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Spokane woman who provided alibi in murder case profiled in ‘Serial’ podcast dismayed by Supreme Court ruling

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 26, 2019

Asia McLain Chapman (Courtesy photo)
Asia McLain Chapman (Courtesy photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a new trial for Adnan Syed, who was convicted in 2000 of the strangling death of a high school classmate in Baltimore County, Maryland.

The case with a Spokane twist drew national attention when it became the subject of a “Serial” podcast, and expanded to larger issues of criminal justice reform. A critical piece of the 2014 “This American Life” podcast was an alibi provided by Asia McClain Chapman, a Spokane resident.

In the 2016 book “Confessions of a Serial Alibi,” McClain Chapman detailed her impressions of the case as well as the personal upheaval caused by the attention.

In her book, she wrote, “From the very beginning I told Adnan I hoped he appreciated me coming forward, because I would ‘really rather not be a part of this.’ I still feel the same way but more so in terms of our criminal justice system.”

After the Supreme Court’s decision Monday, McClain Chapman expressed disappointment and frustration on Twitter.

“Time marches on and #BabyEthanbbe keeps growing,” McClain Chapman tweeted, referring to her son. “Meanwhile my classmate STILL hasn’t received a fair retrial. How old will he be when this is all over?”

In addition to penning her experience, McClain Chapman participated in a 2019 HBO documentary, “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”

Syed has been serving a life sentence since his 2000 conviction. The argument made by Syed’s lawyers was that his original lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, had failed to contact an alibi witness, which violated his right to competent legal representation. McClain Chapman – who said she saw Syed at the library during the timeline he was supposed to have killed his ex-girlfriend, 17-year-old Hae Min Lee – is that witness.

In her book, McClain Chapman vividly recalls Jan. 13, 1999, the day Syed was said to have killed Min Lee. Because she had finished all high school credits, she was allowed to leave school campus for part of the day to work a part-time job, McClain Chapman wrote. Though the job ended, McClain Chapman continued to leave campus, and she was assisted through rides from her then-boyfriend, Derrick. Because Derrick was late on the 13th, McClain Chapman ended up having a conversation with Syed in the library that day.

“Understandably, I had been watching the library’s main entrance like a hawk, hoping to see Derrick walk in,” McClain Chapman wrote. “When that didn’t happen, I was pretty happy to see Adnan’s familiar face as a consolation prize.”

In her book, McClain Chapman also addressed the accusations that she had made up this occurrence because she harbored feelings for Syed.

“At first I just laughed and laughed at the idea – as if I’m some weird Charles Manson-type girlfriend pining for Adnan over the course of sixteen-plus years,” McClain Chapman wrote. “As if I’m only married with children to pass the time until I can be with Adnan again. I initially thought the idea was a joke, but then I began to realize that some of these people on the Internet were actually serious.”

Her book also covers how her life has changed since the “Serial” podcast became so widespread in the public eye.

“It’s bizarre to be internationally known for telling the truth,” McClain Chapman wrote. “It’s bizarre to have to scrub your personal contact information from the Internet every other week. It’s bizarre not to know if some paparazzi person is going to jump out of your bushes and try to snap a current photo of you.”

In her book’s conclusion, McClain Chapman wrote that she looks forward to the day when the case can be considered settled. Since Syed’s defense attorney, C. Justin Brown, responded to the Supreme Court decision by promising to continue pursuing justice for Syed, it is clear that day is not today.

“Adnan aside, how do we not let this ruling ruin the lives of so many people going forward?” McClain Chapman tweeted Monday. “Our system is broken & corrupt. So many people are suffering, so that a few may prosper in excess.”

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