Adnan Syed – the focus of the popular podcast Serial – has been granted a new trial.
Fans of Serial (AKA the podcast that introduced most people to podcasts) will remember that Adnan was found guilty and in 2000 and sentenced to 30 years prison for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee when he was just 19 years old. He has always maintained he is innocent.
Now, 38, the former Woodlawn High School, Baltimore student is one step closer to clearing his name and walking free.
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This week a Maryland appeals court granted Adnan a new trial after finding that he had “ineffective assistance” in the original trial, CBS Baltimore reports.
The judges were upholding a decision first made by a judge in 2016 to vacate his conviction and have a new trial. But the prosecution appealed that decision, leading us to where we are now.
Listeners of the original 2014 podcast series who concluded that Adnan did not receive a fair trial and was innocent will be pleased to note the reason for the new trial is exactly the reason spelled out in the podcast: he had an alibi not properly explored in court.
The judges found that if testimony from Asia McClain – who says she saw Adnan in the library after school – had been presented in court during the original trial it could have shaken the prosecution’s timeline and led to that oh-so-crucial reasonable doubt.
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Of course, the prosecution could appeal the decision and once again postpone the trial. Syed’s lawyer C. Justin Brown told CBS he was hopeful this wouldn’t happen. He added he was even considering requesting Adnan be released on bail.
If you haven’t listened to Serial, this is no doubt going right over your head about now. While the series is definitely still worth a listen (and we recommend you do), here’s a quick explainer if you just want the abridged version.
The story behind Serial
On January 13 1999, Hae Min Lee disappeared in Baltimore County, Maryland after school. In February her body was found in a shallow grave in nearby park. She had been strangled. A couple of weeks after that, Adnan Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was arrested.
The thing about this case though, the reason it got so much interest, is that the testimony of Adnan’s friend Jay is almost the only reason Adnan was arrested and later convicted.
Jay told police Adnan confessed to him and he helped bury the body, yet there was no strong physical evidence to prove any of this. With Jay seemingly having nothing to gain from this confession to police – he himself was pleadingly guilty to accessory after the fact – many suggest he may have been forced into lying.
Also important is that the prosecution allowed only a very narrow window – about half an hour – for Adnan to have murdered Hae. A friend of a friend’s account, which was never properly explored or used by Adnan’s lawyer could have provided the witness testimony the then-teenager needed to back up his alibi.
And that’s why if there is a new trial, where the neglected evidence could be presented to a new jury, Adnan could very well walk from jail a free man.