Adnan Syed murder case made famous by "Serial" podcast gets new trial to vacate sentence

A year-long investigation determined that prosecutors in the 1999 case failed to disclose two new suspects

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published September 14, 2022 6:55PM (EDT)

Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee (Courtesy of Discovery+)
Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee (Courtesy of Discovery+)

Baltimore prosecutors filed a motion on Wednesday for a new trial in the case of Adnan Syed, who was arrested on February 28, 1999 and charged with the first-degree murder of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. In Syed's initial trial, which was made famous by the "Serial" podcast that launched the true-crime podcast craze, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years in February 2000. Now, after a year-long investigation, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says that prosecutors are moving to vacate that sentence after it was determined that information regarding two new suspects was withheld from Syed's defense attorneys.

"As stewards of the court, we are obligated to uphold confidence in the integrity of convictions and do our part to correct when this standard has been comprised," Mosby said in a statement obtained from CNN. "We have spoken with the family of Ms. Hae Min Lee and (they) fully understand that the person responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable."

According to coverage of the newly filed motion by The Baltimore Sun, prosecutors say that "they do not concede Syed, 42, is innocent, but they no longer have faith in his conviction . . .  and asked a judge to release Syed on his own recognizance pending further developments."

"The State's Brady violations robbed the Defendant of information that would have bolstered his investigation and argument that someone else was responsible for the victim's death.... These concerns are highlighted by the new information regarding alternative suspects, and new evidence regarding the reliability of critical evidence at trial has caused the state to lose faith in the integrity of the convictions," Becky Feldman, chief of the state's attorney's office's Sentencing Review Unit, wrote in the motion.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Syed's case has gone through several appeals over the years, with no success. This new trial, referred to by close friend Rabia Chaudry as "validating," seeks to finally bring true justice to the highly publicized case. "It's what we've been saying for decades," says Chaudry.

"This is a true example of how justice delayed is justice denied," Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue said in a statement. "An innocent man spends decades wrongly incarcerated, while any information or evidence that could help identify the actual perpetrator becomes increasingly difficult to pursue."

"Given the stunning lack of reliable evidence implicating Mr. Syed, coupled with increasing evidence pointing to other suspects, this unjust conviction cannot stand," said Syed's attorney, Erica Suter, the director of the Innocence Project clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law. "Mr. Syed is grateful that this information has finally seen the light of day and looks forward to his day in court."

By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

MORE FROM Kelly McClure

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Adnan Syed Aggregate Baltimore Serial True Crime