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Murder conviction of Adnan Syed, subject of hit podcast, overturned

  • September 20, 2022

A judge has ordered the release of Adnan Syed after overturning his murder conviction, which was the subject of the popular Serial podcast.

Mr Syed was 17 when he was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of his girlfriend Hae Min Lee, who was strangled and buried in a Baltimore park in 1999.

On Monday, a Maryland judge overturned the conviction after prosecutors said there were two other possible suspects who were never disclosed to the defence at trial.

Judge Melissa Phinn of the Circuit Court in Baltimore ordered Mr Syed to be released from prison and put on home detention. She also ordered the state to decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

“All right Mr Syed, you’re free to join your family,” Ms Phinn said as the hearing ended.

Mr Syed, now 41, has always maintained his innocence and has been appealing his conviction for years.

The case was first brought to global attention by the 2014 hit podcast, which raised doubts about his guilt and some evidence prosecutors had used.

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Serial suggested evidence unearthed from witness Asia McClain could have corroborated Mr Syed’s account that he was in the library at the time of the killing.

Adnan Syed leaves the courthouse on Monday. Pic: AP

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying that a lengthy investigation conducted with the defence had uncovered new evidence that could undermine Mr Syed’s conviction.

Becky Feldman, chief of the Sentencing Review Unit, described to the judge various details from the case that undermine the conviction, including flawed mobile phone data, unreliable witness testimony and a potentially biased detective.

Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee at a prom. Pic: HBO/ Sky Atlantic/ NOW TV

The investigation “revealed undisclosed and newly developed information regarding two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data”, said the office of the state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, in a news release last week.

Read more:
Serial and the case against Adnan Syed

The suspects were known persons at the time of the original investigation, prosecutors said, but were not properly ruled out or disclosed to the defence, who declined to release information about the suspects due to the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said they were not asserting that Mr Syed is innocent, but they lacked confidence “in the integrity of the conviction” and recommended he be released.

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