After 23 years of fighting charges that he murdered his high school girlfriend, Adnan Syed, the subject of the hit podcast Serial was freed after his conviction was vacated Monday.
Syed, now 41, had served 23 years of a life sentence for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his former girlfriend. It wasn’t until Serial drew national attention to the case that prosecutors began taking another look at the details of the murder.
As the New York Times reported, when prosecutors were asked why they recommended the conviction be vacated, they responded that “the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction.”
Prosecutors spent nearly a year in collaboration with Syed’s lawyer, uncovering information that pointed to two “alternative suspects” as well as finding “significant reliability issues regarding the most critical pieces of evidence.” Those working to free Syed also claim exculpatory evidence was withheld from his lawyers in what’s known as a Brady violation.
In the wake of the new information, Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn overturned Syed’s conviction. Though Syed has been freed, prosecutors have been given 30 days to proceed with a new trial. According to the Baltimore Sun, Phinn ordered Syed placed on home detention, wearing a GPS monitor, while Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office decides whether to drop the charges or to try him again for the murder.
Although Syed’s family wept and embraced, Young Lee, the brother of the victim, told the judge and state’s attorneys, “This is not a podcast for me. This is real life.” Lee added, “Every day when I think it’s over… it always comes back.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, whose office represented the state for Syed’s various appeals, released a statement after Phinn’s ruling, arguing that there was no Brady violation and there were “other serious problems” with Mosby’s office’s motion to drop the case.
“Neither State’s Attorney Mosby nor anyone from her office bothered to consult with either the Assistant State’s Attorney who prosecuted the case or with anyone in my office regarding these alleged violations,” Frosh said, according to the Sun. “The file in this case was made available on several occasions to the defense.”
As Buzzfeed reports, Syed’s attorney and the Director of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, Erica Suter, addressed the victim’s relatives, saying, “Equally tragic, the family of the victim, in this case, Hae Min Lee, recently had to learn that justice, in fact, has not yet been done for their daughter. To Hae’s family: you have endured the unimaginable, and you have my deepest sympathies.”
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