Judge Overturns Adnan Syed's Murder Conviction

'Serial' podcast subject is a free man after 23 years
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2022 5:33 PM CDT
Updated Sep 19, 2022 4:10 PM CDT
Prosecutors Move to Vacate Adnan Syed's Conviction
Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East prior to a hearing on Feb. 3, 2016, in Baltimore.   (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)

Update: Adnan Syed, whose case was made famous by the Serial podcast, has been freed after 23 years in prison. Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn overturned the 41-year-old's murder conviction Monday, days after prosecutors said they no longer had faith in the conviction, the Baltimore Sun reports. The judge ordered Syed to remain on GPS monitoring pending a possible new trial in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee. Phinn, who said the conviction was being overturned "in the interests of fairness and justice," gave prosecutors 30 days to decide whether to drop the case or move for a new trial, reports the New York Times. Our story from last Wednesday follows:

For more than 20 years, Adnan Syed and his supporters have been insisting that he is innocent. They scored a huge win Wednesday when prosecutors in Baltimore asked a judge to vacate his conviction for the 1999 murder of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, the Wall Street Journal reports. They said that while they're not asserting that the 41-year-old is innocent, they no longer have faith in his conviction. Prosecutors asked the judge to release Syed on his own recognizance pending a possible new trial. Syed, whose case was the subject of the first Serial podcast in 2014, was denied a new trial by Maryland's top court in 2019. Syed, who was 17 when he was arrested, was sentenced to life in prison in 2000.

In a court motion, the state's attorney for Baltimore said that an investigation conducted with Syed's defense had uncovered information "concerning the possible involvement of two alternative suspects" and that the legal parties "have identified significant reliability issues regarding the most critical pieces of evidence at trial," Deadline reports. The motion said the suspects were known at the time of the first investigation, but the information was not disclosed to Syed's lawyers before his trial in 2000. One suspect had a motive to kill Lee and had threatened do so, according to the filing. Lee's car was found in a lot behind a house owned by a relative of one of the suspects, the filing said.

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"This information was not available to the Defendant in his trial in 2000, and the State believes it would have provided persuasive support substantiating the defense that another person was responsible for the victim’s death," the filing said. It also noted that after Syed's trial, one suspect was convicted of rape, and one suspect attacked a woman he didn't know in her vehicle. Authorities say the names of the suspects aren't being released because the investigation is ongoing. Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue said the news that the other suspects were kept secret for more than 20 years should "shock the conscience," the Baltimore Sun reports. (More Adnan Syed stories.)

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