Adnan Syed released, conviction tossed

BALTIMORE (AP) — A Baltimore judge on Monday ordered the release of Adnan Saeed after overturning Saeed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of Hye Min Lee — a case that was chronicled on the hit podcast “Serial,” a The true-crime series that changed audiences. and revolutionized the genre.

At the request of lawyers who uncovered new evidence, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Finn ordered that Syed’s conviction be vacated as she approved the release of the now-41-year-old, who has served more than two decades. Time spent behind bars. The crowded courtroom erupted in gasps and applause as the judge delivered his verdict.

Finn ruled that the state breached its legal obligation to share evidence that could have bolstered Syed’s defense. He ordered Saeed to be placed under house arrest with GPS location monitoring. The judge also said the state must decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

“Well Mr. Syed, you are free to join your family,” Finn said as the hearing ended.

Minutes later, Syed emerged from the courtroom and flashed a small smile as he was escorted to a waiting SUV by a sea of ​​cameras and cheering crowds of supporters.

Syed has always maintained his innocence. His case captured the attention of millions in 2014 when the first season of “Serial” focused on Lee’s murder and raised doubts about some of the evidence used by prosecutors, including dinner tables and water coolers about Saeed’s innocence or guilt. inspired heated debates in

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying a lengthy investigation with the defense turned up new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction of Saeed, Lee’s ex-boyfriend.

“I understand how difficult it is, but we need to make sure we hold the right person accountable,” Assistant State’s Attorney Becky Feldman told the judge as she described various details of the case that Undermining convictions dating back decades, including faulty cellphone data. , credible witness testimony and and a potentially biased detective.

Syed was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of strangling 18-year-old Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office said in a news release last week that the investigation “revealed unknown and newly-developed information regarding two alternative suspects as well as unreliable cell phone tower data.” The suspects were known at the time of the initial investigation, but they were not properly ruled out or disclosed to the defense, said prosecutors, who declined to release information about the suspects because of the ongoing investigation. refused

Prosecutors said they were not claiming Saeed was innocent, but lacked confidence “in the sincerity of the charge” and recommended that he be released on his own recognizance or bail. The state’s attorney’s office said the motion, if granted, would effectively put Syed in a position for a new trial, vacating his convictions, while the case remains active.

Saeed was led into a crowded courtroom in handcuffs on Monday. Wearing a white shirt with a tie, he sat next to his lawyer. His mother and other family members were in the room, as was Mosby.

In 2016, a lower court ordered a retrial for Syed on the grounds that his attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, did not contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel.

But after a series of appeals, the Maryland Supreme Court in 2019 denied a new trial in a 4-3 opinion. The appeals court agreed with the trial court that Saeed’s legal counsel was deficient in failing to cross-examine the alibi witness, but disagreed that the omission prejudiced the case. The court said Saeed had waived his claim of ineffective counsel.

The US Supreme Court declined to review Saeed’s case in 2019.

The true-crime series was the brainchild of longtime radio producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, who spent a year digging into Syed’s case and reporting her findings in near-real-time in hour-long segments. Spent more than a year. The 12-episode podcast won a Peabody Award and was transformative in popularizing podcasts to a wider audience.

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