There may be legal resolution for Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and who became the focal point of "Serial," an immensely popular podcast presented by "This American Life."
In what Syed's lawyer C. Justin Brown called an "unusual phenomenon," The Maryland Court of Special Appeals asked the state to look into whether Syed's counsel was "ineffective." From the Associated Press:
"But although the buzz surrounding the case is new, Syed has been trying to prove his innocence for years — so long, in fact, that his case is now in its final stages of appeal. A hearing scheduled for January represents what Syed's lawyer, C. Justin Brown, said is the man's "last best chance" at freedom.
In 2000 Syed was convicted of first-degree murder, false imprisonment and robbery; he was given a life sentence and is now 34 years old.
Millions of listeners have tuned in to the podcast hosted and reported by Sarah Koenig, which unfurls a new segment of the case each Thursday. (There are nine podcasts to date, with no new episode on Thanksgiving.)
The suspense of the podcast, thus far, hangs in the uncertainty of whether Syed is guilty. Did his original attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, miss-try the case? Did he commit the crime? According to the AP, the appeal deals greatly with former question:
"The primary points Brown makes in his appeal are some of the same reasons Koenig told listeners in her podcast's first episode that she decided to investigate the case: there were no eye-witnesses tying Syed to the crime, and Syed's attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to interview a witness who said she was with Syed at the time Lee was killed. Gutierrez, a high-profile Baltimore-area criminal defense attorney, was disbarred in 2001 when client funds went missing. She died in 2004 of a heart attack."
No matter how much the case is parsed out on the radio, between fans, in articles or on Reddit, it will be up to the appeals judges. In terms of the podcast's popularity, Syed's attorney told the AP:
"The Court of Special Appeals has shown some interest in the case and asked the state to respond to our application, which is more than they usually do in this procedural posture. But I truly think the appellate courts make their decisions based on the merits of the case, and not the popularity of a podcast."