Adnan Syed, who gained international attention through the hugely popular podcast Serial, has had his murder conviction reinstated, six months after he was released from prison. Adnan was accused of murdering his girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, in 1999. Adnan has always insisted he was innocent.
A Maryland appellate court has reinstated the conviction, claiming that the lower court - which had released the 41-year-old - had violated the rights of the victim’s brother, Young Lee, to attend a key hearing.
“Because the circuit court violated Mr. Lee’s right to notice of, and his right to attend, the hearing on the State’s motion to vacate… this Court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy,” the court’s opinion said.
“We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision."
Lee’s brother had requested a redo of that hearing, arguing in part he didn’t have enough notice to attend in person.
David Sanford, the attorney for the Lee family, told Maryland’s appellate court in Februry 2023 that the circuit court and prosecutors “failed repeatedly” ahead of September’s decision to vacate Syed’s conviction. “We are equally pleased that the Appellate Court is directing the lower court to conduct a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court’s decision will be based on evidence for the world to see,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
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The initial conviction relied on testimony from Adnan's friend Jay Wilds, who claimed that Adnan, at the age of 19, confessed to killing his girlfriend and asked Jay to help him dig a hole to bury the body in Maryland's Leakin Park where she was found.
Premiering October 2014 and hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig, Serial was one of the most popular and talked-about podcasts in the medium, with listeners adamant that the police convicted the wrong man. The podcast raised questions about the reliability of Jay's testimony, and the evidence that prosecutors had used in their arguments.
In 2019 HBO also released a documentary, The Case Against Adnan Syed, which explored Hae Min Lee's death and Adnan's subsequent conviction.
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