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Why Court Canceled Adnan Syed’s Life Conviction For Murder Of Hae Min Lee


On Monday, a judge granted the prosecution’s request to have Adnan Syed’s murder conviction overturned. Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the well-known podcast “Serial,” has maintained his innocence in the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend.

Syed has been serving a life sentence after being found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment in connection with the death of Hae Min Lee. Baltimore prosecutors filed the motion last week asking for a new trial for Syed.

Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn cited the existence of two suspects who may have been improperly cleared as part of the investigation in support of her decision to resign. She also cited evidence from the state investigation that was not properly provided to defense lawyers.

The courtroom erupted in applause and sobs upon hearing her decision. Syed was not handcuffed, but his feet were. He was dressed for the hearing in a white button-down shirt, a dark tie, and a kufi hat. Following the decision, authorities released Syed’s ankle chains, and he soon left the courthouse to cheers and applause from his supporters. As he got into a car, he did not stop to speak to reporters.

“We’re not yet declaring Adnan Syed is innocent,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Monday following the judge’s ruling. “But we are declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice he is entitled to a new trial.”

In order to decide whether to pursue a new trial or to drop the charges against Adnan, prosecutors must wait for the results of a DNA test, which they are attempting to expedite. However, that mandate is “separate and apart” from the inquiry into Lee’s murder, according to Mosby.

According to Becky Feldman, the head of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office’s Sentencing Review Unit, Syed will wear an ankle monitor with tracking during this time.

The hearing was scheduled for close to eight years after the “Serial” podcast delved into his case and raised issues regarding the conviction and his legal counsel. As a result, the podcast attracted a sizable audience, sparked a boom in true crime podcasts, and prompted additional investigations into the incident, including the HBO docuseries “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”

Following a nearly year-long investigation, prosecutors filed a motion to overturn Syed’s conviction, according to a news release they issued last week. At the time, Mosby declared that although the state “lacks confidence in the integrity of the conviction” and that Syed should receive a new trial, prosecutors were “not asserting, at this time, that Mr. Syed is innocent.”

The case was reopened after new information about two suspects other than Syed surfaced, including one who allegedly threatened to kill Lee and make her “disappear,” according to the prosecution. Syed’s attorneys claimed that up until this year, neither he nor his legal team were aware that such information existed.

Defense lawyers praised the prosecution’s request to overturn the conviction, saying it made things right.

“Given the stunning lack of reliable evidence implicating Mr. Syed, coupled with increasing evidence pointing to other suspects, this unjust conviction cannot stand,” Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney and director of the Innocence Project Clinic, said in a statement last week.

Maryland public defender Natasha Dartigue in a news release called the case “a true example of how justice delayed is justice denied. An innocent man spends decades wrongly incarcerated, while any information or evidence that could help identify the actual perpetrator becomes increasingly difficult to pursue.”

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