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New Twist In Case That Made ‘Serial’ Famous After Appeals Court Reinstates Murder Conviction.


Adnan Syed, the convicted murderer whose conviction was cast into doubt on the first season of the Serial podcast, is facing a potential return to prison. In a 2-1 decision, the Maryland Appeals Court has sided with the family of Hae Min Lee, the woman who a jury concluded was murdered by Syed in 1999, and reinstated Syed’s conviction. It concluded that Baltimore prosecutors failed to give Lee’s family adequate notice of its plans, telling them just 30-minutes before it began, and her brother was unable to attend the hearing in-person. “This is not a podcast for me – this is real life,” Lee’s brother, Young Lee, told the court via Zoom.


The appeals court did rule however that Lee will not be able to present any evidence when the Baltimore City Attorney’s office likely tries again to wipe out the conviction. Even so, his attorney, David Sanford, told the Baltimore Sun that they are pleased with the decision. “We are equally pleased that the Appellate Court is directing the lower court to conduct a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court’s decision will be based on evidence for the world to see,” Sanford said.


The ruling, released Tuesday, will not take effect for 60-days. That means Syed, who now works teaching students criminal justice at Georgetown University, will not immediately return to prison.


Syed’s attorneys say they are planning to appeal the decision to the Maryland Supreme Court. Attorney Erica Suter said that “there is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon” and that the overturning of the conviction was not about his innocence but rather legal process. “We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee’s attendance over Zoom was sufficient,” she said. The appeal could also delay any return to prison for Syed.


To a cheering crowd, Syed walked out of the Baltimore courthouse with an ankle bracelet. The judge ordered him to home confinement. Prosecutors now have 30 days to ask for a new trial. But some trial attorneys think that could prove difficult since two decades have passed, making some witnesses unavailable while others’ memories have likely faded through the years.


Questions have been building about the conviction for years. Last year, Baltimore prosecutors agreed to go along with a motion filed by Syed’s attorney seeking to use updated DNA testing technology to retest some of the evidence used to convict him. Syed has maintained his innocence through the years and his attorneys hope to convince the judge to require the Baltimore City Police Lab to retest what it collected at the 1999 crime scene of the murder of Lee. That includes clothing and shoes as well as hairs found near Lee’s body.


Syed was Lee’s ex-boyfriend. He was convicted in 2000 of killing Lee, and burying her body in a Baltimore park. He had been serving a life sentence. Syed has long insisted he is innocent, and during the Serial podcast it was suggested someone else may have instead been the murderer.


Lee’s family has said it was outraged by Syed’s release, saying it was “blindsided” by the state attorney’s decision to push for a new trial.

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