Adnan Syed, who spent 23 years in prison before being released from his conviction for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, got a job as a prison reform advocate at Georgetown University, according to the prestigious American school.
Syed, whose case was featured on the hit podcast Serial, began his role as a program associate with Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative on Dec. 12, school officials said in a statement Friday. Press. The gig is Syed’s first office job as a nine-to-five after the 41-year-old spent more than half his life behind bars for a conviction that authorities no longer stand by.
“It’s a really normal and…unbelievable feeling,” Syed said in a prepared statement attributed to him. “I’m so grateful for that.”
The Prisons and Justice initiative in Georgetown educates those incarcerated, gives job training to those who have been released, and aims to address the “root causes and consequences of mass incarceration,” prison officials added. university in their press release.
In his new job, Syed works with a class called “Making an Exoneree,” which involves students re-examining wrongful convictions, producing documentaries about their cases, and ultimately striving to set innocent people free.
Lee was 18 when she was strangled to death and her body was found buried in Baltimore’s Leakin Park in February 1999. Syed was later charged with her murder and his first trial in December 1999 ended in a annulment of the trial. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison at his second trial in February 2000.
In September, Maryland state prosecutors filed a motion saying a lengthy investigation alongside Syed’s defense had uncovered new evidence undermining his conviction. This evidence, which officials intentionally withheld from Syed’s defense, primarily supported theories that someone else killed Lee.
A judge ordered that Syed be released from prison and his conviction quashed. Prosecutors later chose not to charge him with Lee’s murder, meaning he was free to move on with his life.
Lee’s family have since appealed to keep the sentence in place, arguing they were denied a meaningful chance to participate in the hearing that set the stage for Syed’s release. This appeal process was not resolved on Friday.
Before the dramatic fall turn of events, Syed and Lee’s names became household names in the United States as well as around the world with the release of Serial in 2014.
Yet a lawyer and activist who worked to overturn Syed’s conviction, Rabia Chaudry, criticized Serial for omitting information that called into question the thoroughness of the investigation into Lee’s death.
Chaudry produced a follow-up podcast, Undisclosed, and the book Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial, which also kept Syed’s case on the international conscience, as well as the 2019 HBO documentary series The Case Against Adnan Syed. .
Prisons and Justice Initiative director Marc Howard praised Syed’s hiring on Friday, saying it stemmed from his strong commitment to his education despite the shady circumstances that kept him behind bars for so long. Syed had been enrolled in Georgetown’s liberal arts program from prison before his release.
“He’s one of the most resilient and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and he has so much to offer our team and…the students,” Howard said.
In Friday’s statement from Georgetown, Syed said getting a college job that gave him an education — and through it, hope — while imprisoned was “a full-circle moment “.
“I hope I can have the same kind of impact on others,” Syed said of her new job opportunity.