adnan syed cell phone evidence
Could Adnan Syed finally be facing the real possibility of freedom?
Well, according to his attorney, yes—as, C. Justin Brown claims he has new evidence that, if allowed, should overturn his client's 1999 murder conviction.
As Popdust previously reported, Syed has spent the past 15 years behind bars, after being sentenced to life plus 30, for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee—the 35-year-old vehemently maintains his innocence.
The case garnered national attention last year after NPR reporter, and This American Life producer, Sarah Koenig, covered it in great depth, on Serial, her weekly podcast series. However, after twelve gripping episodes, listeners were left no clearer as to Syed's innocence or guilt.
Rabia Chaudry, the lawyer who first alerted Koenig to the case, along with fellow attorneys, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller, have been giving their all in an attempt to remedy that—working tirelessly to tear apart the State's case against Syed—and broadcasting their findings every two weeks on their podcast series, Undisclosed: The State Vs Adnan Syed.
The Undisclosed team dissected the State's version of what occurred on January 13, 1999, the day Hae was murdered—pulling to pieces many of the witness statements, and turning up two shocking new accounts of what allegedly went down that day—they shredded vital, key pieces of the prosecution's case against Syed; presented the revelation that Hae kept a second diary, which, if found, could possibly hold the key to Adnan proving his innocence; and presented a solid case that Baltimore PD may have coached their star witness, Jay Wilds, and coerced him into giving false testimony against Syed.
During trial, the prosecution relied heavily on cell phone data to help build their case—providing much needed backup for their purported murder timeline and bolstering for their claim that Adnan strangled Hae to death in a Best Buy car park in broad daylight, before going on to dump her body in Leakin Park.
The phone data played a crucial part in Syed's ultimate conviction, as there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder, no actual eye witnesses, and no real credible motive for the brutal killing. All the prosecution had at the end of the day, was the ever-changing testimony of Wilds, a shady acquaintance of Syed's, who claimed he helped Adnan bury Hae's body.
As the Undisclosed team proved, Wilds' testimony was highly unreliable—from his first supposed meeting with the cops, throughout subsequent interviews, and even during both of Syed's two trials, and interviews since—Wilds' account of what he claims happened on that day, along with key facts relating to the case, have consistently and dramatically changed.
And, according to Brown, it's not only Wilds' story that's unreliable—the cell phone evidence that was used to “back it up" is also not to be taken at face value, or as fact—by the phone company's own admission.
Brown has uncovered a fax cover sheet from AT&T that was sent to the Baltimore PD, along with Syed's phone records, warning about the accuracy of their cell tower data… not surprisingly, the warning was totally ignored, and was never raised or even mentioned, at trial—despite Syed's original attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, being fully aware of its existence, and even having a copy of it in her files.
"Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location," the warning reads.
Brown filed a motion Monday, requesting the unreliability of the cell phone records be taken into consideration as yet another reason for a post-conviction hearing to be granted for his client—and claiming it proves yet more negligence on behalf of Gutierrez, who also failed to interview Asia McClain, a potential key witness that Syed claimed could provide him with a solid alibi.
In the motion, Brown states:
[The prosecution] said the AT&T records showed [Syed's] phone connecting with towers close to Leakin Park when he received calls at 7:09 p.m. and 7:16 p.m. But those were the types of inbound calls AT&T warned were unreliable.
If AT&T, the architect and operator of the cell tower network, did not think incoming calls were 'reliable information for location,' it is unfathomable that a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge would have allowed an expert opinion ... under this method.
[If AT&T's warning had been] properly raised at trial, much of, if not all of, the cellular evidence would have been rendered inadmissible.
Now, whether your gut instinct tells you that Adnan Syed is innocent or guilty, at this point, you surely have to agree that the supposed evidence that was used to convict him of murder was questionable to say the least—and his first attorney did her client a major disservice and displayed startling levels of negligence when it came to defending him.
Adnan Syed deserves a post conviction hearing at the very least—and Hae Min Lee deserves nothing less than true and absolute justice.