Author and Serial podcast source Asia McClain speaks on her experience as an alibi witness

Spokane resident Asia McClain first found out she was a crucial part of a 19-year-old murder case when a private investigator knocked on her door. “All I knew at that point was that a private investigator associated with a convicted murderer had tracked me down across the country,” she says. She wondered if approaching her was a “parlor-trick to get an appeal.” She speaks at a measured pace with a slight Southern accent, occasionally with strong emotion.

This meeting changed McClain’s life by bringing her onto the award-winning podcast Serial and made her part of a possible retrial of Adnan Syed, accused of murdering Hae Min Lee in 1999 while the three were students at Baltimore’s Woodlawn High School. McClain will talk about her experience and her book Confessions of a Serial Alibi later today, at 7 pm, at the Gathering House, at 733 W. Garland Ave.

McClain says she didn’t follow Syed’s trial in high school. In her words, parents, the school and the police told her that “they have a good reason to still have him in jail.” Emotionally, she and her classmates wanted to move on because they had together “lost two friends.”
During the time when prosecutors said the murder took place, McClain says she had a 20-minute conversation with Syed, although he was not a close friend of hers and she has not spoken to him again.

“Could you imagine that you had a 20-minute conversation with a friend of a friend at Starbucks, and later on in life you found out that person was convicted of a murder on the same day, at the same time?” McClain asks.

As a Christian, McClain says she sees the short meeting that made her an alibi as a “God thing. Only God could have orchestrated it.” Even with this feeling of purpose, McClain says her experience has been difficult.

“Out of nowhere Serial just blew up my world,” she says. When the podcast aired in October 2014, she says she was sitting at home with her kids. Suddenly, her phone began buzzing with calls from family and friends who had heard her interview. Since then, she has experienced criticism and insults online for her role in the Syed case.

McClain says she didn’t realize the impact her Serial interview would have on her life. As a key witness, McClain could not publicly explain her full story and respond to criticism at the time. Processing this experience led her to write her book, which began as a journal. “There’s only so many times you can complain to your spouse,” she says.

“I get criticism for writing my book,” McClain says. After her podcast interview, McClain says people criticize her for anything she says or does not say.

But in the end, McClain knows the case is not about her. Syed, for one, was denied a new trial last month by Maryland’s highest court.

“There’s more to this case than just me,” McClain says. “He’s a stranger to me [but] the goal for me personally is to see that Adnan gets a fair retrial.”

Story Time at The Carrousel @ Riverfront Park

Third Friday of every month, 11 a.m. Continues through Aug. 19
  • or