BALTIMORE, July 1 (UPI) — Adnan Syed, the convicted killer featured in the hit podcast Serial, was granted a new trial Thursday in the 1999 slaying of his former girlfriend.
Baltimore City Circuit Judge Martin Welch vacated Syed’s conviction, saying his original attorney “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment.” Syed’s current attorney Justin Brown posted the news in all-caps on Twitter: “WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!! #FreeAdnan”
The decision was a major victory for Syed, 35, who was convicted in 2000 of killing his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee and burying her body at Leakin Park, a few miles from Woodlawn High School, where they both attended. Syed, who has served 16 years of a life sentence, has maintained his innocence in her death and had exhausted all appeals.
Syed’s case, featured in the first season of the 12-part podcast Serial, garnered national attention when it highlighted the intricacies of the case and flaws in Syed’s defense. The show won a Peabody Award and was downloaded more than 100 million times.
Syed contends that his original attorney, Maria Cristina Gutierrez, made several missteps during his defense. That includes not questioning a state’s expert about the reliability of cellphone tower evidence and not contacting a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, who now goes by her married name Asia Chapman.
Welch, in his written decision to grant a new trial, said the case “represents a unique juncture between the criminal justice system and a phenomenally strong public interest created by modern media.”
Brown said he was confident about Syed’s longterm chances of being freed from prison.
“This was the biggest hurdle. It’s really hard to get a new trial,” he said.
In February, Lee’s family said, “It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae.”