Adnan Syed case latest: 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 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 Syed’s legal team – something the judge agreed was a Brady violation.

On Monday, Judge Melissa Phinn overturned 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.

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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 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 Syed’s family friend and attorney Rabia Chaudry.

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

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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:

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Serial podcast reveals notes about another potential suspect led to conviction being tossed

The discovery of two handwritten notes about another potential suspect ultimately led to Adnan Syed’s conviction being tossed, according to a newly released Serial episode.

The “messy” notes, which were found deep within boxes of files on the case earlier this year, revealed that two different people had placed two separate phone calls alerting prosecutors to the unnamed suspect prior to Syed’s 2000 conviction.

Despite the tipoffs, the notes were not shared with Syed’s legal team and instead sat gathering dust in boxes inside the state attorney’s office for the past 23 years – all the while Syed was holed up behind bars for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

Now, in 2022, the notes have finally come to light and “shocked” both the prosecution and the defence.

On Monday, a judge overturned Syed’s conviction and he walked out of court a free man.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has the full story:

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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:

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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:

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The key issues with the conviction:

Prosecutors have listed several issues with Adnan Syed’s conviction, which led them to call for his release “in the interest of fairness and justice”.

Evidence has been found about two other potential suspects.

The two suspects, who were not named because of the ongoing investigation, were both known to the initial 1999 murder investigation and were not properly ruled out, prosecutors said. One of the suspects had made a threat to kill Hae Min Lee.

The two suspects, who were not named because of the ongoing investigation, were both known to the initial 1999 murder investigation but the state did not disclose the information to Syed’s legal team.

The judge ruled that this was a clear Brady violation – where a prosecutor fails to provide the defence with evidence that could be helpful to a defendant’s case.

Validity of cellphone data

Cellphone location data placing Syed at the crime scene has since been found to be inaccurate and inadmissible in court.

The prosecution also cast doubt on the credibility of Jay Wilds – the star witness in the state’s original trial.

Wilds, a friend of Syed’s, claimed that he helped Syed to dispose of Lee’s body in the shallow grave in Leakin Park, Baltimore.

Prosecutors said that Wilds has changed his story multiple times – with contradictions between his first interviews with police, his trial testimony and a recent interview with the press.

Detective on original case

One of the main detectives on the original case, Bill Ritz – who interviewed Wilds, was later accused of misconduct in another 1999 murder case.

The man convicted in that case was exonerated in 2016.

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Moving video shows Adnan Syed enjoying food with family at home

A moving video has captured Adnan Syed enjoying food at his family home not long afte his release on Monday.

The footage, posted on Twitter by family friend and attorney Rabia Chaudry, shows the 41-year-old searching through the fridge in the home, looking for food.

Syed is seen taking out samosas and dumplings while his brother Yusuf stands next to him, happily grabbing and sharing the food.

“We got fresh samosas coming though,” Ms Chaudry is heard saying.

Syed is seen trying a dumpling and smiling, after two decades of prison food.

“Pretty good,” he says.

Ms Chaudry captioned the post: “Leftovers at home never tasted so good!!”

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New DNA testing under way

The state is waiting for the results of DNA testing which they hope could advance the investigation, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said on Monday.

In March, prosecutors and Adnan Syed’s defence attorneys filed a joint request for Hae Min Lee’s clothing to be tested using new touch DNA testing, which was not available at the time of the original trial.

The analysis came back in August without anything conclusive.

But, Ms Mosby said on Monday that further testing is under way.

She added that if the tests come back with Syed’s DNA, then her office would pursue a new case against him.

But, either way, he is still entitled to a new, fair trial, she said – after pointing out multiple issues with his original case.

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What we know about two alternate suspects in 1999 murder

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:

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Hae Min Lee’s brother says case is ‘killing me’

Hae Min Lee’s brother addressed the court during Monday’s hearing to speak out about the toll the case is taking on him and his family, saying that it is “killing me”.

Young Lee joined the court hearing virtually from the West Coast where he urged the judge to “make the right decision”.

“I’ve been living with this for like 20 plus years. Everyday when I think it’s over… or it’s ended, it always comes back,” he said.

“It’s killing me. It’s really tough.”

He added that he felt “betrayed” by the prosecution, claiming they blindsided the family by casting doubt on Adnan Syed’s guilt – after spending more than two decades insisting he was the killer.

Mr Lee choked back tears as he said that he was open to a new investigation and spoke of the difficulty in learning that someone responsible for his sister’s death could currently be walking free.

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