Adnan Syed, whose case, as Popdust previously reported, has been the subject of the hugely popular Podcasts Serial and the fascinating follow up Undisclosed, got good news on Monday in the form of an important legal victory regarding his case.
Syed was 19 when he was convicted of murdering his ex girlfriend and fellow student Hae Min Lee back in 1999, and he has always maintained his innocence. The case sparked national attention last year when NPR reporter and This American Life producer Sarah Koenig made it the focus of her new Podcast, Serial, which attracted over 5 million listeners.
The interest in Syed, and whether he was wrongfully convicted, has been the subject of huge online discussion and more evidence has come to light since Serial's broadcast ended. This has led to family friend and attorney, Rabia Chaudry and fellow attorneys Susan Simpson and Colin Miller producing a follow up Podcast, Undisclosed, which is currently broadcasting every two weeks.
There were serious flaws in the investigation and legitimate questions to be answered by Baltimore PD regarding their treatment of the case. Syed has argued that his trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez made a series of mistakes on his case, including failing to speak to a crucial witness and later ignoring his request to seek a plea deal.
Well on Monday, Syed got a big break in his fight for a new trial. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed to send his case back to a lower court so that he can file a request to reopen the case.
This is hugely important, as Syed's legal team want an affidavit by a witness who gives him a potential alibi to be considered—this referral to a lower court opens the door to her testimony being included in the appeal he has pending. The account of Asia McClain was never raised by his defence at trial—despite Syed urging his lawyer to follow it up (which is one of the reasons behind his claim of ineffective counsel). McClain states that she was with Syed in a library at the time the prosecution assert Lee was killed. She also claims she was discouraged from attending Syed's original post conviction hearings in 2012. The court also granted a stay of the appeal (giving time for the new evidence to be included), stating that it is "in the interest of justice".
McClain’s attorney said
“If subpoenaed by either party, Ms McClain, as she’s always wanted to do, will fulfil her obligation to testify truthfully to any question asked of her”.
Rabia Chaudry told CNN affiliate WBAL;
"We get to go back into post-conviction, like we did three years ago, basically bring in Asia and the court can then decide if the attorney messed up by not bringing in the alibi witness."
The circuit court still has to decide whether to reopen the post-conviction proceedings. But Syed is pleased with the appeal court's order, according to his brother, Yusuf Syed, who spoke to him Monday and told WBAL;
"He was really happy and excited, especially since the court said it was in the interest of justice."
Syed, 34, is currently serving a life sentence for Lee's murder.