35 Miss. C. L. Rev. 365 (2016-2017)
Crowdsourcing Justice

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CROWDSOURCING JUSTICE


                                     Tony Jeff*

     During   a five-day  period in  February  2016,  an amazing   thing  happened:
Millions  of people followed  updates  on Twitter  and Periscope  in anticipation of
daily podcasts  about a legal hearing. The  hearing was  neither televised nor about
a  celebrity. Instead,  the hearing  related to a murder   that occurred  seventeen
years prior. The  fact that so many  people  followed the hearing  was not even  the
amazing   part.   The  truly  amazing   part of  the story  was  that  some   of the
evidence-and even some of the theories-presented by the prosecution were
investigated, revealed, and vetted by  everyday  people on the Internet.
     To  understand   how  the post-conviction  relief (PCR)   hearing for Adnan
Syed  in Baltimore,  Maryland,   came   to be so closely  followed,  we  need  to go
back  to October   2014  and  Season  1, Episode   1 of the podcast  Serial.  When
Sarah  Koenig   of This American   Life fame  introduced  the world  to the story of
Hae   Min  Lee's   murder,  the  story was   already  fifteen years  old and  being
produced for a platform-podcasting-that seemed relegated to a niche
audience.   Thus  it was  probably  a big  surprise when   Serial became   the most
popular  podcast  in history with  more  than  80 million  downloads. It   not  only
brought  the  conviction  of Adnan   Syed   to the forefront  but also revived   and
rejuvenated  podcasts in general.
     Several  podcasts have  spun  off from Serial, with Undisclosed-The State v.
Adnan   Syed  and  Truth &  Justice being  the most  popular.   These  podcasts  not
only  discuss  the  story but  also give  a  deeper  analysis  of the  legal issues,
evidence,  overreaching  by  the police  and prosecutors,  and  many   other details.
Although   they  have  not exactly  solved  the case, the  podcasts  have  led most
everyone  I know  to be  convinced  that the 2000 conviction  of Adnan   Syed was  a
miscarriage  of justice.  Personally, I am  now   completely   convinced  that he  is
innocent.
     The   fascinating  part has  been  the  role these  podcasts  have   played  in
revealing  and  analyzing  actual evidence   in the case.   While  there have  been


         * Tony Jeff is the current president and CEO of Innovate Mississippi. Prior to joining Innovate
Mississippi, Mr. Jeff gained corporate experience leading teams in finance, sales, engineering and operations.
Additionally, he started two businesses-one around a patent he co-invented and successfully brought to market.
Mr. Jeff graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering. He
earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of management, as well as a Masters of Engineering from the
McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University. Mr. Jeff participated as a panelist at the
Mississippi College Law Review's 2016 symposium Innovation, Entrepreneurship and the Law: The 'Real
World' Effects of Mississippi Law on Business and Entrepreneurial Endeavors.
         This article is written from the author's personal experience. In light of this and the author's
expertise, this article does not conform to traditional law review format. The Clarion Ledger previously
published a version of this article on February 17, 2016. Tony Jeff, 'Serial' raises crowdsourcing justice, The
Clarion-Ledger, Feb. 17, 2016, http://www.clarionledger.com/story/business/businessledger/2016/02/17/tony-
jeff-serial-raises-crowdsourcing-justice/80474840/.


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