Adnan Syed, subject of Serial podcast, will be released and conviction overturned

A Baltimore judge on Monday ordered Adnan Syed’s release after overturning his conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee – a case that was captured on the hit podcast. Serial, a true crime series that captivated listeners and revolutionized the genre.

Following the orders of prosecutors who discovered new evidence, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered Syed’s conviction to be vacated and approved the release of the 41-year-old man, who has lived more than two years. decades behind bars. There were gasps and applause in the crowded courtroom as the judge announced her decision.

Phinn ruled that the state violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could support Syed’s defense. She orders him to be released from custody and under house arrest with GPS location monitoring. She also ordered the state to decide whether to consider a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

“Okay, Mr. Syed, you are free to join your family,” Phinn said as the hearing ended.

Minutes later, Syed walked out of the courthouse with a small smile as he was ushered to a waiting SUV past a sea of ​​cameras and a crowd of fans.

Syed, who has always maintained his innocence, received widespread attention in 2014 when the debut season of Serial focused on Lee’s murder and cast doubt on some of the evidence prosecutors used, inspiring countless dinner table debates about Syed’s innocence or guilt.

Last week, prosecutors filed a petition saying that a lengthy investigation conducted with the defense had uncovered new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction against Syed. Lee’s ex-boyfriend.

“I understand how difficult this is, but we need to make sure we hold the right people accountable,” assistant state attorney Becky Feldman told the judge as she described the various details from Cases that undermine decades of convictions include other suspects, erroneous cell phone data, unreliable witness testimony and a potentially biased detective.

After the hearing, State Attorney Marilyn Mosby said investigators were awaiting the results of a “DNA analysis” before determining whether to seek a new trial date or remove the record against Syed and ” attest to his innocence.”

Syed is serving a life sentence after he was found guilty of strangling 18-year-old Lee, whose body was found in a Baltimore park.

An undated photograph of Syed, provided by his brother, Yusuf. (Yusuf Syed / Associated Press)

The Mosby’s office said in a statement last week, the investigation “revealed undisclosed and newly developed information regarding two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data.” trust”. The suspects were known at the time of the initial investigation but were neither reasonably excluded nor disclosed to the defense, prosecutors said, who declined to release information about the charges. suspect due to the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said they did not assert that Syed was innocent, but that they lacked confidence “in the integrity of the sentence” and recommended that he be released or released on bail. The State Attorney’s Office said that if the offer is approved, it will place Syed in a new trial status, bypassing his convictions, while the case continues.

The Supreme Court refused to consider the case in 2019

On Monday, Syed was ushered into a crowded courtroom in handcuffs. Wearing a white shirt and tie, he sat next to his lawyer. His mother and other family representatives were also in the room, as was Mosby.

“Justice is always worth the cost of pursuing it,” Mosby said at a news conference after the hearing.

In 2016, a lower court ordered Syed’s retrial on the grounds that his attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, failed to contact an alibi witness and gave ineffective advice .

A man in a prison uniform is seen through the bars of the passage.
Syed enters court on February 3, 2016, in Baltimore. A judge vacated Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / The Baltimore Sun / The Associated Press)

But after a series of appeals, Maryland’s highest court in 2019 overturned a new trial on a 4-3 position. The appellate court agreed with the lower court that Syed’s legal counsel failed to investigate an alibi witness, but they disagreed that the omission affected the case. The court said Syed waived his ineffective attorney’s claim.

The US Supreme Court declined to review Syed’s case in 2019.

The true crime podcast series is the brainchild of longtime radio producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, who spent more than a year learning about Syed’s case and reporting on the findings. of her in near real time in hour-long segments. The 12-episode podcast has won a Peabody Award and has been instrumental in popularizing podcasts to a wide audience.

One tweet from official Serial The Twitter account says that Koenig was in court when Syed was released on Monday and that a new episode of the podcast will be available on Tuesday morning.

During the hearing, Hae Min Lee’s brother, Young Lee, spoke to the court, saying that he felt betrayed by the prosecutors, because he thought the case was resolved.

“This is not a podcast for me. This is real life,” he said.

Speaking outside court after the ruling, Mosby expressed sympathy for Lee’s brother and said she understood why he felt betrayed.

“But I also understand how important it is for the criminal justice system regulator to ensure equality and justice and fairness. It’s the defendant’s right,” she said.

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