Adnan Syed released, sentencing thrown

Adnan Syed released, sentencing thrown

BALTIMORE (AP) – A Baltimore judge on Monday ordered the release of Adnan Syed after overturning Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee — a case chronicled in the popular podcast “Serial,” a true crime series. that grounded listeners. and revolutionized the genre.

At the behest of prosecutors who found new evidence, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered Syed’s conviction to be dropped when she approved the release of the now 41-year-old who has spent more than two decades behind bars. There were cheers and applause in the crowded courtroom as the judge announced her decision.

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

“Okay, Mr. Syed, you’re free to join your family,” Phinn said when the hearing was over.

Minutes later, Syed emerged from the courthouse and flashed a small smile as he was led through a sea of ​​cameras and a cheering crowd of supporters to a waiting SUV.

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

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying a lengthy defense investigation had revealed new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction of Syed, Lee’s ex-boyfriend.

“I understand how difficult this is, but we need to make sure we hold the right person accountable,” assistant attorney Becky Feldman told the judge as she described several details from the case that undermine the decades-old conviction, including other defendants. , flawed cell phone records, unreliable witness statements, and a potentially biased detective.

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 undisclosed and newly developed information about two alternate suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data,” the office of state attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a press release last week. The suspects were known persons at the time of the original investigation but were not properly excluded and were not disclosed to the defense, prosecutors said, who declined to release information about the suspects due to the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said they did not claim Syed is innocent, but they had no confidence “in the integrity of the conviction” and advised him to be released on his own admission or bail. The prosecutor’s office had said that if the motion were granted, it would effectively put Syed in a new trial status, lifting his convictions, while keeping the case active.

Syed was led into the crowded courtroom in handcuffs on Monday. He wore a white shirt with a tie and sat down next to his lawyer. His mother and other members of the family were in the room, as was Mosby.

In 2016, a lower court ordered a new trial for Syed on the grounds that his lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, had failed to contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel.

But after a series of appeals, Maryland’s 2019 Supreme Court dismissed a new trial in a 4-3 opinion. The Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court that Syed’s legal counsel failed to investigate an alibi witness, but disagreed that the failure harmed the case. The court said Syed waived his ineffective attorney claim.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review 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, reporting her findings in near real-time in hour-long segments. The 12-episode podcast won a Peabody Award and was transformative in popularizing podcasts for a wide audience.

“Justice is always worth the price paid for its pursuit,” Mosby said at a news conference after the hearing.

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