Freedom Fight: Adnan Syed Heads to Maryland Supreme Court

  • The podcast “Serial,” about Adnan Syed’s conviction, was downloaded more than 300 million times.
  • In 2022, a court released Syed from prison.
  • An appeals court reinstated his conviction the next year.
  • The Maryland Supreme Court will decide Syed’s fate once again.

( – Sarah Koenig debuted her podcast “Serial” in October 2014. The true-crime podcast told the story of the murder of Maryland teenager Hae Min Lee in 1999. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, was convicted of murdering her but always maintained his innocence. Koenig struck gold.

The podcast was downloaded hundreds of millions of times and became very popular. It also helped bring attention to the case, and eventually, a Maryland judge released Syed from prison after vacating his conviction at the request of prosecutors. That wasn’t the end of the story. Syed is now fighting again to stay out of prison and recently went before the state’s highest court.

Verdict Vacated and Reinstated

In September 2022, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Melissa M. Phinn issued a ruling vacating Syed’s murder conviction. The decision came after prosecutors reviewed the case as part of the state law targeting prisoners who’d received life sentences when they were teens. Syed was only 17 years old when the crime occurred.

Baltimore prosecutors told the court that they lost confidence in the verdict after uncovering mistakes made by the original prosecutors, including a serious Brady violation. The prosecutors had not turned over evidence about other potential suspects to the defense. One of those suspects was someone who had allegedly previously threatened the victim’s life. Prosecutors later dropped the charges against Syed.

However, after Syed walked free, Lee’s brother, Young Lee, argued his rights were violated because the prosecutors didn’t give him enough notice to allow him to appear in court in person. Instead, he appeared via video conference.

In March 2023, a 2-1 decision by an appeals court reinstated Syed’s conviction after siding with Lee. The judges claimed the lower court violated the Lee family’s rights by not allowing them the time to appear in person. Syed was allowed to remain free and appealed the decision to the Maryland Supreme Court.

High Court Hears Arguments

On October 5, the parties went before the state Supreme Court. The justices didn’t appear moved by the Lee family’s arguments, according to The Associated Press. Judge Brynja Booth asked why the issue was before the court and not the General Assembly.

“The right that you’re speaking of is not in the plain language of the statute,” Booth argued.

Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney, said prosecutors met the state’s requirement that Lee be allowed to participate in the hearing by patching him through via video conference. She also argued the point was moot because Baltimore prosecutors had dropped the charges.

The judges will make a decision in the coming months.

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