Baltimore judge overturns murder conviction of Adnan Syed after 23 years in prison based on prosecutor errors

Beginning in 2014, a true crime investigation podcast series looked into the dubious facts surrounding the 1999 murder conviction and life sentence of then-17-year-old Adnan Syed in Baltimore County, Maryland.

Now eight years later, those questions raised have resulted in a judge vacating Syed’s conviction and freeing him from his prison sentence, TheBlaze reported.

At issue here were allegations that prosecutors had failed to disclose potentially exculpatory information during the trial as well as that the evidence that prosecutors had relied upon had been faulty and unreliable.

Conviction overturned

The entire first season of the “Serial” podcast was centered on the case of Adnan Syed and his conviction for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, who had been found strangled and buried in a Baltimore area park about a month after she had gone missing.

That series probed a number of contradictions and inconsistencies in the investigation and trial, including testimony from just one witness, Syed’s friend, along with questions about other things like “the high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence,” and other things that all seemed to undermine the conclusion that Syed was guilty.

Now, according to The Baltimore Sun, Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn ruled on Monday to overturn Syed’s conviction after 23 years and allowed him to leave prison, though he was placed in home confinement with a GPS monitor, and prosecutors were granted 30 days to decide if charges should be dropped or if he should be tried again for Lee’s murder.

Other suspects not disclosed, reliance on unreliable evidence and testimony

The Sun reported that prosecutors have now acknowledged that investigators have at least two other “alternative suspects” in Lee’s murder — at least one of whom was a suspect prior to Syed’s trial, which was not disclosed at that time — and that one of those suspects had directly threatened to kill Lee.

Further, one of the suspects is a convicted serial rapist currently imprisoned for several other sexual assaults who resided near where Lee’s car had been found at the time of her death.

On top of that, prosecutors have also admitted to using cellphone location data that was unreliable at the time to pin Syed to the crime as well as relying heavily on the inconsistent testimony during the trial from Syed’s friend, Jay Wilds.

A “flawed investigation” from the beginning

“If that evidence had been disclosed, perhaps Adnan would not have missed his high school graduation, or his pre-med plans, or 23 years of birthdays, holidays, family gatherings, community events, and everyday moments of joy,” Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, said after the ruling.

“Mr. Syed’s conviction was built on a flawed investigation,” the attorney said in court during the hearing. “This was true in 1999 when he was a 17-year-old child. It remains true today.”

It remains to be seen if prosecutors will accept this reversal or attempt to prosecute Syed again, and notably, prosecutors have not declared Syed to be innocent. That said, an investigation into Lee’s murder has been reopened, likely with a focus on the “alternative suspects” instead of Syed.

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