ICSM Rights of the Accused: A Critical Analysis of Serial


(image: serialpodcast.org)

This guide supports the following seminar:

Where were you on January 13, 1999? If you can’t remember, you aren’t the only one.  But what happens when your memory of that day becomes key in a criminal investigation?  This is what happened with Adnan Syed, the key suspect in a murder investigation.  This course involves an analysis of the auditory text and podcast, Serial, a spinoff of This American Life, that tells one true story of the murder of a high school senior who disappeared on January 13, 1999 and was found one month later strangled and buried in a park.  From alibis, to witnesses, to testimony, to forensic evidence, we will explore this story and those involved.  We will ponder how to determine a person’s character and how you can know what people are capable of. The auditory text will be coupled with readings related to the U.S. Justice System, applicable law, legal theory and the socioeconomic and cultural underpinnings of the legal system.  Throughout this course, students will use the podcast, Serial, to explore, analyze and understand sources of power and players in the context of the legal system as well as the influences and tensions placed on the justice system. This course will focus on the use of a highly publicized true story to facilitate meaningful discussion and transition for first semester students to learn critical analysis, critical thinking, effective writing and oral presentation skills.

Library Session Learning Objectives:
  1. Evaluate resources and identify those most appropriate to your information need (card sorting)
  2. ​Identify and combine keywords for a research topic  (brainstorm)
  3. Distinguish between the catalog, databases, and open web when selecting resources; Identify the best databases relevant to a topic (database search and reflection)

Information Types, Processes and Needs

Information types, processes and needs: in class exercise.  Cards will be distributed in class.

Brainstorming Exercise

Goal: Focus on a research topic and formulate a list of keywords that you can use to search library databases.  

ou are going to search the databases for the topic:    murder and the rights of the accused

Consider what about murder you are interested in researching.  You can use Serial or other murder cases to narrow your topic. (sample)

Best Bets: Databases

General databases: 
  • EBSCO Research Library  The EBSCO Research Library searches across nearly 40 EBSCO databases.  Searches across subject specific indexes on the EBSCO platform
  • ARGOS (library homepage search) Includes the library catalog (books, e-books, DVDs) and most library databases.
  • Ebook Central (formerly ebrary)  Over 109,000 full-text ebooks.  They can be found in ARGOS, but when you search ARGOS, you are not searching across the full-text of the books -- just the title, table of contents and subject headings. 
  • US Newsstream
    U.S. Newsstream enables users to search current U.S. news content, as well as archives that stretch back into the 1980s. It features top newspapers, wires, broadcast transcripts, blogs, and news sites in full-text format. U.S. Newsstream provides key national and regional news sources from the U.S. and includes exclusive and preferred access to top titles, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, and Chicago Tribune. All titles are cross searchable on the ProQuest platform.
  • Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis)
  • New York Times (1980-present)
    Full-text of The New York Times from 1980 - present. For Historical coverage please use ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2007)
Subject specific databases:
  • America: History and Life
    Citations and some abstracts for journal articles,book reviews, and dissertations on US and Canadian history, prehistory to the present. Covers historical topics and a variety of disciplines including popular culture, gender studies, anthropology, literature and folklore.
  • Federal and State Cases from LexisNexis Academic
  •   choose the law review button & search
Full-text journal collections:
    JSTOR provides access to academic journals and primary sources in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
  • Project Muse
    Project MUSE offers full-text current and archival articles from 600+ scholarly journals from major university presses covering literature and criticism, history, performing arts, cultural studies, education, philosophy, political science, gender studies, and more. Updated continually.


From the Circuit Court for Baltimore City:

Bromwich, Jonah Engel, and Liam Stack. 2016. “Adnan Syed, of ‘Serial’ Podcast, Gets a Retrial in Murder Case.” The New York Times, June 30. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/us/serial-adnan-syed-new-trial.html   "Mr. Syed’s lawyer, C. Justin Brown, posted the news on Twitter on Thursday afternoon and confirmed by phone that the motion for a new trial had been granted by Judge Martin P. Welch of the Baltimore City Circuit Court."



@serial  The handle for the show.  @whitdangerfield Whitney Dangerfield, Digital Editor. @carlburton  season 2 art

@CJBrownLaw  Justin Brown & Nieto, LLC. Trial lawyers.  They posted, "Syed Files for Bail" to their law firm website.

@rabiasquared   Rabia Chaudry's Twitter feed.  She is advertising her book Adnan's Story on her website.

They post to #FreeAdnan

Famous Trials

  • Famous Trials in History
    New York : Facts On File, 2012. Click on the Table of Contents to see the entries.  A collection of significant legal trials from time periods and places ranging from Socrates in classical Greece and Joan of Arc in medieval France to Saddam Hussein in modern Iraq. Each entry includes the trial’s key issues, a history of the case, a summary of arguments, the verdict, the significance of the case, and readings for further study. (from the publisher).
  • Famous Trials by Douglas O. Linder
    Internet portal to trial information in a nutshell including chronologies, key figures, primary documents, influences to art and literature, and bibliorgraphies.
  • Great courtroom battles
    KF220 .R8
    Chicago, Playboy Press; distributed by Simon & Schuster, New York, 1973. Lustgarten, E. The Lizzie Borden "axe murder" case.--Bailey, F. L. The "torso murder" case.--Averbach, A. and Price, C. The Cutter Labs "poison vaccine" case.--Rembar, C. Fanny Hill in Hackensack.--Busch, F. X. The Al Capone tax case.--Kunstler, W. The Alger Hiss perjury case.--Cagle, C. W. and Stumpf, H. P. The trial of Reies Lopez Tijerina.--Di Mona, J. The court-martial of Billy Mitchell.--Musmanno, M. A. The trial of Adolf Eichmann.--Di Mona, J. Mylai: the court-martial of Lt. Calley.
  • Great World Trials
    REF K540 .G74 1997
    Detroit, MI. : Gale Research, c1997.
  • Landmark Supreme Court cases: a reference guide
    Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
  • Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court
    REF KF8742.A35 O93 2005
    Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2005.
  • Oyez : U.S. Supreme Court Multimedia
    User friendly website that contains biographies of Supreme Court justices, case decisions, and some audio transcripts of select cases.
  • Supreme Court
    Lawrence Baum. Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage/CQ Press, c2013.
  • Supreme Court Reporter
    Periodicals KF101 .S95
    St. Paul : West Pub. Co., 1883-1988.

Contact Us

picture of Cathy Michael
Communications Librarian
(607) 274-1293

Search Argos

Serial Podcast

Access the podcast Serialhttp://serialpodcast.org/
Season 2 Listening guide  

Your Library Accounts

Your IC Library Account

  • Login in with ID information
  • See what you have on your account
  • Renew items online

Your Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Account

  • Get materials from other libraries
  • ILL is free
  • ILL will take time

About the Library

What Do You Need?

  • Ithaca College ID Card – Use to check out materials (books, scores, multimedia, laptops, etc.)
  • Ithaca College Netpass Info (email) – Use for signing into computers and online materials

How Long Can You Keep Something You Get from the Library?

  • Books and Scores: 1 semester (can renew twice)
  • Audio and Video: 7 days (can renew twice)

Special materials may have different borrowing times—check the full list here.

Library Maps


Ask a Librarian

Clicking the GET IT arrow

GET IT icon

When searching, if you see the "GET IT" icon, click on it. You'll be taken to the full text or to ILL if full text is unavailable.

Tell Us What You Think

Please take a moment to complete this very short survey. Your responses will help us to address any further questions you may have.