Adnan Syed released, conviction dismissed

Adnan Syed released, conviction dismissed

BALTIMORE (AP) – A Baltimore judge on Monday ordered the release of Adnan Syed after overturning Syed’s conviction in the 1999 killing of high school student Hae Min Lee – a case chronicled on the hit podcast “Serial,” a true-crime series . that captivated listeners and revolutionized the genre.

At the behest of prosecutors who had revealed new evidence, District Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered Syed’s conviction vacated as she approved the release of the now 41-year-old, who has spent more than two decades behind bars. There were gasps and applause in the packed courtroom as the judge announced her decision.

Phinn ruled that the state breached its legal obligation to share evidence that could have strengthened Syed’s defense. He ordered that Syed be placed under house arrest with GPS location monitoring. The judge also said the state must decide whether to request a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

“Okay Mr. Side, you are free to join your family,” Finn said as the hearing ended.

Minutes later, Syed emerged from court and smiled as he was led into a waiting SUV through a sea of ​​cameras and a crowd of cheering supporters.

Syed did not speak during the hearing, nor did he speak to reporters outside afterward. But after the hearing, his lawyer Erica Suter described his reaction to the decision, saying: “He said he couldn’t believe it was true.”

Sara Patel, a friend of Syed’s, said “we are very happy and relieved that he is finally free. We’ve been on pins and needles all this time.”

Syed has always maintained his innocence. His case captured the attention of millions in 2014, when the first season of “Serial” focused on Lee’s murder and cast doubt on some of the evidence prosecutors had used, inspiring heated debates at dinner tables and water coolers about innocence. or Syed’s guilt.

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying a lengthy defense investigation had turned up new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction of Said, Lee’s former boyfriend.

“I understand how difficult this is, but we have to make sure we hold the right person accountable,” Assistant State’s Attorney Becky Feldman told the judge as she described various details of the case that have undermined convictions for decades, including other suspects. faulty cell phone data, unreliable eyewitness accounts and a potentially biased detective.

After the hearing, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said investigators are awaiting the results of “DNA analysis” before deciding whether to seek a new trial date or drop the case against Said and “certify his innocence.”

Syed was serving a life sentence after being convicted of strangling 18-year-old Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park.

The investigation “revealed unknown and newly developed information about two alternate suspects, as well as unreliable cell tower data,” Mosby’s office said in a news release last week. The other suspects were known figures at the time of the initial investigation but were not properly excluded or disclosed to the defense, said prosecutors, who declined to release suspect information because of the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said they did not claim Syed is innocent, but lacked confidence “in the integrity of the conviction” and recommended he be released on his own recognizance or bail. The state’s attorney’s office had said that if the motion were granted, it would effectively put Syed on a new trial status, overturning his convictions while the case remained active.

Syed was led into the packed courtroom in handcuffs on Monday. Wearing a white shirt and tie, he sat next to his lawyer. His mother and other family members were in the room, as was Mosby.

In 2016, a lower court ordered Syed’s retrial, arguing that his lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, failed to contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel.

But after a series of appeals, the Maryland Supreme Court in 2019 denied a new trial in a 4-3 opinion. The Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court that Syed’s legal counsel was deficient in failing to investigate an alibi witness, but disagreed that the inadequacy prejudiced the case. The court said Syed waived his ineffective counsel claim.

The US Supreme Court declined to hear Syed’s case in 2019.

The true-crime series was the brainchild of longtime radio producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, who spent more than a year digging into Syed’s case and reporting her findings in near-real time in hour-long segments. The 12-episode podcast won a Peabody Award and was transformative in bringing podcasts to a wider audience.

During the hearing, Hae Min Lee’s brother Young Lee spoke in court, saying he feels betrayed by the prosecutors as he thought the case was settled.

“This is not a podcast for me. This is real life,” he said.

Speaking outside court after the verdict, Mosby expressed sympathy for her brother Lee and said she understood why he felt betrayed.

“But I also understand the importance as an administrator of the criminal justice system to ensure equity, fairness and impartiality. The accused is also entitled to this,” he added.

___ Associated Press writers Mike Kunzelman and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Maryland, contributed to this report.

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