Adnan Syed case update: DNA results loom as state faces deadline to retry Serial podcast subject for murder

Adnan Syed gets new trial

Adnan Syed walked out of court a free man on Monday after two handwritten notes featuring the name of another potential suspect was discovered earlier this year, it has been revealed.

Serial, the podcast which propelled the case to global attention and first raised doubts about Mr Syed’s conviction, released a new episde on Tuesday revealing what finally led Baltimore prosecutors to rethink the 41-year-old’s conviction for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

In the episode, journalist Sarah Koenig said that “messy” notes which languished in statet trial boxes for more than two decades revealed that two different people had placed two separate phone calls alerting prosecutors to the unnamed suspect prior to Syed’s 2000 conviction.

The notes were not shared with Mr Syed’s legal team – something the judge agreed was a Brady violation.

On Monday, Judge Melissa Phinn overturned Mr Syed’s conviction and ordered him to be released – after 23 years behind bars.

Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide whether they will fully drop the charges or retry the case.


What we know about two alternate suspects in 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee

Adnan Syed walked out of court a free man on Monday, after an almost year-long investigation uncovered new evidence about the possible involvement of two alternative suspects in the 1999 slaying of student Hae Min Lee.

On Monday, Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn vacated the 41-year-old’s conviction “in the interest of justice”, granted him a new trial and ordered him to be released under home detention while the investigation into Lee’s murder continues.

His release came days after Maryland prosecutors made a bombshell request for his conviction to be quashed.

On Wednesday – after more than two decades behind bars where Syed has continued to maintain his innocence of any involvement – Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed a motion to throw out his conviction.

She said that “the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction” based on doubts about the validity of cellphone records as well as new information about two unnamed suspects.

Wednesday’s court filing did not name the two alternate suspects in the case, citing an ongoing investigation.

However, prosecutors said that the two alternate suspects were both known to the initial 1999 murder investigation and were not properly ruled out or disclosed to the defence.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:


Serial host says she ‘did not see this coming at all’

Serial host Sarah Koenig has said that she “did not see it coming at all” when prosecutors made the bombshell announcement last week that they were calling for Adnan Syed’s release.

After following the case for close to a decade – and seeing multiple legal setbacks for Mr Syed along the way – she told the New York Times that she was “shocked” when the state suddenly “pulled off a rubber mask and underneath was a scowling defense attorney”.

“I was shocked. I did not see this coming at all. One of the first things I did was call Adnan’s brother and then his mother — they told me they didn’t know either,” she said.

“The prosecutors who filed the motion to release him kept it pretty tight, it seems.

“But the shocking part was that this was coming from the state’s side. I felt almost disoriented for about a day. Like the city prosecutor’s office suddenly pulled off a rubber mask and underneath was a scowling defense attorney.”

Ms Koenig launched the podcast in 2014, after being contacted by Mr Syed’s family friend and attorney Rabia Chaudry.

The podcast series propelled the case to international attention and raised serious doubts about Mr Syed’s conviction, as one of the pioneers of the true crime phenomenon.


Voices: Adnan Syed’s conviction should have been thrown out a long time ago

Twenty-two years ago, Adnan Syed was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Lee, a student in Baltimore County, Maryland, was 18 years old when she went missing in January 1999. She was found dead of manual strangulation in February of that year. Syed, who was 17 at the time of Lee’s death, was charged with her murder later that month; he was convicted a year later and sentenced to life in prison.

Syed’s case came to renewed attention in 2014, with the launch of Serial, the podcast that changed the face of true-crime programming and cast doubt on the solidity of Syed’s conviction.

Over the course of 12 episodes, journalist Sarah Koenig, the show’s host, pointed to weaknesses in the evidence used against Syed, as well as remaining idiosyncrasies and blurry areas. If there is one central theme to Serial’s first season (the show had two more, dedicated to other topics), it’s doubt — a crucial factor, considering that the US justice system dictates that one should only be convicted of a criminal offense if the jury believes they are guilty “beyond reasonable doubt.”

The Independent’s Clémence Michallon discusses the case:


Legal expert says it’s ‘unlikely’ Adnan Syed will be tried again

A legal expert has said he thinks it is “extremely unlikely” that Adnan Syed will be tried again for Hae Min Lee’s murder.

Duncan Levin, former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and a prominent criminal defence attorney at Levin & Associates who has represented clients including Harvey Weinstein and Anna Sorokin, told The Independent on Tuesday that he thinks this marks the end of Mr Syed’s two-decade long legal battle.

“This is pretty much the end of the road,” he said.

“This was the prosecution’s motion to vacate the sentence so I think they’d like some time to probably tidy up the file but at this time I think it’s extremely unlikely that he’ll get a new court date in the next 30 days.”

Mr Levin said that it is unlikely that prosecutors don’t know already what they will do when the 30-day deadline comes around.

“I can’t imagine that they don’t know what direction they’re going in,” he said, adding that he thinks it’s likely that they are already planning to drop all charges against the 41-year-old.

It is of course possible for prosecutors to bring fresh charges against Syed sometime in the future, if new evidence comes to light once the 30 days passes and the current charges are dropped.

But, given the “holes” in the case against him, Mr Levin said this is also “highly unlikely”.

“I think it’s highly unlikely that prosecutors will recharge him,” he said.

“This is probably the end of the line for the case. They’ll keep looking into it, but it’s a pretty stale case at this point.

