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Adnan Syed's life sentence vacated, given home detention pending new trial

Syed's case became nationally known after it was chronicled on the 'Serial' podcast
Posted at 2:44 PM, Sep 19, 2022

BALTIMORE — Adnan Syed is a free man, pending a potential new trial.

On Monday, Baltimore Circuit Court judge Melissa M. Phinn agreed to grant a motion by the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office to vacate Syed's 1999 murder conviction.

Syed has been jailed since 1999, serving a life sentence for the murder of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee, whose body was discovered in Leakin Park.

The case gained national recognition when it was featured on the podcast Serial, which questioned some evidence used to convict Syed.

Other information has since come to light leading some to doubt whether Syed was ever in fact guilty.

Prosecutors now say they've uncovered previously undisclosed material suggesting two other suspects could've potentially been responsible for the murder.

Phinn was asked to release Syed pending further investigation to determine if a new trial is warranted.

"To be clear, the State is not asserting, at this time, that Mr. Syed is innocent," The Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office said when announcing their decision to seek a new trial. "While the investigation remains ongoing when considering the totality of the circumstances, the State lacks confidence in the integrity of the conviction."

Phinn agreed, ordering Syed to be released under home detention. A new trial date has not yet been set.

RELATED: Hearing set for Monday on joint request to set Adnan Syed free

Defense attorneys claim that both of the 'alternate' suspects were known to investigators when Syed was charged but failed to share specific details.

Syed's team says one of the potential suspects previously threatened to kill and make Lee disappear. The defense adds there is documentation that may provide that person's motive. Lee's car, they say, had been found behind the home of one of those suspect's family members.

Much of Syed’s original trial hinged on cell phone data records, which prosecutors say are flawed and no longer reliable. They are also in the process of analyzing and reviewing new DNA findings.

At the time, the state contended dozens of calls were received placing Syed at Leakin Park on the date and time of the murder.

He has long claimed to have been elsewhere at the time, despite one witness testifying that he helped Syed dig a hole for Lee's body. Prosecutors have since called that witness's credibility into question.

The U.S. Supreme Court and Maryland's high court have previously refused to overturn the conviction.

An attorney for Lee's family asked Phinn to postpone the hearing so that her brother in California could attend, but the judge denied the request, and instead suggested he listen in via zoom.

After a brief recess, the brother spoke to the judge virtually about what his family's had to deal with since his sister's murder.

This story was originally published by WMAR in Baltimore, Maryland.