On Monday, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered the release of Adnan Syed, who has been in prison for more than two decades for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The ruling came after prosecutors in Baltimore admitted that they had failed to share crucial evidence with Mr Syed’s defence team.
The new evidence, which was uncovered by investigative journalist Sarah Koenig in the 2015 podcast “Serial”, cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against Mr Syed. Judge Phinn ruled that the state had violated its legal obligation to share exculpatory evidence with the defence and ordered Mr Syed released from custody on home detention with an electronic tag. She also ordered the state to decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.
Mr Syed’s lawyer, Justin Brown, said he was “absolutely elated” by the ruling and that his client was “one step closer to justice”. Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek a retrial.
“All right Mr Syed, you’re free to join your family,” Judge Phinn said as the hearing ended.
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Adnan Syed, whose murder trial was the subject of the popular podcast “Serial,” has asked the prosecution to have his 2000 conviction overturned at a hearing scheduled for Monday in Baltimore.
The hearing was set at 2 p.m. by Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn, according to The Baltimore Sun.
This development comes as Baltimore prosecutors on Wednesday filed a motion claiming that new evidence had been found after a protracted inquiry with the defense that would call into question Syed’s conviction.
Syed was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee by strangling her in 1999. Hae Min Lee was 18 at the time of her death. Her remains was discovered buried in a park in Baltimore.
Mr Syed, who always maintained his innocence, received widespread attention in 2014 when the debut season of Serial focused on Ms Lee’s killing and raised doubts about some of the evidence prosecutors used, inspiring countless debates about Mr Syed’s innocence or guilt.
Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying that a lengthy investigation conducted with the defence had uncovered new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction of Mr Syed, who was Ms Lee’s ex-boyfriend. The new evidence includes witness statements that contradict key parts of the prosecution’s case and information about a possible alternate suspect. In light of this new evidence, prosecutors have asked the court to vacate Mr Syed’s conviction and grant him a new trial.
The developments in Mr Syed’s case have captivated the public’s attention once again, and highlighted the importance of rigorous investigation and review in our criminal justice system.
Syed, 42, has steadfastly defended his innocence for years, and in 2014, the first season of the podcast “Serial” centered on the case and put doubt on some of the evidence, including cellphone tower data, and attracted the interest of millions of listeners.
The prosecution urged that Syed be released on his own recognizance or bond, saying that while they were not claiming that Syed was innocent, they lacked trust “in the integrity of the conviction.”
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stated, “We believe that keeping Mr. Syed incarcerated while we continue to investigate the case with what we know today, when we do not have faith in the results of the first trial, would be unjust.”
Maryland law states that prosecutors typically have 30 days after a conviction is overturned to choose whether to drop the charges or retry the case, the Sun said, citing a motion filed in the case.
The US Supreme Court has declined to review the case of Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was overturned by a lower court in 2016. The decision means that Mr Syed will not be given a new trial, and will remain in prison.
The case has attracted international attention, due in part to the popular true-crime podcast “Serial”, which raised questions about the fairness of Mr Syed’s trial.
The Supreme Court’s decision is a disappointment to many who hoped that Mr Syed would finally be exonerated, but it is perhaps not surprising given the complex legal issues involved. For now, Mr Syed remains behind bars, and the question of his guilt or innocence remains unresolved.