“For Mr Syed at least I think it’s the end of the line.”


Serial releases new episode about Adan Syed’s release

Serial, the hit podcast that propelled the case to international attention and cast doubts on Adnan Syed’s conviction, has released a new episode following his release.

The episode titled “Adnan is Out” chronicles what led the prosecutor’s office to call for his conviction to be quashed.

In it, journalist Sarah Koenig revealed that prosecutors had discovered two handwritten notes about another potential suspect within boxes of files on the case earlier this year.

Their discovery “shocked” both the prosecution and the defence, she said.

Listen to the episode below:


Timeline of the murder of Hae Min Lee and legal battle of Adnan Syed

More than two decades on from his arrest for the murder of his former girlfriend, Adnan Syed is set to finally walk free from prison.

On Monday, ​​Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn threw out the 41-year-old’s conviction and granted him a new trial, ordering his release after spending the last 23 years behind bars.

Syed, who was 17 when he was accused of killing Hae Min Lee, will be released from prison today.

Syed’s sudden release marks just the latest twist in a legal battle that has rumbled on for more than two decades – and during which he has always maintained his innocence.

Read a timeline of the case so far:


Adnan Syed: What happens next for the Serial podcast subject and the murder case of Hae Min Lee?

With Adnan Syed’s conviction now quashed, questions remain around what happens next.

Will Syed be retried for Hae Min Lee’s murder?

Will one of the other suspects face charges?

Duncan Levin, former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan DA’s office and a prominent criminal defence attorney at Levin & Associates who has represented clients including Harvey Weinstein and Anna Sorokin, tells The Independent on Tuesday that he thinks this marks the end of Syed’s two-decade long legal battle.

“This is pretty much the end of the road,” he said.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:


Hae Min Lee’s family pleads for ‘truth’

Hae Min Lee’s family has spoken out after the man convicted of her murder 22 years ago walked free from a Baltimore courthouse on Monday.

Steve Kelly, an attorney representing the Lee family, released a statement saying that “no one has wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family”.

The family also criticised the prosecution for the lack of notice they gave that they planned to have Adnan Syed’s sentence overturned.

“For more than 20 years, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has told the family of Hae Min Lee that their beloved daughter and sister was murdered by Adnan Syed,” the statement read.

“One week ago, for the first time, the family was informed that, through a year-long investigation that is apparently still ongoing, the state had uncovered new facts and would be filing a motion to vacate Mr. Syed’s conviction.

“For more than 20 years, no one has wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family.

“The Lee family is deeply disappointed that today’s hearing happened so quickly and that they were denied the reasonable notice that would have permitted them to have a meaningful voice in the proceedings.”


Serial host says Syed’s case shows issues in justice system

Serial host Sarah Koenig has said that Adnan Syed’s case contains almost all the issues with the US’s criminal justice system.

As one of the pioneers of the true crime phenomenon, the podcast divided opinion around Syed’s innocence or guilt.

“We knew people would come to different conclusions, of course,” Ms Koenig told the New York Times.

“Barring some smoking-gun evidence, which we didn’t find (and it seems like no one else has either), there was no way for us to say definitively what happened.

“But what we were pointing out in our story was that the timeline of the case and the evidence in the case had serious problems. Which meant the people who convicted Adnan of murder, they didn’t know what happened either.”

She added: “And so this kid goes to prison for life at 18, based on a story that wasn’t accurate. That’s what we wanted people to think about: Even setting aside the question of Adnan’s guilt or innocence, are we OK with a system that operates like that?”

Ms Koenig went on to list off the various systemic issues which played out in the 2000 case, which she said are far from unique to Syed’s case.

“Questionable interrogation tactics and tunnel vision by police; an overtaxed system that fails to properly interrogate evidence; prosecutors withholding evidence from the defense; our country’s tolerance for insanely long prison sentences; juveniles treated as adults when science tells us they aren’t; racism; how grindingly difficult it is to get the system to take another look at your case once you’ve been convicted; prosecutors and cops who don’t police themselves and then double down when they’re accused of doing something wrong,” she said.

“It’s pretty much — you name it, this case has it. And while I’m up here: There is nothing unusual about the presence of these systemic problems in Adnan’s case. Nothing.”

So far, prosecutors have stopped short of exonerating Syed, saying their request to overturn his conviction – and the subsequent judge’s ruling – does not mean a declaration of innocence but that “in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial”.


True crime is America’s guilty pleasure. Is it harmful?

Maybe you’ve seen The Thing About Pam, the recent NBC black comedy starring Renee Zellwegger as convicted killer Pam Hupp – and you devoured it in one binge-session. Or maybe you watched it week to week, reading reviews of how much time Zellwegger spent in the makeup chair.

But you probably didn’t know that a detective who worked on the actual Hupp case thought the show was “despicable,” misrepresentative of the case, the witnesses, the investigation, and everything else.

The true crime phenomenon shows no sign of slowing down – as documentaries, podcasts, dramatizations and all manner of content continue to explode across platforms – and the reaction of that Hupp detective is not unusual. Armchair sleuths may spend countless hours poring over the lives of crime victims while concocting their own theories, but family members, investigators, victims themselves and even offenders frequently bristle when they see portrayals of their own lives.

Why are we so fascinated by gory tales of death, murder and mayhem? And is the public’s bombardment with true crime content helping or hurting?

The Independent’s Sheila Flynn investigates:

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