Like many others, I followed the podcast Serial—at least for a time. While I don’t have anything particularly valuable or interesting to say on it—opinion pieces have abounded, and it always seemed to me that it was pretty ho-hum and obvious Adnan Syed was likely guilty—fortunately law professor Janeanne Murray does:
Had Mr. Syed, then 18, plea-bargained in what his prosecutor recently described as a “run-of-the-mill domestic violence murder,” he might have been able to earn his freedom by age 40.
It is noteworthy that a court is currently considering whether Mr. Syed’s counsel gave him substandard legal assistance when she failed to explore the option of a guilty plea. Mr. Syed claims that he twice asked his lawyer to seek an offer from the prosecutor, but she told him none was forthcoming. The prosecutor states that she made no such request. Mr. Syed’s attorney died in 2004, three years after being disbarred, before she could address this claim.
Murray’s argument is for a more transparent and reformed system of plea-bargaining. While no expert in criminal law, I’m not sure I’m convinced by all of her arguments, but they certainly bring up some interesting issues—especially the proposal by Judge Rakoff.