Sep 19, 2022 - Economy & Business

"Serial" case: Judge vacates Adnan Syed's conviction for 1999 murder

Photo of Adnan Syed in a blue prison jumpsuit as he's escorted by guards behind bars

Officials escort Adnan Syed from the courthouse on Feb. 3, 2016. Photo: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Baltimore City judge on Monday vacated Adnan Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee following prosecutors' request for a new trial based on new evidence discovered after the case became the subject of the first season of the hit podcast "Serial."

Why it matters: The podcast — and a 2019 HBO docuseries — cast doubt on the original prosecution and key pieces of evidence. Baltimore prosecutors' investigation further identified concerns with the reliability of cellphone records and data used in prosecution, as well as a key witness' testimony.

Driving the news: Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa M. Phinn ordered that Syed, who has been serving a sentence of life in prison since his 2000 conviction, be released and remain on GPS monitoring while prosecutors determine next steps, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Details: The Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City said in a motion last week that information about two possible alternative suspects makes a new trial necessary.

  • Syed is not necessarily innocent, but "the State no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction," the filing noted.
  • Syed, who was 17 at the time of Lee's murder, has maintained his innocence.

What they're saying: Young Lee, Hae Min Lee's brother, told the Washington Post he was "not against investigation or anything of that sort" but that knowing "there could be someone out there free for killing my sister — it’s tough."

  • "The original prosecutors … failed to disclose relevant information about alternative suspects, one of whom threatened to kill the victim," Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said outside the courthouse on Monday.
  • "We’re not yet declaring Adnan Syed is innocent, but we are declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial," she noted.

What's next: Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to drop the murder charge against Syed or try him again.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from the State's Attorney for Baltimore City.

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