In 1999, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee was found dead. Despite her ex-boyfriend’s claims that he was innocent, Adnan Syed was sentenced to life in prison for her murder. Now, after more than twenty years and a popular podcast about the murder, Syed is out of prison.
Will “Serial” podcast subject Adnan Syed become a free man?
Syed Found Guilty for The Murder of Hae Min Lee
In 1999, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee went missing. After a month of searching, Lee was found buried in a park near Baltimore, Maryland. Her death was ruled a homicide by strangulation.
The investigation into her murder led to 17-year-old Adnan Syed. Syed was Lee’s ex-boyfriend, and two pieces of evidence made him a prime suspect. Cell phone records showed a ping from Syed’s phone on a tower near the park where Lee was found. More telling, a classmate of Syed and Lee testified that he helped Syed bury Lee’s body.
The two pieces of evidence were enough to lead a jury to convict Syed. He was found guilty of murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment and was sentenced to life in prison.
“Serial” Podcast Exposes Holes in Syed’s Conviction
Fourteen years after the verdict, Syed became the subject of the podcast, Serial.
The podcast, released in 2014, was extremely popular and downloaded around 100 million times. It revisited Syed’s case, pointing out the holes in the story and presenting the possibility that Syed was innocent.
Among the evidence was the statement of Asia McClain. A fellow classmate, McClaim said she was with Syed at the time of the murder. She said she contacted Syed’s attorney at the time of the trial because she wanted to testify, but Syed’s attorney never contacted her.
The podcast highlighted other errors made by Syed’s attorney, Maria Cristina Gutierrez and documented how she was disbarred in 2001 after multiple client complaints. The podcast also shared how physical evidence was never tested for DNA and that the cell phone tower data might not have been credible.
Many listeners began to believe in the possibility of Syed’s innocence. But, could a podcast reverse a verdict?
Moving Through The Appeals Process
Many listeners hoped Syed’s case might be reversed in February 2015 when a court agreed to hear an appeal and granted a hearing to introduce new evidence. The appeals process was slow and long. The case went back and forth with appeals from both sides, and in 2018, Maryland’s highest court eventually denied Syed a new trial. The Supreme Court refused to hear his case, and it seemed Syed had run out of options.
Then, a new Maryland law brought Syed’s case back into the court system in 2022.
The Maryland law allows “prosecutors the discretion to modify sentences of offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crimes and had served at least 20 years in prison.” So in March 2022, prosecutors agreed to review Syed’s case and conduct new DNA testing due to advances in genetics profiling.
The investigation found multiple reasons to believe Syed’s conviction may be incorrect.
As reported by The New York Times, prosecutors said their investigation found:
- The potential involvement of two “alternative suspects”
- Key evidence that prosecutors might have failed to provide to Syed’s lawyers
- “Significant reliability issues regarding the most critical pieces of evidence” presented at trial
In September 2022, prosecutors officially asked for Syed’s conviction to be overturned. Marilyn J. Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City, said in a statement, “After a nearly yearlong investigation reviewing the facts of this case, Syed deserves a new trial where he is adequately represented and the latest evidence can be presented.”
Will Syed Go Free?
On September 19, 2022, Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated Syed’s conviction, stating that prosecutors made a compelling argument that Syed’s conviction was flawed.
At age 41, Syed walked out of prison.
Syed’s legal story isn’t over just yet. He must remain under home detention while prosecutors decide what to do about his case. Maryland prosecutors have 30 days to decide if they want to proceed with a new trial or drop the charges.
If they decide to have a new trial, Syed will have another chance to prove his innocence in court.
If they decide to drop the charges, Syed will walk away as a free man.
The Importance of a Strong Legal Defense
Syed’s case is a reminder of how important it is to have a strong legal defense team. If you are arrested or charged with a crime, make sure you have a criminal defense attorney who will fight for you to get the most just and fair outcome.
To discuss any pending criminal cases, talk to TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule your meeting or call 813-226-1023 now.