A tweet by Adnan Syed’s lawyer, Justin Brown, confirmed that the convict is getting a fresh trial in Hae Min Lee murder case. A Baltimore judge has vacated Syed’s conviction and granted a request for the new trial.
Syed, now 35, was convicted for murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 2000, when he was 17, and burying her in Leakin park. They were students at Woodlawn High School back then. Syed’s case became popular after a podcast called Serial revisited the case once again.
Justice Martin Welch handed down the order on Thursday afternoon and wrote that Syed’s trial attorney during that time had, “rendered ineffective assistance when she failed to cross-examine the state’s expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence.” This cell tower location evidence’ corresponds to the whereabouts of Syed, linking him to the burial site of Hae Min Lee. The Baltimore Sun reports that “The ruling comes four months after a post-conviction hearing at which Syed’s attorneys argued that a crucial alibi witness and questionable cellphone records were wrongly overlooked by his original trial lawyer.”
The Baltimore Sun called Syed’s brother Yusuf to ask about his feeling regarding the fresh trial, he said that the family was “feeling great” about the fresh trial. He added, “I had a feeling in my heart it was going to happen. We are just very happy. It’s not only a win for us but a win for a lot of people who are stuck in the system because it opened a lot of people’s eyes about the justice system.” Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed’s and the writer of the book Adnan’s Story, tweeted, “I am shaking with joy, shaking! Thank you Judge Welch. Thank you.” In fact, Chaudry also tweeted optimistically that she might have to rewrite the ending of her book, as she believes Syed might be freed.
Syed had approached the circuit court in February, this year, seeking a fresh trial to prove his innocence. He was denied a new trial petition in 2012. Syed and his team of lawyers were able to present new evidence, which included a new alibi witness, Asia McClain, and the lawyers also effectively argued that the defense counsel had been negligent, reports the New York Times. However, the opposing counsel — Maryland attorney general’s office — firmly believed that Syed killed Hae Min Lee in a calculated manner.
Gleaning more information from the New York Times report, we understand that Syed’s defence in February had challenged the testimony given by an AT&T engineer, Abraham Waranowitz, which linked his cellphone data to burial site. However, the defence was more concerned that the Syed’s original trial lawyer, Maria Cristina Gutierrez, hadn’t called Asia McClain to the stand. In fact, McClain was willing to testify that she saw and spoke to Syed in a public library on the day that Hae Min Lee was murdered. Incidentally, Gutierrez was disbarred in 2001. Welch has also ordered that McLain’s testimony be retransmitted to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
All of this information and more was covered extensively in the Serial podcast by Sarah Koenig. Koenig was present on all three days of the current court proceedings and had attached them as mini-episodes for fans. Serial won the Peabody Award for its role in illuminating flaws in the criminal justice system. That said, a spinoff podcast, titled Undisclosed had actually uncovered a fax cover sheet that highlighted the unreliability of cell phone tower evidence.
This new trial is possibly Syed’s absolute last chance to prove that he is innocent.
[Image via MSNBC/YouTube]