Adnan Syed gets new trial
Adnan Syed walked out of court a free man on Monday after two handwritten notes featuring the name of another potential suspect was discovered earlier this year, it has been revealed.
Serial, the podcast which propelled the case to global attention and first raised doubts about Syed’s conviction, released a new episde on Tuesday revealing what finally led Baltimore prosecutors to rethink the 41-year-old’s conviction for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
In the episode, journalist Sarah Koenig said that “messy” notes which languished in statet trial boxes for more than two decades revealed that two different people had placed two separate phone calls alerting prosecutors to the unnamed suspect prior to Syed’s 2000 conviction.
The notes were not shared with Syed’s legal team – something the judge agreed was a Brady violation.
On Monday, Judge Melissa Phinn overturned Syed’s conviction and ordered him to be released – after 23 years behind bars.
Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide whether they will fully drop the charges or retry the case.
How one podcast changed the face of true crime
Eight years ago, a new sound hit the airwaves. It was minimalist, just a few notes on a piano, layered with an audio recording of a phone call coming from prison. Then, two voices: that of Adnan Syed, a man who at that point had spent 14 years behind bars, and that of Sarah Koenig, a journalist who had spent a year trying to figure out whether he belonged there.
Serial’s first season aired over just two months, but it marked the beginning of a saga that remains ongoing – and recently reached a high point when a Baltimore judge granted prosecutors’ request to vacate Syed’s conviction and give him a new trial. That in itself is a momentous development, and Serial’s impact has been felt beyond Syed’s case.
The Independent’s Clémence Michallon has the full story:
Clémence Michallon remembers the podcast that transformed a genre as Syed is granted a new trial after 23 years behind bars
Rachel Sharp21 September 2022 02:00
Timeline of the murder of Hae Min Lee and legal battle of Adnan Syed
More than two decades on from his arrest for the murder of his former girlfriend, Adnan Syed is set to finally walk free from prison.
On Monday, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn threw out the 41-year-old’s conviction and granted him a new trial, ordering his release after spending the last 23 years behind bars.
Syed, who was 17 when he was accused of killing Hae Min Lee, will be released from prison today.
Syed’s sudden release marks just the latest twist in a legal battle that has rumbled on for more than two decades – and during which he has always maintained his innocence.
Read a timeline of the case so far:
Adnan Syed case: Timeline of murder of Hae Min Lee and legal battle of the Serial podcast subject
Rachel Sharp21 September 2022 01:15
Voices: Adnan Syed’s conviction should have been thrown out a long time ago
Twenty-two years ago, Adnan Syed was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Lee, a student in Baltimore County, Maryland, was 18 years old when she went missing in January 1999. She was found dead of manual strangulation in February of that year. Syed, who was 17 at the time of Lee’s death, was charged with her murder later that month; he was convicted a year later and sentenced to life in prison.
Syed’s case came to renewed attention in 2014, with the launch of Serial, the podcast that changed the face of true-crime programming and cast doubt on the solidity of Syed’s conviction.
Over the course of 12 episodes, journalist Sarah Koenig, the show’s host, pointed to weaknesses in the evidence used against Syed, as well as remaining idiosyncrasies and blurry areas. If there is one central theme to Serial’s first season (the show had two more, dedicated to other topics), it’s doubt — a crucial factor, considering that the US justice system dictates that one should only be convicted of a criminal offense if the jury believes they are guilty “beyond reasonable doubt.”
The Independent’s Clémence Michallon discusses the case:
This was the only possible conclusion in 2014, and it remains the only possible conclusion now, eight years later
Rachel Sharp21 September 2022 00:30
The key issues with the conviction:
Prosecutors have listed several issues with Adnan Syed’s conviction, which led them to call for his release “in the interest of fairness and justice”.
Two alternate suspects
Evidence has been found about two other potential suspects.
The two suspects, who were not named because of the ongoing investigation, were both known to the initial 1999 murder investigation and were not properly ruled out, prosecutors said. One of the suspects had made a threat to kill Hae Min Lee.
The two suspects, who were not named because of the ongoing investigation, were both known to the initial 1999 murder investigation but the state did not disclose the information to Syed’s legal team.
The judge ruled that this was a clear Brady violation – where a prosecutor fails to provide the defence with evidence that could be helpful to a defendant’s case.
Validity of cellphone data
Cellphone location data placing Syed at the crime scene has since been found to be inaccurate and inadmissible in court.
The prosecution also cast doubt on the credibility of Jay Wilds – the star witness in the state’s original trial.
