Serial may have moved on to a new season, but here at Refinery29, we're still stuck on the inaugural case and haven't given up on the idea that Adnan Syed might be granted a retrial. (That's not, by the way, the same thing as saying we think he's innocent of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee — far from it. We're just as torn about the whole conviction as millions of other listeners. But with that said: We think he deserves a fair trial, which he definitely did not get the first time around.) So, of course, when we heard that Asia McClain — now Asia McClain Chapman — had a book coming out, we were immediately intrigued. As one of the cases' more prominent alibi witnesses, we were enthralled by her conversations with Sarah Koenig. And her testimony at Syed's post-conviction hearing in February of 2016? We were listening then, too. Her book, Confessions of a Serial Alibi, encompasses both her memory of a tragic event, as well as the way that she's come to view the tragedy through the lens of the present. We got an exclusive excerpt, which you'll find below, along with McClain's two letters to Syed.
I guess now is as good as any time to start setting the record straight. I sometimes have a problem with the word “friends.” Sometimes, I refer to people as friends who are mere acquaintances. Never really thought about it as a problem until this case. I suppose one does not truly consider many things about oneself until being examined by millions of people all over the world. Simply put, I wasn’t an especially close friend of Hae and Adnan’s. We weren’t truly friends at all. The three of us were friendly towards one another and we did speak on occasion, but that was it. Adnan was friends with many of my high school buddies at the time of our senior year. One of my closest friends to this day was Adnan’s football captain back in our senior year of high school. My good friend and eleventh grade ex-boyfriend Justin was a close friend of Adnan’s before all this happened. To put things into perspective, Justin and Adnan lived in the same neighborhood and had many of the same friends. Justin’s family was very close to Stephanie’s (Jay’s girlfriend) family, and Stephanie was very close to Adnan. Similar to Adnan, Hae was friends with a number of my high school friends.
To this day, I just can’t imagine a scenario in which an athlete like Hae didn’t fight for her life.
Asia McClain Chapman
Both Hae and I were fairly popular in high school, as were most athletes, therefore many of our various teammates were often the same people. In addition, over the four years that I had spent at Woodlawn, I had several brief encounters with Hae and Adnan alike. Now let me just say this: from what I knew about Hae Min Lee, she was no wimp. She was headstrong but gracious when she needed to be. By many accounts, Woodlawn High School was pretty rough and Hae’s ability to flourish within the student body population was not by happenstance. Although she was from an immigrant family, Hae was very Americanized. She had plenty of people she called friends and a healthy teenage social life. From what I recall Hae was also a pretty resilient athlete, playing both girls’ field hockey and lacrosse. By no means was she weak, easily manipulated, bullied or unconfident about herself... To this day, I just can’t imagine a scenario in which an athlete like Hae (with that kind of endurance and fearlessness) didn’t fight for her life. In my opinion there had to have been two assailants or some circumstances that impaired her greatly in order for her to have been strangled to death. Perhaps someone held her down while another person choked her. Or perhaps there was only one assailant and that person simply choked her while she was already unconscious. Lord knows, that’s the only way I would have gone out. Even us Baltimore County kids are still Baltimore kids. We know how to protect ourselves. We’re pretty scrappy, if I say so myself. Below is the second letter that McClain sent to Adnan Syed, written on March 2, 1999.