Judge overturns Adnan Syed’s murder conviction, orders his release from jail

Adnan Syed, whose murder garnered national attention after it aired on the true crime podcast “Serial,” was released from prison Monday after 23 years, and his conviction – at least for now – was quashed by a judge, He found flaws in the way prosecutors handed evidence to defense attorneys decades ago.

At the request of Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn ordered Syed to be unshackled in court and sent home while waiting to find out whether prosecutors will seek a new trial or drop his pursuit.

Said, 42, emerged from the courthouse amid a raucous crowd. Dressed in white and wearing a blue tie, he smiled and waved, then was ushered into the car and drove away.

But there is no guarantee that he will remain free.

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether they will retry Syed’s killing of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, 18, Phinn said. Mosby, the state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore, said after Monday’s decision that her office had not acquitted him but that he was entitled to a new trial “for the sake of fairness and justice.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) — whose office has previously defended the handling of Syed’s case in court proceedings — blasted Baltimore prosecutors for not consulting his The case was acted upon by the office, which he said prosecutors did not hand over to Saeed’s accusation defense because they should have been “incorrect”.

“State Attorney Mosby and anyone in her office bothered to consult with the assistant state attorney prosecuting this case or anyone in my office about these alleged violations,” Frosch said. “Documents in this case have been provided to the defence on multiple occasions.”

Phinn said Syed will be monitored by GPS while awaiting the prosecutor’s next move.

Syed has maintained his innocence since his arrest for Lee’s murder in February 1999, when he was a 17 years old in high school. Investigators at the time determined she was strangled, and Syed was convicted of murder in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison. He has long sought to have his conviction overturned and face a new trial, but until recently he has faced opposition from prosecutors.

Syed’s case was featured in “Serial,” which aired in the first season of 2014. Host Sarah Koenig detailed the events surrounding Lee’s death, raising questions about the investigation’s handling, the conduct of Syed’s defense and whether Syed may be innocent.

More than a decade after being convicted, Syed is starting to see some hope that he will get new legal action.

In 2016, a circuit court quashed Syed’s conviction for “ineffective assistance” by a former lawyer in failing to investigate alibi witnesses, and in March 2018, a special appeals court upheld a new trial against Syed ‘s ruling. But in March 2019, the Maryland Supreme Court reinstated Saeed’s murder conviction.

Then on Wednesday, the Baltimore City state attorney’s office said in a circuit court motion that it wanted to overturn the conviction and release Syed. The office said a nearly year-long investigation into the case, in Syed’s defense, uncovered new evidence about potential suspects, as well as material that should have been handed over to defense lawyers that were not handed over.

Read the motion to quash Saeed’s conviction

The move drew widespread acclaim from supporters of Syed, who has long campaigned for his freedom openly and legally.

C. Justin Brown, Syed’s former lawyer, begins representing he In 2009, a statement was issued celebrating the ruling, but raised concerns about how long it would take to make the decision.

“There is now information that prosecutors knew there was another possible suspect in the Lee Hae-min murder, but they sat on that information for over 20 years,” Brown said in the statement. “Although we don’t know how this happened. , and don’t know if it was intentional, but we know it’s unforgivable.”

But this feeling is not universal.

Lee Hae-min’s brother, Lee Young, said at Monday’s hearing that prosecutors’ motion to quash the conviction left him feeling “betrayed.”

“It was really hard for me, especially for my mom,” he said.

Young Lee said he “has no objection to an investigation or anything like that,” adding, “Knowing someone out there might kill my sister for free — that’s hard.”

“I ask you to make the right decision,” he told the judge.

Following the hearing, the family’s attorney, Steven J. Kelly, said in a statement: “For more than 20 years, no one has wanted more than her family to know the truth about who killed Hae-min Lee. Lee’s family has a strong interest in today’s Very disappointed that the hearings took place so quickly, that they were denied reasonable notice that would have given them a meaningful voice in the proceedings.”

Mosby says DNA analysis will help Determine whether Syed’s case will be dismissed or whether prosecutors will seek a new trial. She said she understands Lee’s feelings, but Syed has a right to justice in the criminal justice system.

“You have some kind of determination to believe that you’ve closed the case and the case is back and it’s opening a whole new wound that you thought was healed,” Mosby said. “I understand his frustration.”

Prosecutors have not released the identities of other potential suspects.but On Monday, Becky Feldman, head of the sentencing review division of the state attorney’s office, described them as “credible, viable suspects.”

One of them had threatened to make Lee “disappear” and “kill her,” she said, adding that one of them “was involved in multiple incidents of rape and sexual assault,” according to court documents. A relative of one person lives near the area where Lee’s car was found.

At the time, Feldman said, authorities relied on an “unreliable” polygraph test to “improperly clear” a suspect.

The prosecutors’ filing said the suspects “may be involved individually or jointly” and referred to them as “one of the suspects” throughout the motion, without clarifying which person they were referring to.

The state prosecutor’s investigation also determined that Jay Wilders, a key witness in the case, provided inconsistent statements to police. For example, Wilds testified that he helped Syed bury Lee’s body. But under the motion, he gave authorities two different accounts of where he saw the body, and a third to the media. Wilds is a prominent character on the “Serial” podcast.

Investigation also It was found that the data prosecutors used to corroborate Wilds’ accounts could also be misleading or inaccurate. Lawyers used data from incoming calls to place Syed at the scene of Lee’s body, but the state’s attorney’s office said in the motion that cellphone data “would not be considered reliable location information.”

“If this evidence is revealed, maybe Adnan won’t miss his high school graduation or his 23rd birthday, holidays, family reunions, community events,” Saeed’s lawyer Erica Sut said outside court on Monday. , and happy hour every day.” . “Maybe the real killer will be brought to justice.”

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