Adnan Syed speaks for first time since prison release as Lee family requests redo of hearing
BALTIMORE -- Adnan Syed spoke publicly for the first time since he was released from prison in September.
Syed had his conviction vacated in September and charges dropped in October after spending more than 22 years in prison for the death of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
"Just over the past 20, almost 24 years, it's really hard for us," Syed said. "It's hard for my dad; it's hard for my mom; it's hard for my younger brother."
The Appellate Court of Maryland heard an oral argument Thursday morning by Lee's family for a redo of the hearing in which Syed's 2000 murder conviction was thrown out.
The family argues that prosecutors in the case infringed upon Maryland victims' rights. The appeal centers around the short notice Lee's brother, Young Lee, received ahead of the October 11 hearing.
The Lee family attorneys told a three-judge panel that her brother, Young Lee, wanted to travel from California to Baltimore but the court only gave him one business day notice.
"We take no position as to whether or not Adnan Syed is guilty or innocent," Lee Family Attorney David Sanford said. "What we do take a position on is trying to substantiate the rights of the victim and the victim's family here and have a process that's filled with dignity, and respect and sensitivity, which is required under the Maryland constitution."
Syed was also present for Thursday's hearing, and his attorney made an argument against the appeal, saying the case is moot because there are no charges.
There is no timeline for when the judges will make their decision.
Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Syed made an emotional request to the court: for it to recognize his family's pain.
"It seems like our family, we just go unnoticed," he said next to his mother, father and younger brother. "Every time we go to court we go unnoticed. We definitely understand Hae's family has suffered so much, and they continue to suffer. And it's just that we suffer too. And we hope that the court today just takes notice of that."
Hae Min Lee, a student at Woodlawn High School, was murdered in 1999. Syed was charged and then convicted of first-degree murder in 2000.
"Serial," a hit podcast released in 2014, raised questions about Syed's prosecution, drawing international attention to the case.
After spending more than 22 years in prison, Syed's murder conviction was vacated last year, and the court dropped his charges, allowing him to walk out a free man.
Attorneys revealed last year that evidence that could have exonerated Syed was withheld, and that two other potential suspects may have been improperly cleared.
Now, Lee's murder remains unsolved.
"This court's decision will neither bring back Hae Min Lee nor restore Adnan's 23 1/2 lost years, but what it can do is confirm that the lower court's decision should stand," said Erica Suter, Syed's attorney. "Adnan, his family, and I would like to thank the tens of thousands around the globe who heard his story and believe in him, who believe in our system's ability to correct its mistakes, even in hard cases."
- From conviction to freedom: A timeline of the Adnan Syed case
- Prosecutors drop charges against Adnan Syed after DNA testing
- Hae Min Lee's family attorneys seek new hearing to find out why Adnan Syed was granted release
A virtual vacatur hearing was held in October that led to Syed's prison release and dropped charges. Young Lee says he did not find out about the hearing until after it was held.
Lee's attorney, David Sanford, says Lee was denied the right to fully participate in the proceeding because he was not given adequate notice, facts or evidence.
"There are a lot of violations here of the law and there are errors made here by the court," Sanford said "If Adnan Syed is in fact innocent, it was a terrible miscarriage of justice and we'll be the first ones to say that, once there is a proper evidentiary hearing."
Last month when WJZ spoke with the new attorney general Anthony Brown, he told us that his office filed a report regarding Lee's appeal because it's important to him to protect the victim's rights.
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