Adnan Syed, the person whose authorized saga spawned the hit podcast “Serial,” walked out of a Baltimore courthouse Monday freed from shackles after 23 years.
He smiled as he walked down the steps of the courthouse to raucous cheers, presumed harmless within the homicide of Hae Min Lee in 1999.
Baltimore Circuit Decide Melissa Phinn vacated Syed’s homicide conviction after prosecutors raised doubts about his responsible plea as a result of revelation of alternate suspects within the murder and the unreliable proof used in opposition to him within the homicide. judgment.
Phinn mentioned his ruling was within the “pursuits of justice and equity,” ordering Syed launched on a GPS monitor whereas the Baltimore State Lawyer’s Workplace decides to drop prices or retry him for homicide within the dying of his ex girlfriend. Prosecutors have 30 days to decide.
Prosecutors mentioned a year-long investigation performed with Syed’s legal professional, Erica Suter, confirmed authorities knew of no less than one alternate suspect earlier than his trial and withheld that info from his protection. Regardless of the occasions, prosecutors mentioned they aren’t ready to seek out Syed harmless.
Lee, 18, was strangled to dying and buried in a clandestine grave in Leakin Park. Authorities on the time mentioned they suspected Syed, her ex-boyfriend, wrestled along with her in a automobile earlier than killing her. The idea of the state? The favored honors pupil at Woodlawn Excessive Faculty could not drive when Lee broke up with him. He was 17 years previous on the time of his arrest and has been behind bars ever since.
Syed, now 41, has all the time maintained his innocence. Suter pleaded not responsible to his shopper in court docket and criticized prosecutors for withholding proof that would have proved him for many years.
“Had that proof been revealed, maybe Adnan wouldn’t have missed his highschool commencement, pre-med plans, twenty third birthdays, holidays, household reunions, neighborhood occasions and on a regular basis moments of pleasure,” he mentioned. Sweater after court docket. .
Syed was stoic when he dominated Phinn; members of his household gasped, cried, and hugged one another. The listening to gallery erupted when the choose adjourned the session.
The listening to took on a tense tone after an legal professional representing Lee’s kinfolk requested for an adjournment, saying his purchasers, who reside on the West Coast, had not acquired sufficient discover to attend the listening to. Phinn denied the movement, however paused the proceedings for half-hour so Lee’s brother might discover a non-public location to tune in for the video listening to.
When allowed to talk earlier than attorneys, Younger Lee mentioned he felt shocked and betrayed by the prosecution’s resolution to inappropriately convict Syed. He choked whereas speaking to the choose.
“This isn’t a podcast for me. That is actual life,” Younger Lee advised Phinn.
Lee mentioned he respects the prison justice system, however described the ache he and his relations endure. He mentioned Syed’s conviction ought to stand.
“Day by day, once I suppose it is over … it all the time comes again,” he mentioned. “She is killing me.”
Assistant State’s Lawyer Becky Feldman mentioned in court docket that prosecutors’ resolution on the way to proceed with Syed’s case hinges on an ongoing investigation targeted on alternate suspects. Baltimore police have reopened their investigation into Lee’s murder, and Feldman promised that her workplace would commit no matter sources she might.
“We’d like to verify we’re holding the correct particular person accountable,” Feldman mentioned.
Within the state’s movement to vacate his conviction, prosecutors didn’t write that they believed Syed was harmless, however quite that they not had religion within the integrity of his conviction.
“It’s within the curiosity of justice and equity that these convictions be vacated and that the defendant, at a minimal, be given a brand new trial,” wrote Becky Feldman, chief of the State Lawyer’s Workplace Sentencing Evaluate Unit.
Syed’s first trial in 1999 led to a mistrial. In 2000, a jury discovered him responsible of homicide. The choose handed down a life sentence plus 30 years in jail at sentencing.
Regardless of preventing to uphold the conviction in earlier years, prosecutors now say Syed will not be Lee’s killer. In keeping with its movement to vacate his conviction, the state has identified since 1999 of two “alternate suspects” who could have killed Lee.
One of many suspects had threatened her, saying that he would “make her disappear. He would kill her,” prosecutors wrote.
The state didn’t disclose alternate suspects to Syed’s protection earlier than trial, that means his attorneys couldn’t use that info to argue his innocence to a jury.
Prosecutors described one of many suspects as a serial rapist and mentioned the suspect was convicted of a collection of sexual assaults after Syed’s trial. Police found Lee’s automobile close to the residence of one of many suspects, in accordance with the state’s movement.
Syed was convicted, partly, due to cellular phone location information that has since change into unreliable, in accordance with prosecutors. In addition they highlighted the inconsistent statements of his co-defendant, Jay Wilds, who testified in opposition to him.
“Given the stunning lack of dependable proof implicating Mr. Syed, coupled with mounting proof pointing to different suspects, this wrongful conviction can’t stand,” mentioned Suter, Syed’s legal professional and director of the Innocence Undertaking clinic on the School. of Legislation from the College of Baltimore.
Syed’s conviction turned a topic of worldwide intrigue after “Serial,” a podcast launched in 2014 that pioneered the true-crime style, raised new questions on Lee’s dying. Since then, his authorized journey has been the topic of books, different podcasts, and tv documentaries which have spawned new authorized filings in his case.
The courts rejected all of his appeals, most not too long ago in 2019, when the Supreme Courtroom refused to listen to his case.
Issues had been quiet till this spring.
Behind the scenes, Suter had been working with prosecutors in hopes of decreasing Syed’s jail time period in gentle of a brand new state regulation that permits these convicted of crimes earlier than the age of 18 to ask the court docket to switch their punishment.
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Whereas analyzing the case, prosecutors agreed to request new DNA proof for gadgets collected as proof in Lee’s homicide.
Phinn ordered the assessments in March, however the outcomes thus far have been inconclusive, court docket paperwork present. Testing for a number of the gadgets is pending.
Lee’s household has maintained their perception that Syed is responsible and has struggled with the publicity and help Syed receives.
“It stays troublesome to see so many working to defend somebody who dedicated a horrible crime, who destroyed our household, who refuses to simply accept duty, when so few are prepared to talk up for Hae,” the household mentioned in a press release. 2016 issued by the Maryland Lawyer Common’s Workplace.
“Not like those that discover out about this case on the web,” the household mentioned on the time, “we sit and watch each trials day by day — so many witnesses, a lot proof.”
The Lee household had not spoken publicly in regards to the case since then as of Monday.
This story might be up to date.