David Zurawik

Adnan Syed's story, as told by friend and advocate Rabia Chaudry

In late June, Rabia Chaudry was balanced on the brink between success and failure.

She'd been fighting to free her friend, Adnan Syed, from prison since 1999. It's a battle that consumed Chaudry's life and has informed every aspect of who she is today. Seventeen years of ceaseless efforts against seemingly insurmountable odds were coming down to a decision that would be made by a retired jurist who had ruled against Syed many times in the past.


On June 30, Judge Martin Welch vacated Syed's conviction for murdering his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and ordered that he receive a new trial.

"I felt the most overwhelming relief imaginable," Chaudry, 42, says.


"I was sobbing and hysterical. It took me the rest of the day to become rational. We'd worked for this for so long, and I was terrified this was our last chance. If the judge had ruled differently, there would have been nothing else we could do."

Chaudry's ups and downs are detailed in her new book, "Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After 'Serial,'" which is being released Tuesday. (Though the book went to press before Welch's ruling, it's been updated with a letter from the author.)

It's not that Chaudry plans to stop striving to free Syed, whose case is far from over. (Prosecutors have appealed Judge Welch's ruling.) She says she will continue to advocate tirelessly on his behalf. But Chaudry realized that her friend once again had a voice and could fight for himself.

"I feel unburdened," she says.

"It's like, 'OK, Adnan, we got you a new trial and you have amazing attorneys. You're in good hands, now.'"

The 410-page tome is actually a slimmed-down version of the original manuscript.

"This is the book after it's been edited," Chaudry says. "I wrote over 800 pages — though to be fair, 150 of them were documents."

Fans of "Serial," the blockbuster podcast from the creators of "This American Life," will find that Chaudry disagrees on key points with Sarah Koenig, the former Baltimore Sun reporter who is the podcast's host and executive producer.


For example, in the podcast, Koenig changes her mind back and forth about Syed's culpability as each new pieces of evidence emerges. (She could not be reached immediately for comment.)

But Chaudry never doubted for even a single second the man she describes as being "like a little brother" to her.

"At no point in my mind or my heart have I ever considered that Adnan might be guilty," she says. In the first few days after Syed was arrested, her faith was based on knowledge of his character. But the more she delved into the state's case, the more glaring the flaws became.

"Adnan was just clueless," she says. "He was helping the police investigation. He had no idea that he was under suspicion."

She believes that Syed's Muslim heritage blinded police and prosecutors to the holes in their investigation — a point driven home for her by a pretrial memo speculating that Hae's death was an "honor killing."

The couple had broken up a short time before the teen was killed, and Syed was aware that Hae was dating another man.


"The state framed an argument based on absolutely no evidence that Adnan's honor had been besmirched," Chaudry says.

"They weren't able to find evidence that Adnan was a violent boyfriend or that he had a history of being abusive, so they had to plug in his religion as a substitute. They had to demonize an entire community by arguing that because Adnan is Muslim, he had the potential to do this."

It's clear from the book that Chaudry has mixed feelings about "Serial."

"Sarah and her team created something amazing and beautiful and compelling," Chaudry says. "The podcast brought Adnan's case to light. Without it, he would never have gotten a new trial. We can never thank her enough.

"But the story that 'Serial' tells is incomplete. Sarah and her team were not investigators. There are things they either missed or didn't look at or left out of the podcast."

For instance, Chaudry remembers a conversation in which Koenig described police and prosecutors as "stand-up guys" who were working hard to bring a murderer to justice. But Chaudry sees them very differently.


Her book hypothesizes that police and prosecutors might have coached witnesses on their testimony and altered physical evidence, though she appears to stop just short of accusing individuals of professional malfeasance. (The author is herself a lawyer, and she says her manuscript was scrutinized by her publisher's attorneys before it was approved for release.)

"In the book, I point out all these dots," she says, "and readers can connect them if they want to."

Why would police go to the trouble of framing an innocent man if they thought the real killer was still at large?

"I think they really did believe that Adnan did it," Chaudry says. "They just didn't care how they made their case. But you can't just go with your gut instinct. That's why we have laws in place."

Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said it would be inappropriate to discuss Chaudry's suspicions because Syed's case is still active. The Maryland attorney general's office did not respond to a request for comment.

"Adnan's Story" comes close to naming a new suspect in the slaying — though that person is not Jay Wilds, Syed's former friend and the chief prosecution witness. The more Chaudry took apart the prosecution's case, she says, the more she was pointed in a different direction.


"For 15 years, I thought Jay killed Hae," Chaudry says. "How much wronger can you get?"

Though Chaudry is careful to avoid making explicit accusations, readers will have no trouble following her train of thought.

"I can't say that [the person she has has in mind] did it," she says. "I can just say that I have qualms that he was not investigated properly.

"There are other suspects, and sometimes even people who are innocent can act in a very odd and guilty manner.

"But if I was investigating Hae's murder, that's where I'd start."


About the book

"Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After 'Serial' " will be released Tuesday by St. Martin's Press. 416 pages, $29.99

If you go

Rabia Chaudry will read from her book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Barnes & Noble Power Plant, 601 E. Pratt St. Free. Call 410-385-1709 or go to She'll also appear at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at the University of Maryland School of Law's Westminster Hall, 519 W. Fayette St. Free. Go to or call 410-377-2966.