'Serial' podcast's Adnan Syed's murder conviction, sentence reinstated by Maryland court
BALTIMORE -- In a decision released Tuesday, the Appellate Court of Maryland ruled to reinstate the original convictions and sentence for Adnan Syed.
Syed, whose case gained national attention when it was featured on the podcast "Serial," was released from prison in September of 2022 after serving more than 20 years for the murder of his Woodlawn High School classmate and ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
Lee was killed in 1999.
In January, Lee's brother, Young Lee, filed a motion centered around the October 2022 hearing in which the charges were dropped against Syed. The Lee family argued that prosecutors infringed upon Maryland victims' rights and the short notice Lee's brother received ahead of the hearing.
Young Lee said the court "denied him his rights as the representative of a crime victim."
Lee's family attorney, Steve Kelly, said the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office gave his client less than one business day's notice for the hearing, and that he was denied the right to fully participate in the proceeding because he wasn't provided with adequate notice, facts, or evidence.
The decision released Tuesday from Maryland's second highest court granted a new hearing where Young Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person.
According to the Appellate Court of Maryland, the court can't send Syed immediately back to prison. All sides have 60 days to assess how to proceed.
The decision by the appeals court said Lee's right to be notified and/or his rights to attend the hearing on the State's motion to vacate was in violation of CP § 8-301.1(d).
"Therefore, we vacate the circuit court's order vacating Mr. Syed's convictions and sentence, which results in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence," the appeals court said in the ruling. "We remand for a new, legally compliant, transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision."
Rabia Chaudry, Syed's friend and advocate, said in response: "We stand by the integrity of the evidence that exonerated Adnan, and urge the Baltimore Police and States Attorney's office to find the source of the DNA on the victims shoes and find Hae Min Lee's actual killer."
Erica Suter, Syed's attorney and the Director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore Law School, said in a statement to WJZ:
"It took over two decades for prosecutors to finally acknowledge what Adnan Syed and his loved ones have been saying since day one: he did not murder Hae Min Lee. The appeal was not about Adnan's innocence but about notice and mootness. The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan's convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms. Lee's brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing. We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee's attendance over Zoom was sufficient. There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon. For the time being, Adnan remains a free man. We remain optimistic that justice will be done. We intend to seek review in Maryland's highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, and will continue to fight until Adnan's convictions are fully vacated. Ensuring justice for Hae Min Lee does not require injustice for Adnan."
Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore City's former top prosecutor, weighed in on the reinstatement of Syed's conviction Tuesday.
"This decision sets a dangerous precedent over a prosecutor's ability to reverse an injustice," Mosby said. "We notified the victim's family in line with Maryland law and best practices, and they attended virtually and spoke. To now send this case back to court prolongs the pain for the Lee family, and leaves a cloud hanging over a man who deserves to be free, Adnan Syed."
The office of Baltimore City State's Attorney Ivan Bates is in the process of conducting a review of the decision, SAO spokesman James Bentley said.
"We must allow the appeals process to play itself out," Bentley said. "Mr. Syed and his legal team may file for an appeal to the Maryland Supreme Court, and we must respect their rights to do so until those rights are either heard or that request is denied; we are in a holding pattern. Any further comment would be premature at this time."
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