true crime

The Case Against Adnan Syed: What you need to know before you watch the documentary.

On December 10, 2014, the very first episode of Serial dropped on the podcast charts.

Within days, millions of people became obsessed with the murder of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee, and the trial and conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed.

As Sarah Koenig spoke to Adnan from behind bars, and retraced his steps on the day Hae was murdered, we became more and more desperate for answers.

Did Adnan actually do it?

How could his lawyer get away with being so incompetent?

What was his so-called friend Jay Wilds hiding?

Was the cell tower evidence inaccurate?

What about the location of Hae’s car?

Thousands of thought pieces were penned, countless Serial spin-off podcasts were launched, millions of group chats were buzzing with opinions on the case.

Then, after 12 intense episodes, Sarah wrapped up her investigation into Hae and Adnan and moved on to her next story.

Adnan remained behind bars and we were left with a bunch of unanswered questions.

Now, a four-part documentary series called The Case Against Adnan Syedis deep diving into the case. The first episode, Forbidden Love, aired on SBS on Sunday night.

A lot has happened between Serial and The Case Against Adnan Syed. Here’s everything you need know before you watch the documentary:

In 2016, a Baltimore judge granted Adnan a retrial.

On Serial, we heard the case against Adnan hinged on Jay Wild’s eyewitness testimony, and cell tower evidence that allegedly proved Adnan was in Leakin Park at the time Hae’s body would have been buried.

As part of their investigation, Sarah and her team discovered the cell tower information was not, in fact, accurate. They also spoke to Asia McClain – a potential alibi witness for Adnan – who was never called to testify in either of Adnan’s trials by his attorney, the late Cristina Gutierrez.

the case against adnan syed
Hae Min Lee was murdered in 1999. Image: Serial.

Shortly after the podcast series was released, Judge Martin P. Welch ordered a new trial for Adnan based on the unreliability of the cell phone records, as reported by the New York Times.

When the prosecution appealed Adnan's retrial, they said they had testimony from two of Asia's classmates who claimed the high school student told them she would lie to help free Adnan.

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In March 2018, Adnan's conviction was vacated by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. 

On March 29, 2018, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals vacated Adnan's conviction. The conviction was vacated on the basis that Adnan had received ineffective counsel because his lawyer did not call Asia to testify as an alibi witness.

Adnan's current lawyer, Justin Brown, credited Serial with helping him track down Asia and convincing her to come forward.

The state was given 30 days to appeal the decision.

In May 2018, Maryland prosecutors appealed. 

On May 14, 2018, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh's office appealed the decision. They argued Asia's testimony would not have impacted on the original outcome of the case.

According to PBS News Hour, it's unlikely that Adnan will be retried.

Erica Zunkel, a criminal defense expert and law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, told the news program Adnan's case is old now and the prosecution would be reluctant to build a new case against him to retry it.

Rabia Chaudry, Adnan's family friend and the attorney who brought the case to Sarah Koenig, hopes there will be a resolution soon.

“We’ve won the last two appeals,” she told The Baltimore Sun last year. “His conviction has been thrown out twice, and the state keeps throwing taxpayer dollars away by appealing the wins, and so we look forward to winning this last appeal.”

Hae Min's friend "Debbie" cast doubt on Asia's testimony.

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

After it was announced that Adnan's conviction had been vacated, A&E reached out to one of Hae's friends who went by the name "Debbie".

Debbie said she believed Asia - who was friends with Adnan at the time of Hae's murder - was not accurately remembering the day in question.

"I think that she is riding the publicity at this point and that's what she is interested in so she is sticking by her story for that purpose," she told A&E.

In March 2019, Maryland's court of appeals reinstated Adnan's conviction.

Maryland's highest court denied a new trial for Adnan on the grounds that the case was not prejudiced by his deficient legal counsel.

While the Court of Appeals agreed his legal counsel was weak, it determined the verdict would not have been different had the alibi, Asia, uncovered in the Serial podcast been presented to the jury.

You can catch up on the first episode of The Case Against Adnan Syed on SBS on Demand now. A new episode is dropping each Sunday. 

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