The subject of the wildly popular podcast Serial, Adnan Syed, may get a fresh chance in court. The Maryland Court of Appeals has just decided that it will hear arguments in his case. This has been a long road for Syed and it is not over yet, but those Serial fans who think he was wrongly convicted are surely happy to hear the news.
Sarah Koenig of This American Life spent a year examining the case where Adnan Syed was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. Syed was convicted in 2000, but he has claimed his innocence all this time. After a dozen podcasts of Serial, Koenig and many listeners felt they weren’t necessarily sure just what happened that day Lee died and Adnan definitely has those who feel he should get a new trial.
The pursuit for a new trial has been going on for some time now, and Syed isn’t there yet. What the Maryland Court of Appeals determined is that they will hear arguments on the case in their June session. As PBS notes, Adnan’s application for an appeal focuses on claims that his attorney, the deceased Christina Gutierrez, provided ineffective counsel throughout his trial.
As the Baltimore Sun notes, Syed has previously had two unsuccessful attempts over the past 12 years to have his conviction overturned. This new ruling will give him an opportunity to show the judges why he should be given the opportunity to have a new trial. His attorney, C. Justin Brown, says that they are extremely happy, though this is the first step in a long process. His family, of course, has stood behind him and they are said to be feeling cautiously optimistic with this latest development.
After the news of the decision broke, Sarah Koenig addressed the scoop on the Serial website. She notes that during the podcast she said the appeal was still alive by a thread, and now she says it’s still alive by something like a nylon, a well-made string. She adds that the decision means that the judges think the issues Syed raised are worth considering, a big hurdle in any situation like this.
At the center of Adnan’s argument is the failure of Gutierrez to talk to Asia McClain, a student and potential alibi witness who says she talked to Adnan in the library at the time the prosecution said he was killing Lee elsewhere. Adnan’s argument also says that Gutierrez failed to seek a plea deal for him, despite his asking her to, contributing to an ineffective assistance of counsel.
What comes next? In June judges will hear oral arguments from both Adnan’s attorney and the state. There will be no new evidence or witnesses presented, Koenig shares. Then the court will either grant or deny Syed further relief. Moving forward with relief could mean just the opportunity to present new evidence or it could mean a new trial.
As Koenig says, “it’s bound to grind on for a long while yet,” because no matter what the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decides, things very well could be pushed up to the Court of Appeals.
Will Adnan Syed get an opportunity for a new trial? Will the work Sarah Koenig did on Serial eventually lead to definitive answers regarding Hae Min Lee’s death for those who feel that things don’t quite add up properly? Serial fans are definitely curious and still following the developments, though it seems there’s a long road ahead yet yet for Adnan Syed.
[Image via Self Bliss]