Wilds, a friend of Syed’s, claimed that he helped Syed to dispose of Lee’s body in the shallow grave in Leakin Park, Baltimore.
Prosecutors said that Wilds has changed his story multiple times – with contradictions between his first interviews with police, his trial testimony and a recent interview with the press.
Detective on original case
One of the main detectives on the original case, Bill Ritz – who interviewed Wilds, was later accused of misconduct in another 1999 murder case.
The man convicted in that case was exonerated in 2016.
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 23:45
Serial podcast reveals notes about another potential suspect led to conviction being tossed
The “messy” notes, which were found deep within boxes of files on the case earlier this year, revealed that two different people had placed two separate phone calls alerting prosecutors to the unnamed suspect prior to Syed’s 2000 conviction.
Despite the tipoffs, the notes were not shared with Syed’s legal team and instead sat gathering dust in boxes inside the state attorney’s office for the past 23 years – all the while Syed was holed up behind bars for a crime he says he didn’t commit.
Now, in 2022, the notes have finally come to light and “shocked” both the prosecution and the defence.
On Monday, a judge overturned Syed’s conviction and he walked out of court a free man.
The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:
Notes revealed two separate phone calls by two different people alerted prosecutors to another potential suspect more than two decades ago
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 23:00
Adnan Syed: What happens next for the Serial podcast subject and the murder case of Hae Min Lee?
With Adnan Syed’s conviction now quashed, questions remain around what happens next.
Will Syed be retried for Hae Min Lee’s murder?
Will one of the other suspects face charges?
Or is the case now cold?
Duncan Levin, former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and a prominent criminal defence attorney at Levin & Associates who has represented clients including Harvey Weinstein and Anna Sorokin, tells The Independent on Tuesday that he thinks this marks the end of Syed’s two-decade long legal battle.
“This is pretty much the end of the road,” he said.
The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:
Prominent attorney Duncan Levin tellsThe Independent he thinks this marks the ‘end of the road’ for Adnan Syed’s two-decade long legal battle
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 22:23
Moving video shows Adnan Syed enjoying food with family at home
A moving video has captured Adnan Syed enjoying food at his family home not long afte his release on Monday.
The footage, posted on Twitter by family friend and attorney Rabia Chaudry, shows the 41-year-old searching through the fridge in the home, looking for food.
Syed is seen taking out samosas and dumplings while his brother Yusuf stands next to him, happily grabbing and sharing the food.
“We got fresh samosas coming though,” Ms Chaudry is heard saying.
Syed is seen trying a dumpling and smiling, after two decades of prison food.
“Pretty good,” he says.
Ms Chaudry captioned the post: “Leftovers at home never tasted so good!!”
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 21:20
What happens next?
Adnan Syed walked free from the Baltimore courthouse on Monday when a judge vacated his sentence – 23 years after he was first put behind bars.
Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn ordered the 41-year-old to be released on his own recognizance and placed on home detention with GPS monitoring.
Now, the prosecution has 30 days to decide whether to drop the charges against Syed or to set a date for a new trial.
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 20:50
Maryland AG pushes back at arguments of a Brady violation
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has pushed back against the argument that there were Brady violations in the case of Adnan Syed.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that prosecutors withheld information about two other potential suspects from Syed’s defence team at his 2000 trial.
Based on that, she said that his conviction should be overturned, pending the possibility of a new trial.
A Brady violation is where a prosecutor fails to provide the defence with evidence that could be helpful or beneficial to a defendant’s case.
Mr Frosh released a statement saying that the allegations that prosecutors did not hand over evidence to Syed’s defencce is false.
“Among the other serious problems with the motion to vacate, the allegations related to Brady violations are incorrect,” Mr Frosh said in the statement.
“Neither State’s Attorney 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.”
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 20:20
Fundraiser for Adnan Syed tops $67,000 in less than a day
A fundraiser to help Adnan Syed….. has topped $67,000 in donations in less than 24 hours.
The Launchgood Campaign, titled “Help Adnan Syed restart his life!” and launched by attorney and family friend Rabia Chaudry, had reached $67,855 as of Tuesday afternoon ET.
A total of 1,117 people had contributed to the fund.
“Over 23 years later Adnan Syed, an innocent man serving a life sentence is finally seeing freedom. Please support his re-entry into society,” reads the campaign objective.
Ms Chaudry writes on the fundraising page that while the 41-year-old “is finally reunited with his loved ones outside bars”, he now “faces the uphill battle many exonerees do of re-entering society and getting back on their feet”.
Rachel Sharp20 September 2022 19:50