'Serial' podcast rivets nation as it revisits 15-year-old murder case

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By Scott Stump

An obscure 15-year-old murder case from Baltimore has suddenly become a national fixation thanks to a riveting podcast called "Serial," that tells the story of the case in weekly installments. 

The podcast, hosted by "This American Life'' producer Sarah Koenig, premiered on Oct. 3 and has ranked as the No. 1 podcast on iTunes since then, averaging 850,000 downloads per episode. "Serial'' tells the story of the murder of high school senior Hae Min Lee, 18, in 1999 and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, then-17-year-old honors student Adnan Syed, who was sentenced to life in prison. More about the case:

  • Lee vanished from Baltimore's Woodlawn High School on Jan. 13, 1999, and her body was found a month later in a shallow grave at a nearby park. 

  • Syed, a Pakistani Muslim, had a romance with Lee, a Korean, that they kept secret from their parents when the two were juniors at Woodlawn. He broke up with her about a month before her death, and he was ultimately tried as an adult and sentenced to life plus 30 years. 

  • The first episode of "Serial" reveals that a witness with an alibi potentially proving Syed's innocence was never contacted by Syed's lawyer, a detail that could prompt prosecutors to re-examine the case. 

  • Koenig decided to revisit the case after being contacted by a friend of Syed's, Washington, D.C., immigration attorney Rabia Chaudry, who has been arguing for 15 years that Syed has been wrongly convicted. Prosecutors have declined comment because of a pending appeal. 

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