A judge has overturned the murder conviction of Adnan Syed — whose case was the focus of the viral “Serial” podcast back in 2014 — and the Baltimore man was released from prison after serving 23 years behind bars.
The ruling Monday by Judge Melissa Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court vacated Syed’s murder conviction, after she found that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that could have helped Syed at trial — specifically, evidence that two other suspects may have been involved in committing the crime. “At this time, we will remove the shackles from Mr. Syed,” Judge Phinn said after announcing the decision, according to the New York Times.
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Serial Productions, which is now owned by the New York Times, tweeted that a new episode of the podcast will be released Tuesday and said Sarah Koenig, who led the original “Serial” podcast investigation, was at the courthouse Monday when Syed was released.
The turn of events came after prosecutors last week filed a motion last week to have the court vacate the 2000 murder conviction of Syed, who had been found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The prosecutors said “the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction” and recommended he be released from prison and granted a new trial. It’s unclear whether prosecutors will move for a new trial or will drop the charges against him.
In her ruling Monday, the judge ordered Syed to serve home detention and gave prosecutors 30 days to decide whether to move for a new trial or drop the case, per the Times. Syed, now 41, had been serving a life sentence in prison since 2000. He has maintained his innocence.
“Serial” launched in 2014 as a spinoff of NPR’s “This American Life” and became an overnight podcasting hit. In the first season, Koenig investigated Syed’s first-degree murder conviction for the 1999 strangulation death of Lee in Baltimore. “Serial” raised questions about the evidence against him, including an account of Asia McClain, who claimed she saw Syed at a public library during the time of Lee’s murder.
Syed’s case also was the subject of a four-part HBO docuseries released in 2019 by director Amy Berg called “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” which also questioned his guilt. The filmmaker hired private investigators and reached out to new allies following the release of the “Serial” podcast.
In March 2019, Maryland’s highest court denied Syed a retrial and he appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear his appeal.
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