Adnan Syed‘s criminal case has been an ongoing topic of discussion since the “Serial” podcast generated new interest in his conviction.
Syed was initially accused of first-degree murder in February 1999 after his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee was found dead one month prior. Over the years, Syed had maintained his innocence amid several appeals and attempts to overturn his conviction.
In 2014, a true crime podcast titled “Serial” focused on the details of the case and a number of Syed’s loved ones who have continued to fight for his freedom. The episodes made headlines as interest grew in Syed and his legal issues. Two years after its release, Serial had been downloaded more than 100 million times.
After more than two decades in prison, Syed’s convictions were overturned by a Baltimore Circuit judge in September 2022. The highest court in Maryland vacated his murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment convictions. Syed was released without bail and placed on home detention with GPS location monitoring.
Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter addressed the major milestone in Syed’s case shortly after he was released from prison.
“Today, my friend and client Adnan Syed walks free for the first time in 23 years,” she said in a statement at the time. “In 1999, Adnan was a senior at Woodlawn High School. He had been accepted to college with plans to major in pre-med. Those dreams were ended with Adnan was accused of the brutal murder of his friend and classmate, Hae Min Lee.”
Suter claimed that prosecutors failed to inform Syed of information that would have allowed him to defend himself. “When prosecutors do not do their duty, when they do not disclose evidence as they are supposed to, the result can be that innocent people like Adnan lose decades of their lives for crimes they did not commit,” she added.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby explained to reporters outside the courtroom that Syed’s release only indicates that his initial trial was unfair. “We’re not yet declaring Adnan Syed’s innocence,” Mosby said via NBC. “We are declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Lee’s family Steve Kelly revealed that his clients were surprised by the overturned conviction.
“We are disappointed that today’s hearing happened so quickly with, unfortunately, no notice and that the court acted the way it did and that the prosecutor’s office made the recommendation the way that they did,” he told reporters. “This family is interested in the pursuit of justice. They want to know more than anybody who it was that killed Hae Min Lee.”
Lee’s family also released an official statement about the future of the case. “For more than 20 years, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has told the family of Hae Min Lee that their beloved daughter and sister was murdered by Adnan Syed,” the statement read. “One week ago, for the first time, the family was informed that, through a year-long investigation that is apparently still ongoing, the state had uncovered new facts and would be filing a motion to vacate Mr. Syed’s conviction.”
The statement continued: “For more than 20 years, no one has wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family. The Lee family is deeply disappointed that today’s hearing happened so quickly and that they were denied the reasonable notice that would have permitted them to have a meaningful voice in the proceedings.”
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