Judge Orders Release of Serial ’s Adnan Syed, Vacates Murder Conviction

·3 min read
Judge Orders Release of Serial ’s Adnan Syed, Vacates Murder Conviction

Adnan Syed has been released from prison.

A Baltimore judge vacated 41-year-old's conviction for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee—which crime was famously chronicled in the hit true crime podcast Serial.

On Sept. 19, City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ruled that prosecutors made a compelling argument that Syed's conviction was flawed, according to NBC News. The judge declared that the state violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have supported Syed's defense.

Tossing out the murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment convictions, Judge Phinn order that Syed—who spent over two decades behind bars—be released on his own recognizance and placed in home detention.

The judge also gave prosecutors 30 days to proceed with a new trial or drop the case entirely.

After the ruling, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh issued a statement saying that the accusation of evidence being withheld from the defense was "incorrect."

"Among the other serious problems with the motion to vacate, the allegations related to Brady violations are incorrect," the statement read. "Neither State's Attorney [Marilyn] Mosby nor anyone from her office bothered to consult with either the Assistant State's Attorney who prosecuted the case or with anyone in my office regarding these alleged violations. The file in this case was made available on several occasions to the defense."

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Syed's release comes one week after prosecutors filed a motion to overturn the convictions and requested a new trial, claiming that an additional investigation, conducted with the defense, had uncovered new evidence.

Adnan Syed
Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun via ZUMA Press Wire

A Sept. 14 press release from Mosby and chief of the Sentencing Review Unit Becky Feldman revealed "undisclosed and newly-developed information regarding two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data."

Lee was a high school student who was last seen alive on January 13, 1999. Her body was found four weeks later in a Baltimore park and it was later determined that she had been killed by manual strangulation.

In February 2000, a jury found Syed guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment and robbery, with the then-17-year-old being sentenced to life in prison, plus 30 years for the murder.

In June 2016, Syed was granted a new trial after a judge threw out his conviction and ruled that his lawyer had not adequately represented him or cross-examined the state on key evidence. Maryland's attorney general appealed the decision and his conviction was reinstated three years later.

The Case Against Adnan Syed

Syed has always maintained his innocence.

In 2014, the first season of Serial covered Lee's murder, which brought renewed attention to the case. According to the podcast's official Twitter account, host Sarah Koenig was inside the courthouse when Syed's conviction was vacated and a new episode discussing the updates will drop Sept. 20.

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