Serial’s Adnan Syed Released From Prison After Murder Conviction is Vacated [Updated]

Update: On Monday, September 19th, a Baltimore City judge vacated Adnan Syed’s conviction and ordered his release from prison, while prosecutors decide whether they want to try him again.

— Original Story —

Baltimore prosecutors filed a motion on Wednesday, September 14th, to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, the subject of the trailblazing podcast Serial and a four-part HBO docuseries. It follows a nearly year-long reinvestigation into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee conducted with the defense, which uncovered new evidence (via The Wall Street Journal).

Though the prosecutors aren’t stating Syed’s innocence, they are requesting a new trial and recommending he be released on his own recognizance while the investigation continues. Thus far, prosecutors have found new information suggesting the involvement of two more suspects. “The State no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction,” said Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

She continued, “After reviewing the evidence and the new information about alternative suspects, it is our duty to ensure that justice is done. We believe that keeping him detained as we continue to investigate the case with everything that we know now, and when we do not have confidence in results of the first trial, would be unjust.”

In the new court filing, prosecutors said there is evidence pointing to two suspects who may have been involved in the case either separately or together. Though the suspects were known at the time of the initial investigation, they were not properly ruled out.

According to the court filing, prosecutors found a document in the state’s trial file that was never given to the defense. It details a suspect’s statement in which he said “he would make her [Lee] disappear. He would kill her.” In addition, the reinvestigation discovered that the grassy lot where Lee’s car was found in Baltimore was located behind a house belonging to the relative of one of the suspects.

“This information was not available to the Defendant in his trial in 2000, and the State believes it would have provided persuasive support substantiating the defense that another person was responsible for the victim’s death,” prosecutors said.

What’s more, the motion also calls into question the cell phone records and data that were used as evidence in the original trial, a topic that was explored in Serial.

Syed has been serving out a life sentence since he was convicted in 2000 of strangling Lee, his ex-girlfriend. He was 17 at the time of the crime and tried as an adult. Both Serial and HBO’s The Case Against Adnan Syed called attention to the deficiency of his original lawyer’s defense.

In 2016, Baltimore Judge Martin Welch granted Syed’s request for a new trial and vacated his conviction. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals overturned Welch’s ruling in 2019 — just days before the HBO docuseries premiered. That November, the Supreme Court declined to hear Syed’s appeal case.