Late at night, a teenage driver is involved in a single car accident. His vehicle swerves across the central reservation and, miraculously, across two lanes of oncoming traffic without hitting anything until it comes to a stop in trees by the side of the road.
Onlookers rush to help. Taking instruction from the 911 operator, they check his breathing and look for injuries, assisting until the ambulance arrives. It’s clear that the young man has a serious head injury and doctors refer him for a CAT scan to check the damage.
When the CAT scan comes back, they show a bullet lodged in Isaac Dawkin’s brain.
All too soon, the young man succumbs to his injuries, and the accident investigation becomes a murder enquiry. When questioned the victim’s family tell of a popular young man, a medical intern at the hospital that he passed away in, with no enemies in the world – except one. The name of “Joey Watkins” enters the investigation for the first time.
There’s no evidence against Watkins, and guilt seems to be largely driven by anecdotal support, principally the story of how Watkins has already shot at Isaac before. That story is well-known around the town of Rome, Georgia, but the problem is that there’s no evidence that a shooting even took place, let alone that Watkins was involved. In fact, a judge has already seen evidence proving that Watkins was over 300 miles away in Panama City, and said that there was no case against Watkins in that respect. So why were people still treating the story as “evidence” that Watkins was behind the murder of Isaac Dawkins?
That then is the set-up for the second season of the very popular “Undisclosed: The State versus Adnan Syed” podcast, which aired this week. Late in the first season, the team behind Undisclosed announced that they were going to take on a new case. Watkins’ case was brought to their attention by the Georgia Innocence project in the US, and we know from the first episode that Susan Simpson from the Undisclosed team has a connection to the area, but we don’t know what that is yet.
For those who have been with Undisclosed since the beginning, you will remember the slightly patchy quality of the early shows, the hesitancy of the presenters and the realisation that their skills as presenters and their skills as lawyers were at opposite ends of the continuum. For me, I realised that they meant business once I realised how thoroughly they researched and debunked the notion that Hae was heading for a wrestling match after school. They showed me the facts, and I was convinced; and then they showed they had more facts, and then more, and by the end it felt like they were running after me to keep telling me more facts to prove their case.
However, as season one progressed and Rabia, Susan and Colin’s individual personalities came through (and they received professional audio assistance), each episode became exponentially better. By the end, when we were having the daily updates from Adnan’s PCR, it was terrific to listen to Susan’s breathless, excited improvisation counterpointed by Colin’s calm detachment (I imagine Colin is like Giles in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’; I can imagine Susan and Rabia having bets about how long it takes Colin to say, “I must consult my books” in any given situation).
You can listen to “Undisclosed” via any any good podcast player, click on the player below, or stream it from their website at http://undisclosed-podcast.com/episodes/season-2/the-panama-city-incident.html (PS If you are a podcast fanatic, it’s worth checking out the “Pocket Casts” app, which I use all the time. Apart from having an excellent app for Android, iOS and Windows, it synchronises with the Pocket Casts website. I can listen to an app on my morning commute, then pick it up where I left off on my laptop in the office. Take a look at http://www.shiftyjelly.com/pocketcasts).
In terms of Adnan’s case, Judge Welch came back with a ruling in his favour following the Post Conviction Relief hearing. He ruled that the State’s cell tower evidence was flawed, and this rendered the conviction unsafe. As was said by the State themselves during the second trial, the evidence provided by Jay Wilds was flimsy and inconsistent, but when supported by the evidence provided by the cell tower pings, they provided a coherent narrative and proof of Syed’s guilt. Take away the cell tower evidence, and the State are left with just the many iterations of Jay’s story.
Did we mention that there was friend called Jay in the Watkins case too?