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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Maryland Court Allows Appeal by ‘Serial’ Subject

(CN) - The man whose conviction of killing his ex-girlfriend was the focus of wildly popular "Serial" podcast has been granted a chance to appeal his case by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Adnan Syed has long maintained that he received ineffective representation during his trial, and that the testimony of a key witness that would have provided him with alibi was wrongly suppressed.

Syed was 19 when his high school classmate and former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, was strangled to death in January 1999. After two trials -- the first ending in a mistrial -- he was convicted and is currently serving a life sentence in a Maryland state prison. His previous attempt to receive post-conviction relief was denied by the Baltimore City Circuit Court..

Now 33, Syed has argued in court filings and in the "Serial" podcast that his attorney, Christina Gutierrez, ignored his requests to negotiate a plea deal.

Prosecutors have said they never considered offering him such a deal because he maintained his innocence, and they also argue his complaints about Gutierrez didn't begin until after he was convicted.

She was subsequently disbarred for her handling of a 2001 case, and died in 2004.

As for the witness, Asia McClain, a classmate of the victim and the man convicted of her murder, claims Syed was with her in Woodlawn Public Library at the time the murder is believed to have occurred. Prosecutors said during the trial that McClain recanted that story, but she recently said that wasn't the case and has said she will testify, if needed, during Syed's appeal.

In January 2014, Syed filed an application to get the denial vacated . At about the same time, Rabia Chaudry, a family friend, contacted Sarah Koenig, of "This American Life," and sought to interest her in the case.

Intrigued, Koenig created the multi-part podcast "Serial," acting as both its producer and reporter.

On Friday, the Court of Special Appeals ruled Shed's request for a new trial should at least be considered. It ordered that his attorneys file formal briefings of his appeal arguments by March 16, and it has given the state attorney general's office until April 16 to file briefings in opposition.

A hearing on his case has been scheduled for June.

As recounted in "Serial," Syed was convicted without any eyewitnesses or physical evidence tying him to the murder. The prosecution's case rested primarily on the testimony of another classmate, Jay Wilds, who claimed he helped Syed dispose of Lee's body, which was found in a shallow grave in a Baltimore park a month after her murder.

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