Published on 09/19/2022 22:24
A US judge on Monday overturned the conviction of a man who had been held for 23 years for a murder made famous by a “Serial” podcast.
Adnan Syed, 42, was sentenced to life in prison for the 2000 death of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in Baltimore on the US East Coast.
In an unexpected twist, the city’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, last week sought to overturn the conviction, citing doubts about his guilt and asking for his release.
Mosby explained that he had discovered “two alternative suspects,” key information that was not well evaluated at the time and, after all, was not shared with the defense before the trial.
On Monday, a judge upheld the request at a hearing in a packed Baltimore courtroom.
“In the interests of justice and equity, the motion is granted and the defendant will be released with an electronic anklet,” said Judge Melissa Finn.
Officers removed Syed’s handcuffs while a section of the crowd cheered until the call to order. The man, who had a full beard and a white cap, was undecided.
“It took him a while to believe it was real” and now “he just wants to spend time with his family,” his attorney, Erica Sutter, told the court, adding that her client did not comment.
Prosecutor Mosby insisted that the court “has not yet found Adnan Syed guilty” and would have to wait for the results of the DNA test before dropping the charges against him or arranging for a new trial, which must be decided within 30 days.
Whatever the decision, Mosby promised to continue the investigation “so that Hae Min’s family members know for sure who is the culprit.”
During the investigation, the victim’s brother expressed his shock over the phone. He said he was “living a never-ending nightmare” and felt “betrayed” by prosecutors who had claimed for years that they had found the culprit.
The case began in 1999, when police discovered the body of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee in a shallow grave in the Baltimore woods. Adnan Syed, then 17, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment a year later.
According to the case, the young man allegedly killed her for not accepting the end of the relationship. Syed has always denied involvement in the crime and said he was a victim of anti-Muslim discrimination.
In 2014, the “Serial” podcast aired, in which a team of journalists conducted their own investigation and reported over 12 episodes, breaking viewership records and later inspiring an HBO documentary series.
“Serial’s” independent investigation showed Syed’s defense did not consider mobile phone forensics in favor of the accused, as well as the testimony of a young woman who provided him with a possible alibi.
His work led to the reopening of the case, and in March 2018, the Maryland Court of Appeals ordered a retrial, alleging that the defense did not provide effective support to its client.
However, a year later, the state Supreme Court recognized the prosecutor’s failure to present certain elements, but denied the request for a new trial.
Adnan Syed’s defense later appealed to the US Supreme Court and in 2019 it declined to intervene, seemingly ending Syed’s hopes of freedom.
But the Baltimore prosecutor, with a service dedicated to correcting miscarriages, reopened the case, which eventually led to a judicial review.
It announced on its Twitter account that a new episode of the “Serial” podcast series will be released on Tuesday.
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