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Home » Adnan Syed’s Murder Conviction Restored by Maryland Court

Adnan Syed’s Murder Conviction Restored by Maryland Court

29 March 2023, Wednesday

An appellate court in Maryland on Tuesday reinstated the conviction of Adnan Syed, who was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999 and whose case was featured in the podcast “Serial.”

In a 2-1 ruling, the court said that the lower court had violated the rights of the victim’s brother, Young Lee, to attend a key hearing.

The court said that it had the power and obligation to remedy the violation, as long as Syed's right to avoid double jeopardy was not violated.

The family of Lee Wright were delighted when the Appellate Court ruled in their favor to have a legally compliant and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate. This includes Lee himself receiving sufficient notice in order to attend in person and present any evidence that supports his case. The court also stated that their decision must be based on evidence presented in open court.

David Sanford, the attorney of the Lee family, expressed his pleasure with the court's decision: "We are equally pleased that the Appellate Court is directing the lower court to conduct a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court’s decision will be based on evidence for the world to see."

Syed was accused of killing Hae Min Lee and spent more than 20 years in prison before his conviction was vacated by a judge in a September hearing, resulting in Syed's release.

Erica Suter, Syed's attorney and director of the Innocence Project Clinic, said the appellate court reinstated the conviction, not because the Motion to Vacate was wrong, but because Ms. Lee’s brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing. Suter added that the dissenting judge believed Syed’s attendance over Zoom was enough and the appeal was now moot. In a statement provided to CNN by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Suter said Syed will remain a ‘free man’.

The conviction of Adnan Syed was vacated by Maryland's Court of Special Appeals on Thursday. This ruling comes nearly eight years after the popular podcast "Serial" raised questions about the conviction.

Syed's attorney, C. Justin Brown, stated that there is no basis for re-traumatizing Syed by returninh him to the status of a convicted felon. He added that Syed remains a free man for the time being, and that his legal team is optimistic that justice will be done. They plan to seek review in Maryland's highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, in order to try and fully vacate the convictions.

The podcast "Serial" sparked a wave of interest surrounding Syed's case back in 2014, leading to his eventual release from prison in 2016. The case is set to stay open pending a series of appeals.

Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn has vacated a decision by citing material that was not provided to the defense attorneys during the state investigation, as well as the presence of two possible suspects that may have been incorrectly cleared as part of the investigation. Lee’s brother had requested a redo of the hearing due to insufficient notice to attend in person; Lee’s attorneys, who were able to view the September proceedings through Zoom, had alleged in court documents that prosecutors and the Circuit Court that annulled Syed's conviction had breached the brother's rights.

The family of convicted murderer Adnan Syed allege that the Baltimore circuit court and prosecutors failed to give their brother adequate notice, withhold evidence from them, and denied Syed a proper chance to be heard at proceedings prior to the September decision to vacate his conviction. This was stated by the family's attorney, Sanford, to the Maryland appellate court last month. He argued that "the victim or victim's representative has a right to be heard".
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