Two weeks ago, a judge announced that Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of Serial, will have his case retried. It seems like there were a lot of errors made in the original case, so that's probably a good thing. But what's troubling is that he's getting the retrial because of the show. Syed's current defense attorney said that because of Serial, he "had thousands of investigators working for me, and that produced information we otherwise would not have had, and that helped us get to where we are right now."
KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock
"Let's make this one quick. I have a Division raid at 4."
Serial's first season was a tantalizing cocktail for listeners, hitting all the pleasure centers of the public consciousness at the the time. It had a gruesome crime, racial conflict in a big city, and the '90s (gag me with a spoon!). It also aired not long after the finale of How I Met Your Mother left a fan-theory-shaped hole in Reddit. If a few superficial factors had been different, this case might not have taken off the way it did and Syed very well might not be getting another chance.
It's easy to see the upside of the retrial: A potentially innocent man may go free. The downside is less visible but no less important: Because we have limited resources, Syed getting a new trial means someone else's case won't get the attention it would have otherwise. The deciding factor between two appeals shouldn't be whose story was more gripping to wannabe Nancy Drews.
The hierarchy of courts shouldn't be District Court -> Courts of Appeal -> Supreme Court -> podcasts and Netflix documentaries.