If you listened to the first season of “Serial,” the wildly popular podcast that reexamined the evidence that Baltimore County teenager Adnan Syed killed his high school ex-girlfriend 17 years ago, you’ve likely been following the progression of Syed’s post-conviction hearing for a new trial over the past week.
Since Maryland court proceedings cannot be broadcast by the media or members of the public, many of those who couldn’t attend the hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court stayed up-to-date through social media updates posted by reporters (myself included), Syed’s supporters and interested observers — then put their own spin on the action.
The hearing, which lasted for five full days, spawned numerous hashtags on Twitter, many of which were employed by Syed supporters intent on lampooning the state’s case against granting him a new trial.
Chad Fitzgerald, an FBI special agent and cell tower expert who was one of the two witnesses called by the state during the hearing, was labeled #MadChad by some social media users after his “combative” responses during cross-examination by Syed’s defense team.
— Brendan M. Kenny (@KennyBrendan) February 8, 2016
The state’s other witness, a security guard named Steve who worked at the library where potential alibi witness Asia McClain said she saw Syed the day Hae Min Lee was killed, was referred to on Twitter at first as #UselessSteve, a reference to the library manager’s testimony about him.
But he soon became #UsefulSteve, according to Syed’s supporters. That’s because — after he was called to the stand by the state — Steve testified that he was not sure that he had not seen Syed in the library that day.
— Allie Van Dine (@allie_vandine) February 8, 2016
— Jorelyn (@javeriiax3) February 8, 2016
Defense attorney David Irwin, on the other hand, sparked the hashtag #Irwinning after his sharp exchanges with Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah during cross-examination. Irwin, an expert for Syed’s team, testified that Syed’s trial attorney was constitutionally deficient in her failure to investigate McClain as an alibi witness.
— Tara Davis (@mrstaradavis) February 8, 2016
Not all of the hashtags focused on witnesses, though. A significant chunk of the hearing was spent on the reliability of Syed’s cell phone records, including discussion of the “helicopter call” — an incoming call that registered at Dupont Circle Metro Station just 27 minutes after a call came in near Woodlawn. If the records were accurate, Syed’s attorneys asked, how could Syed have received calls in those two locations, less than half an hour apart — unless he had a helicopter?
Social media followers were wondering that, too, apparently.
— Angela Rydell (@angelarydell) February 6, 2016