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‘Serial’ podcast case witness Jay Wilds breaks silence

Wilds says mistrust of police caused him to change his story at trial of Adnan Syed

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Jay Wilds, a key witness at the murder trial that formed the basis of hit podcast ‘Serial’, has given his first press interview.

‘Serial’ has become a much-talked about podcast after investigating the conviction of 17-year-old high-school student Adnan Syed, who was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, 18, in Baltimore in 1999. Wilds, a classmate of Syed and Lee at Woodlawn High School, was a key prosecution witness at Syed’s trial.

Wilds refused to talk to journalist Sarah Koenig, the investigative journalist who wrote and presented the 12-part‘Serial’. But he has now given his first interview, to online magazine The Intercept.

***SPOILER ALERT*** The remainder of this article gives spoilers to the case investigated by ‘Serial’

Wilds maintains in the interview that Syed confessed to Lee’s murder, and that he showed Wilds her body on the day of the killing. “I saw her body in front of my grandmother’s house, where I was living,” said Wilds. “I didn’t tell the cops it was in front of my house, because I didn’t want to involve my grandmother.”

Wilds said that he didn’t want to come forward as a witness, because he was scared that he would be arrested for drug dealing. He admits he dealt drugs at Woodlawn High School. Wilds said: “At the time, the drug laws were extremely serious. I saw guys taken down in my neighbourhood for selling much less than I was. They were getting three-to-five-year jail sentences.” Wilds claimed that Syed blackmailed him over his drug dealing to stop Wilds going to police. Wilds said: “Adnan said: ‘You’ve got to help me, or I’m going to tell the cops about you and the weed and all that shit.’”

Syed was tried twice for Lee’s murder, and was found guilty in 2000. Wilds changed his story over the course of the trials, but told The Intercept this was because he didn’t trust the judicial system. Wilds said: “It wasn’t until the police told me they weren’t interested in my procurement of pot that I began to open up any. And then I would only give them information pertaining to my interaction with someone or where I was. They had to chase me around before they could corner me to talk to me, and there came a point where I was just sick of talking to them. And they wouldn’t stop interviewing me or questioning me. I guess I was being a jury on whether or not people needed to be involved, but these people didn’t have anything to do with it. That’s the best way I can account for the inconsistencies.”

At the end of Koenig’s investigation, in the final part of ‘Serial’, it remains unclear whether Syed is guilty of Lee’s murder. DNA evidence that wasn’t tested before Syed’s trial is now being investigated, and Koenig named the now-deceased local serial killer Ronald Moore as a possible new suspect.

But Wilds said: “I don’t necessarily know if Adnan meant to kill Hae before he did it, or if it was a sudden moment thing, but looking at his life, from what I saw, he seemed to be far out of his realm when it came to Hae leaving him.”

The interview doesn’t explain why Wilds refused to talk to Sarah Koenig in ‘Serial’. But in a recent Facebook post which he subsequently deleted, Wilds said: “I want to out this so-called reporter for who she truly is."

Syed has maintained his innocence throughout his time in prison. The Maryland Court Of Special appeals will rule in January whether Syed received ineffective counsel from his lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez.

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