Murder Conviction Of Syed, Subject Of ‘Serial’ Podcast, Vacated

Early Monday, a Maryland circuit judge vacated the 2000 murder conviction of Adnan Syed after prosecutors announced there were crucial issues with his trial and conviction, including two other possible suspects in the killing of his ex-girlfriend who were never disclosed to the defense.

Syed Serial PodcastPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The case gained national attention when “Serial”, a podcast produced by the Chicago public radio station WBEZ, raised doubts about his guilt in 2014. Syed, now age 42, has always maintained his innocence in the strangling death of Hae Min Lee, who was 18 when she was killed and buried in a Baltimore park in 1999.

Judge Melissa Phinn of the Circuit Court in Baltimore ordered Syed to be released from prison, put on home detention and that a new trial be scheduled. Syed, who was serving a life sentence, left the courthouse grinning as the crowd applauded.

The Baltimore state attorney’s office filed the motion to vacate the conviction on Wednesday in response to a year-long investigation conducted alongside the public defender representing Syed, in which several problems were found with evidence from the trial.

Prosecutors told the court they wanted to be clear that the decision was not yet asserting that Syed is innocent, bu that they no longer had confidence in “the integrity of the conviction,” ultimately deciding justice required that Syed at least be afforded a new, fair trial. They also said Syed should be released from prison, where he has spent more than 20 years, while prosecutors conclude their investigation and decide whether to seek a new trial against Syed or to prosecute a different suspect.

Prosecutors claimed they discovered new information pertaining to two alternative suspects, both of whom have a history of violent crimes against women, and one who even threatened to kill Lee. The suspects have not yet been named, but their identities were known to the original prosecutors, but not disclosed to the defense as required by law.

Prosecutors also decided the detective who investigated the case and a key witness were unreliable in their testimonies. Lastly, they found new data that raises questions on the validity of the cellphone data prosecutors used at trial to place Syed at the murder scene.

The victim’s brother, Young Lee, told the court that he and his family felt shocked and betrayed after the prosecution backtracked after standing by the conviction for decades.

“It’s really tough to go through this again and again and again,” he said, his voice trembling and breaking at times. “It’s a living nightmare.”

“Justice over convictions is not only our mantra but our mission,” Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, stated at a news conference following the hearing. She said her office would announce next steps in the investigation pending new DNA test results.

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