Attorneys representing Adnan Syed, who was released from prison in September 2022 after being imprisoned for over two decades for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, are now arguing in Maryland’s Supreme Court to uphold his freedom. The case gained widespread attention through the true-crime podcast “Serial.” The appellate court had reinstated Syed’s murder conviction, leading to the current appeal. The arguments began on Thursday, with potential ramifications for victim’s rights and Syed’s future.
Syed’s release came after a Baltimore judge overturned his conviction, and city prosecutors dropped all charges due to flaws in the evidence. However, the Appellate Court of Maryland ordered a redo of the hearing that led to Syed’s release, citing inadequate notice to the victim’s family, violating their right to be treated with dignity and respect. The Lee family is also appealing to the state’s highest court, arguing that crime victims in Maryland have the right to be heard and challenge evidence in hearings like the one that vacated Syed’s conviction.
Syed’s lawyers have raised concerns about the potential for his reincarceration, emphasizing the impact it has had on him. The appellate court ruled that Lee’s brother did not receive sufficient notice to attend the hearing remotely, as he lived in California. Syed’s attorneys argue that the Lee family had adequate notice and that the family’s appeal is moot since prosecutors decided not to charge Syed again after his conviction was vacated.
The Maryland Supreme Court is not expected to issue a ruling on Thursday. A written ruling will be filed on the court’s website at an unspecified time. Syed’s attorneys contend that even if Lee’s brother’s rights were violated, it would not have changed the outcome of the hearing. Attorneys for the Lee family have criticized the lack of transparency in the court proceedings leading to Syed’s release and have requested the case be assigned to another judge.
This is not the first time Maryland’s highest court has addressed Syed’s legal journey. In 2019, the court ruled 4-3 to deny him a new trial, acknowledging deficiencies in his legal counsel but disagreeing that it prejudiced the case. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review this decision in November 2019. Baltimore prosecutors recently reviewed Syed’s files under a Maryland law targeting “juvenile lifers” and found numerous problems, including alternative suspects and unreliable cellphone tower data presented at trial. Prosecutors filed a motion to vacate Syed’s conviction entirely instead of reconsidering his sentence.