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Sitting With Adnan

By Justin Brown 5 years ago46 Comments

I recently spent the better part of five days sitting next to Adnan Syed. I had known him for about seven years, but this was the most time we had ever spent together.

He was shackled in a four-point restraint so he could barely move. It must have been very uncomfortable. If it had been me, my legs and back would have cramped. Adnan insisted he was fine, and in the course of five days he never complained.

At one point I asked him if he wanted the restraints off. He said no. I took his word for it and understood that he did not want to make a fuss. A day later my partner asked the same question, got the same answer. My partner did not understand. I told him this is Adnan.

His guards liked him. I could tell. You cannot help but like him – and the guards are no different than you or I. Respect is met with respect. Maybe this is something he learned over time, starting when he was stolen from his home in the middle of the night. Maybe this is something that he was born with.

When the alibi witness took the stand, and he heard the truth in her voice, his eyes welled up. I did not need to ask him why. This was something he had waited 17 years to hear.

A few times he looked back to find his family and friends, most importantly, his mother. He did so infrequently. This part was hard for him, I am sure. But the court has rules; you’re not supposed to look back.

There were some difficult times during the hearing. Things were said that we both knew to be untrue. This was expected. These were moments that put extraordinary pressure on me. I had to stand up and speak for this man, to explain that is was all wrong.

There were also some wonderful moments: when truth was revealed from an unexpected source; when deceit was exposed for what it was; when useless became useful. A couple times, as hope became palpable in the courtroom, I caught Adnan smiling.

We chatted during the breaks. He asked about my wife and kids. They are people he has never met. I could not help but imagine what it will be like some day when he visits my home.

  Bureau of PrisonsMaryland Criminal DefensePost Conviction & 2255Syed

 Justin Brown

  (40 articles)


  • Lagertha says:

    I got teary eyed when reading, your loyalty to your client is admirable and heartwarming. We all #FeeltheBrown..

    • Jas says:

      Justin Brown, you are a class act and an exemplary example to your profession! With Adnan’s courage and humility along with you and your team’s inexhaustible support you will see this to the light of freedom. Blessings to you all. 🙂

  • Regina Lee says:

    Dear Justin, like I have tweeted to Rabia, I am not religious myself, but I have full faith that you are doing God’s work. And you’re doing it well. All best wishes to #TeamAdnan. Cheering you on from Los Angeles.

  • Leslie Hix says:

    This piece was well and thoughtfully written. I am so amazed that Adnan has maintained his kind and caring demeanor in spite of what has occurred in his life. I’m not sure I could do as well. I can imagine the feeling of relief and satisfaction when he heard Asia’s testimony. My prayer, and I know the prayers of so many, is that justice will be done for both Adnan and Hae, and that both families will find lasting peace in that justice.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I, like so many others, became enthralled with Adnan’s case listening to Serial. I had a feeling that Adnan was innocent from the very beginning. I had questions though and I was unsure. My main reasoning for Adnan’s innocence was that this man is either a completely psychopathic person, manipulating his own family and friends and living a complete lie before and since Jan 13, 1999 or he is truly what his friends and families, the ones closest to him, believe he is. Adnan’s case has tested my faith in humanity. Can a person hold a secret like this from everyone he’s ever met, besides one person (Jay) or would that destroy a person from the inside out? I did not want to believe that Adnan was manipulating everyone around him as a part of a grand and far-reaching conspiracy. So I dug deep into the case through Reddit, Undisclosed, and Truth & Justice. I’m a graphic designer from Cincinnati and I’ve found myself poring over legal documents and learning about the justice system in a way I never have before. I, of course, follow Adnan’s recent hearing as closely as I could through Twitter and Reddit. I believe in Adnan’s innocence and I believe in you and the team fighting for his freedom. I simply believe that Adnan’s innocence is the most logical conclusion when stripping away everything but the facts of the case and that has proven by Colin, Susan, and Rabia. Thiru has mentioned several times in and out of court that he hopes to restore faith in the system. I’m not one of those people that believe Adnan is probably guilty but still deserves another trial and I’ve always been confused by that logic. I believe an innocent person is behind bars and Hae’s true killer must be found. That, to me, is what restoration in our justic system looks like in Adnan’s case. I believe in the truth and the truth will always set you free.

  • Mike says:

    Thank you Justin! Good luck and hopefully you more than earned the new trial for Adnan.

  • Corey Bishop says:

    Thank you for all the work you are doing. Thank you for this beautiful, humanizing post that reminds us that he is more than just a podcast, certainly more than just an inmate. I hope he meets your family. Soon

  • Melissa Luttrell says:

    Wonderful! Thank you.

  • Liz says:

    Wonderful post.

  • J says:

    Well done, Mr. Brown. Well done.

  • lucie livolsi-duran says:

    I have tears in my eyes and I am so glad that you can understand and feel kindness and truth in Adnan!
    Thank you!

  • Jann Schott says:

    What a wonderful insight to someone who deserves to be OUT of prison for good, as soon as possible. Thank you for sharing it.

