true crime

Adnan Syed of Serial Released After 23 Years, Murder Conviction Tossed

Adnan Syed Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Update, September 19: Adnan Syed is a free man, pending a new trial. Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn overturned Syed’s first-degree-murder conviction on September 19, just five days after prosecutors and Syed’s lawyer filed motions undercutting the integrity of the first trial and the evidence that eventually led to his conviction. The judge ordered Syed, who spent 23 years in jail for the crime, to remain on GPS monitoring pending a new trial. Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether they want to try Syed again for the murder of his girlfriend Hae Min Lee, or if they simply want to drop the murder charge. Prosecutors previously wrote that they were seeking a new trial based on the findings of a new investigation but did not comment on his innocence. The podcast that popularized Syed’s case was present at the courthouse and will release a new episode tomorrow based on the developments, according to a tweet from Serial.

Original story published September 14, follows:

The case of Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the hit podcast Serial and an HBO documentary, could be headed back to trial. Syed was previously convicted of the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999 and has been serving a life sentence since his conviction in 2000. In a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Baltimore’s state’s attorney filed a motion on September 14 that said a nearly yearlong investigation, conducted with the defense, found new evidence that points to the possible involvement of two additional suspects. Though prosecutors have not asserted Syed’s innocence, they are requesting a new trial given the findings of the recent investigation that call into question key pieces of evidence from his original trial. “However, for all the reasons set forth below, the State no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction,” wrote the office of Baltimore’s state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, who recommended Syed’s release pending the continuing investigation.

Prosecutors said in the court filing that the two suspects might have been involved in the murder, and their identities are being withheld because the reinvestigation is ongoing. The suspects might have been involved either together or separately and were known to law enforcement during the first investigation but not ruled out. Prosecutors also found new information in the state’s trial file of one person’s statement, which said one of the suspects had a motive to kill Lee, though that information was never given to the defense. Other revelations include the fact that Lee’s car was found behind a house that belonged to one of the suspects’ relatives and two incidents of violence against women, with one suspect later convicted of rape and sexual assault. In addition, prosecutors said the reinvestigation calls into question cell-phone records and key testimony that were used during the first trial. Syed, who was 17 at the time of the crime, maintains that he is innocent.

“This information was not available to the Defendant in his trial in 2000, and the State believes it would have provided persuasive support substantiating the defense that another person was responsible for the victim’s death,” prosecutors said in the filing. “There is an abundance of issues that gives the State overwhelming cause for concern.”

Adnan Syed of Serial Released, Murder Conviction Vacated