true crime

The new DNA evidence that could change everything in the case against Adnan Syed.

In 2014 a podcast called Serial captured the world’s attention raising questions about convicted murderer Adnan Syed’s guilt, putting the now 38-year-old’s plight to prove his innocence on a global stage.

Just last month his successful request for a retrial was overturned by the Court of Appeals, but a new HBO documentary into his story, is once again throwing up evidence that casts doubt on Syed’s guilt.

The Case Against Adnan Syed offers a fresh set of eyes that leaves armchair experts wondering; did he not do it? Could he be innocent of the 1999 murder of ex-girlfriend and Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee?

Episode four in the series uncovers some particularly startling new evidence.

You can watch the series trailer here. Post continues after video. 

Video via HBO

DNA

At the time of the initial investigation, only basic DNA testing was carried out.

But last year prosecutors submitted items from the crime scene for testing and the documentary reveals what the items were and what they showed.

There were 12 in total, including fingernail clippings, necklaces and a shirt, blood samples, a condom wrapper, a liquor bottle and a rope found close to where Lee’s body was buried.

Syed’s DNA wasn’t found on any of it.

During Syed’s trial, neither the prosecution nor the defence requested that these items be tested, likely because both sides feared that it would either exonerate or incriminate him. After Serial, the prosecution still declined to test it so 2018 was the first time this was actually done.

Testing also uncovered a fingerprint on the rearview mirror of Lee’s car that also didn’t belong to Syed.

DNA of an unidentified female was found on two wires discovered near Lee’s body.

The body

The documentary hired its own private investigators to conduct their own enquiries and uncover new evidence.

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Their analysis of Lee’s death and burial raises a completely alternate theory to that of the prosecution.

The prosecution says Lee’s body was buried around 7:30pm, five hours after Syed strangled her to death.

They had forensic pathologist and Chief Medical Examiner in Fulton County Dr Jan Gorniak take a look at the autopsy and crime scene photographs, and she discovered some unusual markings on Lee’s body, a double diamond shaped mark on her shoulder.

She claimed the lividity (settling of the blood after you die) raised some interesting questions.

The only way that mark would have appeared is if Lee’s corpse was lying face down on an object with that specific shape for at least 8 to 12 hours, according to the pathologist.

No object like that was found at the crime scene.

She also is adamant Lee’s body wasn’t buried until between 10:30 pm and 2:30 am.

the case against adnan syed
Adnan Syed in 2016. Image: Serial.

The Car

The star witness in the State's case, Jay Wilds, claimed that after helping Syed bury Lee's body, they moved her car to a grassy lot the day of the murder.

Six weeks later, he would lead police to the car.

The documentary gets a turf physiologist in to carry out grass simulations to test the theory, and see if the car was really there that long.

The physiologist suggests that the car could have been parked there the day before, or the week before, but probably not six weeks before.

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Neighbours have agreed with that theory stating that they would usually complain if a suspect car was left there for too long.

Key witness

In a series of statements by Wilds, provided to the filmmakers, Wilds contradicts his previous account of events.

He changes the location where Syed showed him Lee's lifeless body in the trunk of her car, and claims blackmail as a reason for his changing account of the events.

Wilds’ new story is that Syed asked him to procure ten pounds of marijuana and, after Wilds got it, used the drugs as blackmail to force Wilds to help dispose of Lee’s corpse.

It’s unclear whether any law enforcement officials were made aware of this new story for the documentary, but it further muddies the credibility of the State’s star witness.

Other suspects

Evidence is explored that points to possible suspects that were dismissed in the original investigation.

They suggest that the involvement of Alonzo Sellers who found Lee's body might have had more to do with the case than meets the eye.

There is a lot of 'oddness' in the claim, the documentary suggests, that he happened to need to urinate in the exact spot Lee's body was. The location was far into the woods, and she was barely visible under leaves.

Sellers lived within a five minute walk of Lee's school, so the suggestion is he might have seen her before.

They also point to the movements of Don Clinedinst, who was Lee's boyfriend.

He was originally cleared by police because he had an alibi and was working.

But this alibi was given by the manager of the store, who happened to be Clinedinst's mother and a digital time card which could have easily been manipulated, the documentary suggests.

An employee at the store also recounts, how Clinedinst had scratch marks and bandages on his forearms at the time of Lee's disappearance.

He was never questioned in person about the case until three weeks after Lee went missing, in which time the speculation is that his 'wounds' were healed.

You can watch the four part series in full on SBS On Demand.

Read more:

Everything we learned from Hae Min Lee's diary entries in The Case Against Adnan Syed.

The tiny detail in Adnan Syed's phone records that won the convicted murderer a new trial.

The Case Against Adnan Syed achieved what Serial was never able to.

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