Adnan Syed was granted a new trial on the ground that he received ineffective counsel in 2000 from a defense attorney who failed to cross-examine a state cellphone expert witness on key evidence. His counsel has now filed a motion for bail pending his appeal.
In 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Lee was a student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County. Lee went missing in January 1999. Lee’s body was found nearly a month later. The cause of death was strangulation.
Syed was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2004, a podcast called “Serial” went on the air. The premise of the award-winning podcast is that it “tells one story — a true story — over the course of a season. Each season, we follow a plot and characters wherever they take us. We won’t know what happens at the end until we get there, not long before you get there with us.“
Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed’s, introduced the host of “Serial,” Sarah Koenig, to Syed’s story. The first season examined the details of Syed’s story in detail. To tell Syed’s story, “Sarah Koenig sorted through thousands of documents, listened to trial testimony and police interrogations, and talked to everyone she could find who remembered what happened between Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. She discovered that the trial covered up a far more complicated story than the jury — or the public — ever got to hear. The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence — all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of?”
The explosive popularity of “Serial” caused a renewed interest in Syed’s case.
New Trial Granted
The popularity of “Serial” caused an alibi witness, who was previously ignored by Syed’s trial counsel to come forward. Additional investigation uncovered new evidence that undermined the reliability of the cell phone records that were the center of the State’s case against Syed.
Judge Martin P. Welch ordered a new trial, ruling that Syed deserved a new trial because his lawyer’s failure to adequately cross-examine the State’s cellphone expert witness was a mistake so egregious that it violated Syed’s right to effective assistance of counsel.
Motion for Release Pending Appeal
On October 24, 2016, Syed’s legal team filed a Motion for Release Pending Appeal. In this motion, Syed requested that the court order his release during the pendency of the State’s appeal of the Order vacating his conviction and granting a new trial.
The motion argues that, “Syed has now served more than 17 years in prison based on an unconstitutional conviction for a crime he did not commit. He has no history of violence other than the state’s allegation in this case, and if released he would pose no danger to the community. He is also not a flight risk; it makes no sense that he would run from the case he has spent more than half his life trying to disprove.”
Photo Credit: Serial Podcast by Casey Fiesler from Atlanta. (CC By 2.0)