Baltimore prosecutors move to vacate Adnan Syed conviction in 1999 murder case brought to national fame in ‘Serial’ podcast

Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man whose legal saga made a splash internationally with the hit podcast “Serial,” may face a new trial after city prosecutors determined that his predecessors murdered Hee Min Lee in 1999. Information about alternate suspects was withheld.

According to legal papers filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the Baltimore state attorney’s office moved Syed’s sentence on Wednesday to vacate. The new motion says prosecutors on the case decades ago knew there was another suspect who had threatened to kill Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend, and neglected to disclose information to defense attorneys — whom Known as the Brady Violation.

Lee was strangled to death in Baltimore’s Leakin Park and buried in a secret grave. Authorities at the time believed that Syed clashed with Lee in a car before he hit her and dragged her into the park. He has always maintained his innocence.

Documents show that a year-long investigation by prosecutors and Syed’s lawyer uncovered new evidence that “alternative suspects” were either involved in serial rape and sexual assault or assaulted a woman in a vehicle. was. Prosecutors’ motion also states that Lee’s vehicle was located near a home belonging to alternate suspects.

While Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office does not admit Syed, now 41, is innocent, prosecutors’ motion says they no longer believe his conviction.

Becky Feldman, head of the state attorney’s office’s sentencing review unit, wrote in the motion, “The Brady breaches of the state robbed the defendant of information, bolstering his investigation and argument that someone else was responsible for the victim’s death.” “

Syed’s lawyer, Assistant Public Protector Erica Suter, responded with her own legal paper supporting prosecutors’ motion. He also issued a statement through the Office of the Public Defender.

Sutter, director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said, “Given the surprising lack of credible evidence involving Mr. Syed, with mounting evidence pointing to other suspects, this unjustified belief cannot stand Is.” “Mr. Syed is grateful that this information has finally seen the light of day and is looking forward to his day in court.”

Prosecutors asked a judge to set a hearing, order a new trial and release Syed on his identity pending the ongoing investigation. A judge has yet to set a hearing for a motion to quash Syed’s conviction, and it is the court’s decision whether to reverse a decision.

Syed is currently imprisoned at Patuxent Institution, a state prison in Jessup.

He was arrested at the age of 17 and imprisoned. After 23 years behind bars, he may be able to go home.

His longtime friend and public lawyer, Rabia Chowdhury, called the move by prosecutors to vacate his sentence as genuine. She credits years of work and investigation.

“It’s valid,” said Choudhary. “That’s what we’ve been saying for decades.”

A spokeswoman for the state attorney’s office said the office notified Lee’s family before filing a motion to vacate Syed’s sentence. Lee’s family has the right to attend the hearing of the case, assuming the judge sets one. An attempt by The Baltimore Sun to speak to his relatives on Wednesday was unsuccessful.

The development marks a dramatic turning point in a legal saga that resonates with listeners and audiences across America and beyond. In addition to This American Life’s “serial” podcast, which was downloaded over 300 million times, Syed’s case was featured in an HBO documentary series and a book.

Syed went on trial twice for murder. In 2000 a jury found him guilty of premeditated murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment. While pronouncing the sentence, the judge sentenced him to life imprisonment and 30 years in prison.

Syed appealed repeatedly, with trial judges and appellate courts dismissing the claims of his lawyers several times. In 2018, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals determined that Syed was entitled to a new trial, only for the state’s top court to overrule the opinion the following year. The US Supreme Court declined to review Syed’s case in 2019.

Now, prosecutors say, their nearly year-long investigation has focused on two alternate suspects that officers knew 23 years ago but were not disclosed in Syed’s defense. As per the proposal, neither the prosecutor nor the defense lawyer will reveal the identities of the suspects as the investigation continues.

One of the suspects threatened Lee, saying that “he would make her”. [Lee] disappear. He will kill her,” according to the filing.

That information is the basis for the so-called Brady breach.

Choudhury, a writer, wrote about the alleged Brady breaches and other suspects in her book, Adnan Ki Kahani: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial, With the prospect of a new trial, Chowdhury said the opportunity to return to court and get a fair shot at justice is all she could ask for.

“This is what he didn’t get when he was 17,” she said. “We know he is innocent.”

The investigation also revealed several new information which, according to the proposal, could be the motivator for Syed’s defence.

Prosecutors wrote that one of the alternate suspects was violent towards a woman and “forcibly imprisoned her” before Syed’s trial. After Syed’s trial, one of the suspects attacked a woman in his vehicle and was found guilty of that crime. One of the alternate suspects was convicted in connection with multiple rapes and sexual assaults conducted “in a systematic, deliberate and pre-planned manner”.

Investigating Lee’s murder, Baltimore police identified one of the people mentioned in the motion as a suspect. But now prosecutors say investigators wrongly acquitted the suspect based on faulty polygraph tests.

The new investigation prompted prosecutors to determine that the cellphone call evidence used against Syed would not stand in court today. In addition, Mosby’s office found two witnesses who testified at Syed’s trial to be inconsistent and the previous misconduct of a homicide detective in Syed’s case had led to wrongful conviction in a separate 1999 murder case.

At the request of prosecutors and Syed’s lawyer, a judge in March ordered several pieces of evidence collected during the investigation into Lee’s death to be sent to a California laboratory to undergo new DNA tests. According to the motion filed on Wednesday, some DNA tests have not yet been conducted, but the results of the completed examinations have been inconclusive.

The push for new forensic testing came as Sutter was working with the Prosecutor’s Office’s sentencing review unit after Maryland passed the Juvenile Restoration Act, which allows people convicted of crimes before the age of 18 to go to court for sentencing revisions. Enables filing of petition.

In the proposal, Feldman wrote that the development was part of an effort by Mosby’s office to prioritize “the justice, fairness and integrity of the criminal justice system.”

Chowdhury said it was refreshing to see a prosecutor working towards achieving true justice, rather than just being an adversary.

“State Attorney Mosby has a strong record of exonerating innocent people,” Chowdhury said.

Syed has not been acquitted, but Choudhury said Wednesday’s filing follows the same pattern as other work by Mosby’s office with the Innocence project.

University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law professor Douglas Colbert credits Mosby’s “tremendous courage” in vacating Syed’s sentence.

“It’s been a long, overdue fight to try to fix a tremendous miscarriage of justice,” Colbert told The Sun. “I am absolutely thrilled with the prospect that Adnan will get a new trial and be proven right once and for all.”

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But Colbert and Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartig also denounced prosecutors over the case years ago.

Colbert said, “Prosecutors are placed on the highest duty, as ministers of justice, to disclose evidence that establishes an accused’s innocence and that it is a shameful exercise of discretion when prosecutors fail to honor their moral duty.” fail,” Colbert said.

In a statement released by his office, Dartig said an alternate suspect kept secret for more than 20 years “should shock conscience.”

“This is a true example of how justice delayed is justice denied,” Dartig’s statement read. “An innocent person spends decades wrongfully imprisoned, while any information or evidence that might help identify the real culprit becomes harder to pursue.”

The resolution stated that officials would continue to investigate Lee’s murder “with all available resources”.

But prosecutors wrote that continuing to keep Syed in prison was a “miscarriage of justice”.

Baltimore Sun reporter Lee Skane contributed to this article.

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