Three Judges Are Hearing A Petition To Reinstate Adnan Syed’s Conviction


Photo: Tribune News Service

Just months after his case was dismissed by the State of Maryland, the fate of Adnan Syed is again being argued in court.

Syed was tried and convicted for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and her family is now contesting the state’s decision to drop the charges against Syed. The Appellate Court of Maryland heard arguments on Thursday from lawyers representing the Lee family and will rule on if their rights as victims were properly considered last fall.

Hae Min’s brother, Young Lee, is acting as a representative for the victim. David Sanford, one of the attorneys representing the family, told judges that Lee’s rights as a victim were violated up to 10 times during three hearings. They are asking for a redo of the September hearing where prosecutors asked a circuit court to vacate Syed’s conviction and grant him a new trial.

“I'm relying on the statute, Your Honor, that allows for a victim or victim’s representative to be present during a criminal proceeding at which the defendant has a right to be at,” said Sanford. “That didn’t happen here.”

While Young Lee was able to attend the hearing through Zoom, his attorney argued that he was not given enough notice of the proceedings and his motion for the hearing to be delayed was denied. Lee was given one business days' notice of the September hearing, and Sanford argued that he was unable to bring forth any evidence that might have changed the outcome.

“There wasn’t someone in a position to serve as an adversary. Someone in a position to raise questions or at least comment on evidence,” Sanford said. “That was not afforded our client here.”

Syed’s attorney Erica Suter argued that while Lee does have a right to be notified, he does not have the right to participate in any arguments. In this case, prosecutors for the State of Maryland asked for a retrial due to a Brady violation during the original investigation, which was a breach of Syed's constitutional right of due process.

“There is no case law, there is no statute or rule that gives Mr. Lee the right to participate,” said Suter. “He was notified, um, as was practicable as soon as the state was aware of a particular court date.”

For attorney and Syed family friend Rabia O’chaudry, the entire argument is baseless. O’chaudry has followed the case against Syed every step of the way and is the one who brought it to Sarah Koenig, the journalist behind the popular podcast Serial.

“How do you redo a case where charges have been dropped?” she asked on Twitter back in December.

What Led To Syed’s Release

Serial released a special episode regarding Syed’s case last fall titled, “S01 Episode 13: Adnan Is Out.” In the episode, Koenig explained that a law passed in 2020 led to his case being reviewed by the newly formed Sentencing Review Unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

Becky Feldman, chief of the Sentencing Review Unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, was assigned to review the case and immediately felt that something wasn't right. What started out as nothing more than an audit quickly became a reinvestigation and uncovered two other suspects that were known to the police at the time and never ruled out.

Feldman found handwritten notes from the investigation describing two phone calls detectives had with a potential witness who heard one of the suspects say he was going to kill Hae Min Lee. The state investigated and, in its court filing, said they had found the information credible. The information was never given to Syed’s attorney which is a Brady violation.

“They are saying, ‘Back in 1999, we didn’t investigate this case thoroughly enough. We relied on evidence we shouldn’t have, and we broke the rules when we prosecuted,’ ” said Koenig. “This wasn’t an honest conviction.”

Baltimore prosecutors have not named the two new suspects, but they have released that one of them was connected to where Lee’s car was found. There are also relevant criminal records for both individuals. DNA testing was done for the first time on the car as well as Lee's shoes. Prosecutors did not find any trace of Syed's DNA which led to Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, Maryland, to drop all charges.

“Adnan’s case contains just about every chronic problem our system can cough up,” said Koenig. “Police using questionable interview methods, prosecutors keeping crucial evidence from the defense, slightly junky science, extreme prison sentences, juveniles treated as adults, and how grindingly difficult it is to get your case back in court after you have been convicted.”

Koenig released a statement shortly after the episode’s release stating that the podcast would no longer be covering Syed’s story, or Lee’s now unsolved murder. You can still go back and listen to season one’s full coverage of the case, as well as their new investigations.

O’chaudry also has several podcasts that are true crime based, Undisclosed looks at Syed’s case along with other wrongfully convicted persons. Rabia and Ellyn Solve the Case looks at true crime stories with celebrity guests. Find them all on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you want to be sure you’re listening to the podcasts everyone else is checking out, iHeartRadio has you covered.   

Every Monday, iHeartRadio releases a chart showing the most popular podcasts of the week. Stay up to date on what’s trending by checking out the chart here. There’s even a chart just for radio podcasts featuring all your favorite iHeartRadio personalities like Bobby Bones, Elvis Duran, Steve Harvey, and dozens of others. 

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