  • DANIEEL says:


  • Bruce Asam says:

    Everyone who meets Adnan supports this view of his humanity. He must receive Justice. The whole world is watching Baltimore to see what it’s got.

  • Darla Elenbaas says:

    Thank you for this beautiful picture. Hardly anyone talks about him in this way and it is a nice way to picture him instead of just being a prisoner and just sitting in chains.

  • Sue says:

    Justin, thank you for this. My heart breaks for Adnan and his family for the life he has lost. But I know that with wonderful friends like you, Rabia, Susan, Colin and Bob fighting his cause, and with truth on his side, this wonderful young man will one day soon be home with his family.

  • Karen Widner says:

    Thank you, Mr Brown for such a poignant piece. I wont call it an article, it was too beautiful. This is such precious information for those of us who started this journey, short as it is compaired to yours and his 17 years, with Serial’s first episode. The best part, of course, has been with Rabia, Susan, Collin and Bob and now getting an inkling into you. The ups and downs and victories and set backs of this journey has shown how people that didnt know each other inthe beginning can team up and with incredible passion become a fource to bring, literally, the world together in this fight for Adnan. Ive read every report, article, clip etc i can find about the case and Adnan, this by far has been the most touching, yep I was sprouting tears all the way. Thank you again for your dedication, passion, compassion and just being a great human being,
    Karen Widner

  • Seher says:

    This post makes and smile and cry. You are right. You cannot help but like him. This could be anyone’s 17 year old that day. And the fact that his family has been so helpless or that he has been paying for something he never did for more than half his life gives me the chills and I pray and hope and wish that he finds justice and Hae finds justice and their families find peace. Your passion and solidarity with your r client and belief in his innocence and the will to fight for it is commendable. You have fans all around the world. Cannot wait for the day you help Adnan be a free man.

    Utmost respect and admiration,
    An American in France

  • JoAnn Stringer says:

    Simply beautiful. Thank you.

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for showing us Adnan. You showed that he is a real person who’s life is worth fighting for.
    This is not just some miniseries that will fade.
    Hae was a real and vibrant young woman as well. Justice has not been served for either of these fine people.
    Justice has turned into a game of wins and losses for attorneys, law enforcement, and court systems. Damn be the innocent damn be the victim, and damn be justice for all.

  • PatrickB says:

    Thank you CJB for helping to reaffirm Adnan’s humanity. In the course of all the hubbub: Serial, Undisclosed, T&J, Reddit postings, etc. Adnan and his case have become symbols for something. Whether it’s an idea or a cause, whether it’s advocacy or entertainment, Adnan’s life has become something less lived than talked about.
    Last year Bob Ruff included interviews with some of the people mentioned in Serial in his Podcast. It changed everything for me: to actually hear the voices of Krista, Debbie, Neighbor Boy- it added a human dimension to this story that has been missing from all the banter. It reminded me that these were just kids in Baltimore: trying to live through tragic and disturbing circumstances.
    I do believe that someday the whole story of what happened that day will come out. Until then, I hope Adnan and his family know that his story has affected and will continue to affect the many well-wishers who follow it.

  • Morgan says:

    We need more people like Adnan in the world. After losing so much, he is still willing to put others before himself. That is a testament to his selfless and humble character. He is lucky to receive so much love and support from so many. Though this time surrounding the hearing has been intense to say the least, you and the rest of his team have been a constant light of hope. The work you are doing for this man is incredible. I, like so many are praying, watching and waiting for the day Adnan can be reunited with his family and begin anew. Thank you Justin for such a touching peice. Sending you and yours hugs and prayers from Atlanta, Georgia. Morgan Hutchinson

  • Mamun says:

    thank you!

  • Heather Gomes says:

    Thank you, Justin, for your hard work, dedication, and humanity, and thank you for this piece.

  • Imon Ahmed says:

    I could not hold my tears. Thank you for sharing these moments with us. May God bless you.

  • amy love says:

    Justin, this is so beautiful. Thank you for representing Adnan so masterfully.

  • Mp3mpk says:

    Thanks for doing such a great job Justin and Chris!

  • Becky says:

    I very much appreciate your thoughtful post about Adnan. Thank you. I hope he knows how many people want him to have a chance for fairness in his case.

    Having said that, I’d like to say that it seems unconscionable that someone in court for a hearing should be chained as he was. The shackles and prison clothes shout ‘criminal’. It is barbaric and prejudicial. I think we could do without such dramatic displays in court.

  • Kim King says:

    Beautifully said. Thank you for helping Adnan and for showing us a bit more about him. It’s nice to know what he means to you and I hope he meets your family soon.

  • yorksett says:

    Mr. Brown you are a wonderful man, may God continue to guide you in your journey to help #FreeAdnan. God creates us brings us together, there is a reason for you to be his lawyer. Like you, I can’t help but think of the day Adnan will be free and among us, even if I never meet him.

