Prosecutors Drop Murder Charge Against Adnan Syed, Focus of ‘Serial’ Podcast

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Prosecutors have formally dropped the murder charge against Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man who served 23 years in prison before being released last month.

The decision by the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office to drop the case against Syed, who was the focus of the viral “Serial” podcast back in 2014, came three weeks after a judge vacated his murder conviction. The court found that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that could have helped Syed at trial — specifically, evidence that two other suspects may have been involved in committing the crime.

More from Variety

On Sept. 14, prosecutors filed a motion to have the court vacate the 2000 murder conviction of Syed, who had been found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The prosecutors said “the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction” and recommended he be released from prison.

Serial Productions, which is now owned by the New York Times, released an updated episode with Sarah Koenig, who led the original “Serial” podcast investigation.

“Serial” launched in 2014 as a spinoff of NPR’s “This American Life” and became an overnight podcasting hit. In the first season, Koenig investigated Syed’s first-degree murder conviction for the 1999 strangulation death of Lee in Baltimore. “Serial” raised questions about the evidence against him, including an account of Asia McClain, who claimed she saw Syed at a public library during the time of Lee’s murder.

Syed’s case also was the subject of a four-part HBO docuseries released in 2019 by director Amy Berg called “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” which also questioned his guilt. HBO is also planning to release a follow-up episode on the case.

In March 2019, Maryland’s highest court denied Syed a retrial and he appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear his appeal. Syed, 41, had repeatedly maintained his innocence.

About a year ago, Maryland enacted the Juvenile Restoration Act. It allows those who have spent at least 20 years in prison for a crime they committed when they were a juvenile to ask to court to reduce their sentence. Syed was 17 when he was arrested for killing Lee. On Oct. 2, 2021, one day after the law went into effect, Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, delivered his case to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

Examining Syed’s case file, Becky Feldman, chief of the sentencing review unit for the prosecutor’s office, discovered handwritten notes that pointed to alternate suspects. Suter confirmed they had never seen the notes before, but detectives were aware of them at the time. While the notes are undated, they appeared to be written by a prosecutor before Syed was tried. The notes detail phone calls from two different people giving the State’s Attorney’s Office information about the same person, who apparently had a motive to kill Lee and was heard saying he would “make her disappear” and “kill her.”

Feldman said the state found the information in these notes to be credible. Since it looks like Syed’s attorneys were never made aware of these calls, the state may have made a major breach in not turning over this evidence to the defense, which calls for a Brady violation.

In the “Serial” podcast update last month, Koenig did not name either of the two new suspects, as neither has been charged with a crime, but she revealed that “one or both of them have relevant criminal histories, mostly crimes committed after Adnan’s trial, one of them for a series of sexual assaults.” One of the suspects is currently in prison for sexual assault. One has a connection to the location where Lee disappeared. Both were investigated at the time of Syed’s trial, but “not with much vigor, as far as I can tell,” Koenig said.

Pictured above: Adnan Syed leaves Baltimore City Circuit Court after being released from prison Sept. 19, 2022, in Baltimore

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.