BALTIMORE – Maryland’s highest court has decided that a decision to reopen a high-profile case for a man whose murder conviction was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” according to an order issued on Thursday.
Earlier this year, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ordered a new trial for Adnan Syed, the maintaining of a 2016 lower court ruling. But the state is the highest court has now agreed to consider whether Syed’s murder conviction must actually be restored.
Arguments in the case are scheduled to be heard by the court in December session, according to the court documents. It is far from clear when a decision might come.
Syed was convicted in 2000 of strangling the 17-year-old Hae Min Lee, and burying her body in a Baltimore park. He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder.
But more than a decade later, he became a sort of cause celebre by the immensely popular “Serial” podcast, which debuted in 2014 with the whole of his first season dedicated to the long-running case. The show drew millions of listeners and shattered podcast-streaming and downloading of records.
“Serial” was not very well known evidence, and a loyal army of listeners often acted as armchair detectives, raising new questions about the case and whether or not Syed was indeed guilty.
About two years later, a lower court vacated Syed’s conviction. Plaintiffs appealed to the Maryland intermediate of the court of appeal, which granted a new trial.
Syed’s brother, Yusef, said the family had not yet heard about the latest court ruling. But he said the family remained hopeful when a reporter informed him about it.
“We believe that Adnan will come and the truth will come out,” Yusef Syed said in a brief phone interview.
Rabia Chaudry, a family friend and loyal supporter of Syed’s who brought his case to the attention of the host of the “Serial” and also wrote the 2016 book “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice after the Serial,” said she “deeply disappointed” by Thursday’s court ruling.
“We have fought to get him a new process for almost 20 years. We have won the last two appeals; the courts have overturned his conviction twice. And yet the state keeps throwing taxpayers ‘ money and wasting the time, his life, his parents lives,” Chaudry said. “And we are now looking forward to another year of occupation.”
In March ruling ordering a new trial for Syed, the court of appeal found that his trial lawyer was ineffective for failing to investigate and contact Asia McClain, a possible alibi witness, who said she saw Syed in a public library in Woodlawn, Maryland, around the time that the government claimed Syed killed Hae.
Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, said the judge on Thursday granted the state the opportunity to make the case that Syed’s trial attorney, the late Cristina Gutierrez, was ineffective. She said it also granted Syed’s legal team the chance to make his arguments about the mobile phone evidence.
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