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    This is wonderful news. Thank you for the update. I will be looking for more good news!!

  • Ruth McLean says:

    Lets hope the court sees the truth, the judge must realize that’s its not only the public that feel passionate about Adnan, but that his closest supporters are well educated and very intelligent people. Lets all hope for justice,

  • Tricia R. Saur says:

    Lovely essay, thank you for sharing some of your insights. I very much hope to hear more when things are set right in the courts and Adnan is a free man. After only knowing photos from his high school years, it was surprising to see the images of the man he has become… and a shocking reminder of all the years of freedom he has been denied. It is inspiring to hear in your (and Rabia’s) comments that he has been able to maintain the kindness of heart many speak of when describing him in HS.
    I wish you well in the next steps and send my best to Adnan, his family and close friends – that they are buoyed by the multitude who stand with them in seeking justice. In that vein, I truly hope the truth of what happened to Hae Lee comes out, unless it does her family is destined to feel justice was never served. I can only image how painful these proceeding (and the notoriety this case has garnered) have been for them.
    Following from Cologne, Germany – Tricia

  • Brad Abraham says:

    The world is truly a better place because of people like Adnan and yourself Justin. It’s a shame you two had to meet under these circumstances. Wishing you both all the very best.

  • Farhina says:

    Thanks so much for this article. It made me cry. My prayers are for Adnan and all your team. I hope Adnan is out soon and justice is served. Ameen.

    • Susanneri Riley says:

      Compassion is one of the greatest gifts from one human being to another, from one stranger to another. I’ve often wondered about you and how you came to be the defender of Adnan. I hoped upon hope that you would be a man with a heart. Yes, dear stranger indeed you have a heart.

  • Kristen Lathrop says:

    I was moved to tears by your post. Thank you for your advocacy for Adnan. I am a close follower of this case and I am anxious for the true killer to be found. I believe you are part of real and necessary systemic change. May God bless this work.

  • Ian Erskine says:

    Justin, your essay is much appreciated from here in Scotland where I have been following Adnan’s case since the start of Serial. To have my impressions of Adnan confirmed by you has merely defined my utter belief that there is an innocent man languishing in a Baltimore jail. The entire justice system in your country must be shaking to their bones at this time what with Adnan’s case and MaM gaining such massive profiles. The behaviour of investigating and prosecuting agencies in both of these cases has been utterly reprehensible and without any justification whatsoever. Scary thing is that consideration needs to be given to how many others are in the same situation because of bent cops and bent prosecutors. Your country has a way to go in attempting to build faith in your justice system. I deliberately did not use the term ‘restore’ as that would have implied that there was faith there in the first instance. Keep going Justin.

  • Shari Bonnin says:

    As I was following the hearing on Twitter and Periscope, I found my concern to be with Adnan mostly. I didn’t hear anyone talk about him the entire last day of the hearing, so I assumed he didn’t get to attend the hearing. I was concerned why no one was mentioning this, but then Rabia said later that night that Adnan was in court. Relief overcame me. As you sat beside Adnan and was/is his voice, please know that there are so many sitting behind you, sending you and Adnan support and strength. I hope one day soon Adnan will visit your home, a free man that may sit wherever he chooses. Thanks for all you’re doing. It’s incredible impressive and humbling.

  • Janda says:

    I’m so thankful for people of integrity who work and live to improve things in our broken world. Thank you for your work and passion. And so hopeful for Adnan. Than you for sharing insights into his person. So humbling!

  • Michael Scheuring says:

    You’re a credit to your profession Mr. Brown.

  • M says:

    Thank goodness for honest, hardworking attorneys like you and Mr. Nieto. Finally Adnan is getting the representation he deserved all along. We’re counting on you to bring him home!

  • Gwendolyn Taylor says:

    Let it not be overlooked that what you are doing for Adnan, you are also doing for Hae. Only by overturning this *insane* conviction can the search for Hae’s killer really begin. Your pursuit of justice for Adnan is, by extension, a pursuit of justice for Hae–and for us all. Thank you.

  • Nico says:

    LOL… “When useless became useful” AKA library security guard steve. hahaha. You’re a funny man JB. I hope i never need a lawyer but if that day comes, you’re my man.

  • Ruth says:


    I simply want to thank you for fighting for the truth. As the child of an attorney I am always saddened by those who claim to represent the legal system playing fast and loose with the one big equalizer – the truth. Your willingness to stand up and speak the truth for Adnan, and others like him, gives hope for the future.

    Thank You

  • Shar says:

    Your essay inspired the hope so many of us have longed to hear. Hope that voices like Adnan’s will be represented not just satisfactorily, but exceptionally with the passion & intensity one would use to defend themselves. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to be an innocent person convicted of a crime you did not commit. Add to that the automatic villianization of your character & the vulnerability in trusting another person to demonstrate your innocence. I’m so glad Adnan found attorneys who are not only competent, but passionate about exposing the malfeasance that has so clearly taken place here. Finally, there is hope for both Adnan & Hae.

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