“Serial” podcast subject Adnan Syed could have his murder conviction overturned on Monday. Here’s what you need to know. – Baltimore Sun


Adnan Syed, whose protracted legal saga was chronicled on the hit podcast “Serial,” is due in court on Monday for a hearing to determine whether his murder conviction in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee will be overturned.

The back-to-back court date follows Baltimore prosecutors’ request to overturn Syed’s conviction, citing a mistake by their predecessors two decades ago that they say prevented Syed from receiving a fair trial. Prosecutors said a new year-long investigation they conducted in conjunction with defense attorney Erica Suter revealed “alternative suspects” who had been overlooked at the time.

Syed, 41, has maintained his innocence in the murder of his former Woodlawn High School sweetheart, Lee, who was 18. Lee was strangled to death and buried in a shallow grave in Leakin Park. Her body was discovered about a month after she disappeared on January 13, 1999. Authorities at the time said they suspected Syed had a fight with Lee in a car before killing her.

Twenty-three years of investigation, trial and numerous appeals set the stage for Monday’s hearing. Podcasts, documentaries and books have chronicled Lee’s shocking death and Syed’s heavy legal saga, with the case attracting international audiences.

Here’s what you need to know for Monday’s hearing before Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn.

The motion from Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office focused on two alternate suspects who prosecutors say were prematurely overlooked by authorities investigating Lee’s homicide. The court documents do not identify them or distinguish the actions of one from those of the other.

“Both suspects may be involved individually or may be involved together,” prosecutors wrote.

A suspect threatened to kill Lee, according to the motion. Prosecutors wrote that they discovered this information in the original assistant prosecutor’s trial file, but that it was not disclosed to the defense. It’s a violation of the law, and prosecutors now say the information could have been critically important to Syed’s defense at trial.

Prosecutors say the joint investigation found the other suspects had documented histories of violence against women, including multiple convictions for crimes that occurred after Syed’s trial. A suspect has been convicted of a series of rapes, according to court documents. A suspect has been convicted of assaulting a woman. A suspect has been charged with kidnapping a woman.

Prosecutors wrote that the joint investigation showed police cleared one of the suspects in Lee’s death based on faulty polygraph tests.

It’s unclear.

If Phinn overturns Syed’s conviction, she will have to consider a related request from prosecutors to have him released from police custody.

Syed’s public defender Suter, who is the clinic director for the Innocence Project at the University of Baltimore Law School, did not take a position on his release in his legal response in support of the request. prosecutors to overturn his conviction. If the issue arises, Suter should plead for his client’s release.

Even though Phinn orders Syed’s release, it’s unclear when he will be released. That’s partly because Monday afternoon’s hearing is a relatively unusual court proceeding.

In Baltimore, when a person held in jail awaiting trial is found not guilty of all charges, the judge usually orders their release. Often the actual release takes place several hours later or the next day from prison.

Syed, who is incarcerated at Patuxent Institution, a state prison in Jessup, will be in court for the hearing, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections said.

His family should also be present.

Under Maryland law, victims must be notified in advance of this type of hearing and have the right to appear and be heard by a judge.

However, it is unclear which of Lee’s family members, if any, will attend Monday’s hearing.

The speed at which Phinn scheduled the hearing – a Monday hearing ordered on Friday afternoon – makes it more difficult for Lee’s immediate family to attend and retain a lawyer if they wanted to intervene in the proceedings, Kurt Wolfgang , executive director of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, told the Baltimore Sun.

“It’s insane,” Wolfgang said of how quickly Syed’s hearing was scheduled.

A spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office, Zy Richardson, said the Lee family has been notified of the hearing.

Young Lee, Hae’s brother, lives in California and declined media requests in the days following prosecutors’ decision to ask a judge to overturn Syed’s conviction.

The only time those close to Lee have spoken out since “Serial” came out was in a 2016 statement released by the Maryland Attorney General’s office in which they maintained their belief that Syed was guilty.

“It remains difficult to see so many people running to defend someone who committed a horrific crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae,” Hae said. family.

Maryland law doesn’t specifically say how much notice a victim’s family needs before a hearing, but it does infer that they should be given a “reasonable” time to consider their options, Wolfgang said. The family may ask Phinn to postpone the hearing.

Earlier this year, Phinn rejected a plea deal for arsonist Luther Trent after a lawyer for the victims intervened, saying they had not had a sufficient chance to be heard in court. Phinn, who presides over the city’s reception court, which acts as air traffic control for criminal cases, admitted he made a mistake in not hearing from victims before accepting Trent’s plea deal .

Since then, she regularly checks before sentencing whether prosecutors informed victims of plea deals and asks if victims want to explain how the crime impacted their lives.

If Phinn overturns Syed’s conviction, he still faces the murder, kidnapping, robbery and other offenses he was charged with in 1999.

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Prosecutors wrote in the motion that Syed “at a minimum” deserves a new trial.

The state usually must decide whether to pursue a new trial or drop the charges, depending on the motion. That decision, prosecutors wrote, hinges on a reopened investigation into Lee’s death.

Baltimore police said they are re-investigating the high-profile homicide.

Experts have told The Sun that investigating a decades-old murder takes considerable time and resources – more so than a recent homicide. Some have questioned whether the city’s police can investigate the case sufficiently, given the persistent violent crime rate: Baltimore is on course to record more than 300 homicides for the eighth straight year.

Captain John Bollinger of the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office has investigated homicides, including cold cases, for the past 13 years of a nearly three-decade career with the Maryland State Police .

“Not only do you have to uncover all of this evidence and put it in order and fit it into the scene, but then you have to take the extra steps to find out how you know this and how it happened… years ago. It’s all about the original case, what the original detectives did… years ago. “Yeah, we can verify that, they did, and now this coin is now integrating,” Bollinger told The Sun.

“I used to say when I was working on these cold cases, ‘I’ll take a new one any day,'” he continued. “It’s the hardest job you can do.”


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