Adnan Syed murder conviction reinstated

Maryland’s second-highest court reinstated the conviction and sentence of Adnan Syed, the man whose murder investigation and trial was the center of the hit podcast “Serial,” saying a lower court violated the rights of the victim’s family when it vacated his conviction last year.

The Maryland appellate court ruled in a 2-1 decision that the circuit court that vacated Syed’s conviction did not give the family of Hae Min Lee, the teenage girl who Syed was previously convicted of killing, ample notice to appear at the hearing.

It was unclear whether Syed would be ordered back to prison after the appellate court asked that a “new, legally compliant and transparent hearing” on the conviction take place.

Syed was 17 when he was arrested for the killing of Lee, his ex-girlfriend, in 1999. He was sentenced to life in prison after his 2000 conviction. But supporters of Syed maintained his innocence and campaigned for his conviction to be overturned through the courts.

His story later became the center of the blockbuster podcast “Serial,” hosted by investigative journalist Sarah Koenig. Syed has always maintained his innocence.

A Baltimore Circuit Court in September vacated Syed’s ruling at the request of city prosecutors, after an investigation found that prosecutors at the time mishandled potential exculpatory evidence and raised the possibility of at least two viable alternative suspects. Prosecutors then dropped the charges against Syed, citing DNA evidence that had cleared him.

But Lee’s brother appealed the decision to vacate the conviction, saying he was given less than one business day’s notice of the hearing that dropped Syed’s conviction.

The appellate court said its “mandate” would be put on hold for 60 days to allow the parties to decide how to proceed from its decision to reinstate the conviction and sentence.

The Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office told The Hill that it was in a “holding pattern” as it waits for the appeals process to play out and did not answer whether it expected Syed to be sent back to prison.

“This office is currently conducting a review of the decision,” a Baltimore City State’s Attorney spokesman said in a statement to The Hill. “We must allow the appeals process to play itself out, Mr. Syed and his legal team may file for an appeal to the Maryland Supreme Court, and we must respect their rights to do so until those rights are either heard or that request is denied; we are in a holding pattern. Any further comment would be premature at this time.”

Counsel for Syed told The Hill that they thought the appearance of Lee’s brother at the vacatur hearing via Zoom was sufficient, saying Syed would appeal the ruling to the Maryland Supreme Court.

“The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan’s convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms. Lee’s brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing,” Erica Suter, Syed’s lawyer, said in a statement. “

There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon. For the time being, Adnan remains a free man. We remain optimistic that justice will be done. We intend to seek review in Maryland’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, and will continue to fight until Adnan’s convictions are fully vacated.”

Updated at 6:24 p.m.

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