News & Politics

One Lawyer’s Trip Down the "Serial" Rabbit Hole

Susan Simpson has unearthed inaccuracies and theories in the viral mystery.


Susan Simpson often gets bogged down in the stories she finds interesting. When intrigued, the DC attorney says, she will readily dive into “the weeds” or “go down the rabbit hole.”

Her latest fixation? Just what happened to Hae Min Lee, and how messy was Maryland’s investigation of her murder. According to Simpson, the prosecution made a lot of missteps. “It’s … the lack of investigation that’s the most glaring, because they never looked at anyone else, they never tried to look at anyone else,” she says. “They thought from the very beginning, the Muslim dude did it, let’s look at him.”

Simpson blogs at The View from LL2, and since the podcast Serial ended this winter she’s dug up bits of new information and argued several theories about the murder and the case. Her detailed pick-throughs of case documents have gained her fans—and enemies—as she’s grown more vocal about her belief in Adnan Syed’s innocence. “Everywhere you look there’s something wrong, there’s something that needs to be explored more,” Simpson says. “This wasn’t an average case.”

From her Kalorama apartment, Simpson scours the internet for public information. She also occasionally receives transcripts and legal documents from the trove of Rabia Chaudry, who first contacted Serial host Sarah Koenig. Recently, the journalist returned the files she used for the show to Syed’s parents; Chaudry then forwarded Simpson electronic versions of some of those Maryland Public Information Act papers. “I do have an unfair advantage in that respect,” Simpson says. “Those are not all publicly available yet.”

And they won’t surface all at once. “When [Chaudry] lets me have the documents its on the condition that I don’t pass them out to everyone, because she wants to keep attention alive in the case,” Simpson says. “The best way for her to do that is to maintain the Serial format, which is periodic releases of information and keeping the public waiting for the next installment.”

Still, Simpson spends about 15 hours blogging every weekend and expects to continue releasing files. So far, she’s exhaustively identified problems with the state’s reliance on phone records, its burial timeline, and their lack of attempts to pursue other suspects. “The records were designed to look like they are straightforward and look like they have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But once you start getting into it, there are holes.”

Within her posts, Simpson incorporates copies of the documents, allowing readers to follow along with her attempts to unravel the prosecution’s case.

As a lawyer, Simpson’s angle on the case is different from Koenig’s. Clearly a fan of the podcast, she says the host “gracefully” handled the story’s lack of a “perfect fiction ending”—but Simpson is focused more on the investigation than the narrative. “I’ve started to think that they probably didn’t have an attorney on staff and I think that would have helped,” Simpson says. “There’s a few issues that would have been noticed a lot sooner if there had been an attorney following along with them.”

Take the phone records. Two calls that allegedly located Syed in Leakin Park at the time of Lee’s burial were a key element to the prosecution’s case against him. “When AT&T sent the detectives the phone records for Adnan’s cell phone, on the front page it says ‘Location data is only reliable for outgoing calls. Location data is NOT reliable for incoming calls,” Simpson says. “The two calls that were allegedly received while in Leakin Park were both incoming calls. If those were not reliable for location, then there is no case. It’s game over. [Syed’s attorney Cristina] Gutierrez missed it … and the Serial team missed it.”

Discoveries like these have kept both Simpson and her readers riveted on the case that she says has no dead-ends, a story she thinks she’ll be able to write about as long as the case is active and receiving attention—if the weather doesn’t get in the way.

“This weekend, if it’s warm, I’ll be out fishing,” Simpson says.

But with the weather forecast looking chilly, Simpson says an upcoming post might look at Jen Pusateri and her confusing testimony. “She’s hard to follow. … I don’t think she was involved in the murder. She’s obviously lying about a lot. She’s definitely trying to cover for Jay.”