What brings us together

Many of you who regularly read this blog know that I have become very passionate about justice. It began by listening to the Serial podcast, which I've referred to many times, and then by reading several non-fiction books about the American prison system. I also joined the rest of the world in binge-watching Making a Murderer on Netflix. I'm guessing that since the concept of "vigilante justice" has exploded recently, and because amazing people like Bob Ruff (who did a follow-up podcast to Serial) have quit their jobs to dedicate their lives to getting innocent people out of prison, this whole thing about average citizens standing up to protest the fact that people just like them have had their futures ripped out of their hands is going to be around for a while.

I followed Adnan Syed's (the subject of the Serial podcast and, I believe, an innocent man who's been in prison for 17 years for the murder of his ex girlfriend) post conviction relief hearing a couple of weeks ago. Or, followed it as much as can be expected through social media and podcasts, which it turns out is quite a lot. It was amazing to feel like I was a part of something, a part of history being made. I really do think that five to ten years from now, this is going to be one of those historical cases that lawyers and cops refer back to as a warning sign:

This is what happens when false confessions are coerced. This is what happens when a girl's murderer is allowed to roam free unpunished for 17 years. This is what happens when you make snap judgments and commit to them rather than admitting you might be wrong.

But the really amazing thing to me is, this case has brought people together all over the world. A podcast, produced by This American Life as a spinoff, has had multiple millions of downloads, achieved worldwide fame for its producer, and was even quoted as evidence in Adnan's recent hearing.

Of course, there are still people who think he's guilty. There will probably always be those people. But after taking the State's case apart piece by piece and establishing several other better suspects, follow-up podcasts like Undisclosed and Truth and Justice have made it pretty hard for anyone to have much of a case against Adnan. And they'd definitively proven that there was police and prosecutorial misconduct.

What brings us together in a case like this is our sense of justice. Our sense of fairness. Humans are designed to detect unfairness and respond to it. Even animals can do that. If you'd like a laugh (and a stunning example), check out this video:

But this really is amazing to me, and it's part of what makes me so passionate to continue studying our justice system and the ways we can improve. Because the way injustice and unfairness bring us together is amazing. As Bob Ruff pointed out on his podcast, people have come together around Adnan's case that are from all races, religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, languages, and countries. All the things that would normally divide or separate us don't matter when it comes to fighting injustice.

I think that's a beautiful thing. I think we ought to come together more for a common cause rather than being so divided and quibbling over small things that really don't matter. It's part of why I've tried (tried) to stop posting controversial things on Facebook.

I hope you're on this journey too, fighting for justice for Adnan Syed or Kenny Snow or Brendan Dassey or Kerry Max Cook or one of the estimated hundreds of thousands of innocent men and women who are behind bars in the US right now. Even if it means all you do is listen to a podcast, maybe give a little money now and then, and spread awareness that this is an issue. This could genuinely happen to you or me.

If a 17-year-old kid could get dragged out of his bed early in the morning and brought to prison, interrogated for hours about the murder of a girl he's still mourning without being allowed to have a lawyer in the room and still not say anything that could be used against him, and then be arrested and charged anyway -- this could happen to anyone.

I'm believing for a just verdict for Adnan. After nearly 20 years, he deserves it.