Court restores murder conviction of Adnan Syed in ‘serial’ case and orders rehearing
A Maryland appeals court on Tuesday restored the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, the subject of the ‘Serial’ podcast who was released last year after spending 23 years fighting charges of killing his former high school girlfriend.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a lower court violated the right of Young Lee, brother of victim Hae Min Lee, to be informed and attend a hearing on the state’s motion seeking to quash Mr. Syed’s conviction.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court ordered a new hearing on the state’s motion to overturn Mr. Syed’s conviction. The court wrote that it “has the power and the obligation to remedy these violations, so long as we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy”.
“We may do so, and accordingly, we rescind the circuit court order quashing Mr. Syed’s convictions, resulting in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence,” the decision reads. “We refer for a new, legally compliant and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee receives sufficient notice of the hearing to allow him to attend in person, evidence in support of the motion to vacate is submitted, and the tribunal sets out the reasons for its decision.
It was not immediately clear whether the decision meant that Mr Syed would have to return to prison.
Mr. Syed was released in September after Judge Melissa M. Phinn of the Baltimore City Circuit Court overturned his conviction “in the interests of justice and fairness”, finding that prosecutors do not failed to provide evidence that could have assisted Mr. Syed at trial and uncovered new evidence that could have affected the outcome of his case.
Mr Syed was serving a life sentence after being found guilty of strangling his high school classmate and former girlfriend Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park in 1999.
Ms Lee’s family had expressed concern that prosecutors had not given them adequate notice of the decision to overturn the conviction. At a hearing last year, Steve Kelly, the family’s attorney, asked Judge Phinn to defer a decision on the motion.
But Judge Phinn denied the request and Young Lee joined the hearing on Zoom after Mr Kelly called him at work.
“It’s not a podcast for me,” Mr Lee said, his voice shaking, when he addressed the court. “This is real life – an endless nightmare for over 20 years.”