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New questions over alibi testimony in "Serial" case

BALTIMORE -- New questions are surfacing over the testimony of an alibi witness in the murder case at the center of the popular podcast “Serial.”

The podcast captivated millions of listeners around the world and stoked intense debate on social media over the conviction of Adnan Syed, who was sentenced to life in prison in the 1999 murder of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.

Convicted killer in "Serial" podcast to get new trial

In June, retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch ruled Syed deserved a new trial, because his lawyer didn’t call into question key cell phone location data used by prosecutors to place Syed near the Baltimore park where Lee’s body was later found buried and corroborate the story of the man who accused him, former classmate Jay Wilds.

Also introduced in post-conviction hearings for Syed was the testimony of the alibi witness, Asia McClain, who said she saw Syed at a library near Woodlawn High School -- where they both were students – during the time when prosecutors said Syed was killing Lee. Syed’s defense said had she been called to testify at his original trial, Syed might not have been convicted.

Welch ultimately threw out Syed’s conviction based on the cell data issue, not the fact that McClain didn’t testify at his trial. But on July 7, about a week after Syed’s conviction was vacated, state prosecutors say they were contacted over email by two sisters who were former classmates at Woodlawn High School who claim McClain told them she would lie to prove Syed’s innocence.

In the email, which was included in the new suppemental filing by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office as they appeal the ruling vacating Syed’s conviction, one of the sisters said they both “argued with Asia about how serious this situation was” after the murder in 1999. “She just said that it wouldn’t hurt anything-that if he was truly guilty then he would be convicted.”

The new filing was first reported by the Baltimore Sun.

The sisters showed prosecutors recent Facebook messages with McClain, exchanged after “Serial” debuted in 2014, detailing the 1999 argument during which McClain allegedly told the sisters she believed so much in Syed’s innocence she would she “would make up a little lie to prove he couldn’t have done it.”

“I think it’s sad he may actually be set free because of you and this fabricated story,” one Facebook message to McClain read.

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The sisters gave sworn statements about the case this summer, reports the Baltimore Sun. The sisters’ identities were not revealed in the filing.

In another Facebook message to McClain included in the court filing, one of the sisters says they struggled over whether to contact prosecutors with the information and initially decided against it “because we assumed there was no way in hell he would be granted a new trial.”

“Me, [redacted] and you know darn well you never saw him [at] that library,” the message read.

Prosecutors argue that the sisters’ affidavits should be added to the record, saying they “directly undermine McClain’s truthfulness.”

Syed has long maintained his innocence. Lee’s family has said they believe Syed killed their daughter and said the renewed emphasis on the case has “re-opened wounds few can imagine.”

McClain and her attorney could not immediately be reached for comment by the Baltimore Sun Monday.