has a sister named Undisclosed. If you haven’t listened to both of these podcasts you need to stop right now and set aside approximately 36 hours to do so. I started Serial at noon on a cold March day a couple years ago and I sat on my couch for 12 hours straight listening to the podcast on my laptop. I just sat there and stared and thought about Adnan and the story in which he was unfortunately the lead. Fast forward two years and here I am, in the midst of prepping for potentially the biggest set of exams I would have to write and I can’t stop listening to Undisclosed. Serial made me think, but Undisclosed REALLY makes me think. It makes me question everything I hear, it makes me think about the work-around for every problem and it makes me think that all police are corrupt AF and have ulterior motives.
Of course there are many differences between Undisclosed and the criminal law that we study because all of its content is from American. However, there are some characteristics that clearly overlap. For instance, the blatant racism that was used by the prosecution against Adnan was overwhelming. Beyond mere similarities, the theme that I took home from listening to undisclosed was this: it is extremely dangerous to have an unfaltering judgment about someone or something and then allow that judgment to diminish the value of all other evidence. This is not unique to Undisclosed, any lawyer, police officer, department, jurisdiction or even country. Professor Graham alerted his Ethics class to this attribute, not unique to lawyers but certainly prolific in our profession. He said the trait that unites almost all of us is that we get so behind our case that we start to believe it. I think this is a fantastic trait but I also think that it is important to be aware of it. Imagine if the police officers or prosecution in Adnan’s case were open to listening to evidence that contradicted their case. I’m not saying that it would have cast 100% doubt on their case for Adnan, but I think that looking back, they would not have such a shoddy case had they looked another way.
We are taught to do this in school. Look to the counter argument, make an argument against it and then conclude. The problem with the school version of this is that it is not real life with real consequences (other than grades L ). The other problem with this is that we are looking for the counter argument just to shut it down. We are not necessarily looking to the counter argument to find some truth in it, and I think this is where it goes wrong in the real world.
In Adnan’s case, if the prosecution and the police officers had considered counter-evidence not just so they could hide it from the defense, but so that they could look into it and then decide whether it was relevant or not, they would have had a stronger case (whether or not it was for Adnan, I do not know). Not only this, but they would have actually provided their function – to find justice for Hae Min Lee.
It is really hard to be self-aware when all you can see are green lights pointing in a particular direction. But, every once in a while it is really valuable to look down the side streets, not just to peer down them but just in case you need to take a detour.
Listen to the podcast here, and image courtesy of: http://undisclosed-podcast.com/episodes/season-1/