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Crime Scene Investigator Visits CHS

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Crime Scene Investigator Visits CHS

Adam Carroll, Staff

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Juvenile Justice students got a treat on February 26th when Dr. Dana Kollmann came to visit CHS to talk about the Adnan Syed case, a case in which she was involved. 

Dr. Kollmann has been teaching at Towson University since 2005. She has done a lot and been to many places. She worked for the Baltimore County police as a crime scene investigator and for the Arlington County police. She has worked for the photography unit, identified skeletons, and examined shoe and tire impressions. She’s been to Europe to help exhume mass graves with archeologists and helped identify American victims in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. 

For those who don’t know about the Adnan Syed case, the whole case revolved around two Woodlawn High students: Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee who were ex-boyfriend and girlfriend. On January 13, 1999, Hae went missing and after her body was found, the police eventually got to Adnan, who was convicted for the murder and sentenced to life in prison. 

This case has gotten international attention over the past few years due to the podcast Serial and an upcoming HBO documentary. Also, Syed has appealed his conviction on the grounds of inadequate counsel who failed to call a potential alibi witness who would’ve contradicted the prosecution’s timeline. The highest court in Maryland is expected to make a final decision soon. 

During the seminar, Dr. Kollmann was very critical of the investigation conducted in the Syed case. 

“There are so many problems with the case. Not all cases have good forensic evidence, but those cases are made on fine detective work,” said Dr. Kollmann.  “I am not seeing evidence of fine detective work. Also, I think forensic evidence was there – the crime scenes and people were just poorly processed.” 

Senior Mackenzie Andrews learned a lot from the seminar. 

“It was very informational, and it allowed me to have the forensics viewpoint of the case,” said Andrews. 

This brings up a critical reason about why Syed’s guilt is debated on: there was a lack of forensic evidence which linked Adnan to the crime. The prosecution relied on the testimony of Syed’s alleged accomplice, Jay Wilds, who constantly changed his story, as well as cell phone records that prosecutors alleged put Adnan at the scene. The reliability of this evidence has been called into question because it’s not as pinpoint as fingerprints or DNA samples.  

Juvenile Justice teacher Joel Brusewitz is fascinated by how crime scene investigators work. 

In her presentation, Dr. Kollmann described so many layers of inquiry and investigation that had never even occurred to me,” said Mr. Brusewitz. “She helped uncover just how little we know about what happened to Hae Min Lee and how much more forensic work needs to be done in order to uncover the truth. 

Mr. Brusewitz says that it’s important for everyone to know that even things that seem so certain can be challenged when new information surfaces. 

“Although my students have very mixed opinions of the guilt of Adnan Syed, I think everyone can agree that seeking out truth is a very difficult proposition,” he said. “Oftentimes, we never know the full story despite our best efforts.” 

 

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