Adnan Syed, the man convicted of killing his girlfriend and whose case was made famous by the podcast Serial that reexamined the murder and subsequent legal proceedings, has been granted a new trial by a Baltimore judge, the Baltimore Sun reports.
WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!! #FreeAdnan
— Justin Brown (@CJBrownLaw) June 30, 2016
Syed has been in prison for the past 16 years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, for which he received a life sentence plus 30 years.
Syed’s lawyers argued that important evidence had been ignored or inaccurate, and that Syed’s previous legal representation had been inadequate, and successfully fought to bring his case back for court consideration by focusing on new testimony from an Alibi Witness as well as a deeper examination of the Cell Tower data that prosecutors used to put Syed behind bars.
The decision was handed down Thursday afternoon, nearly four-and-a-half months after those issues had been heard at a post-trial hearing. In his order, retired Judge Martin Welch ruled Syed’s conviction vacated and ordered a new trial based on the proof of “ineffective assistance” from Syed’s trial attorneys with regards to the Cell Tower Evidence. The judge denied motions for a new tria; related to the allegations of “ineffective assistance for Syed’s attorneys with regards to the alibi witness and “alleged prosecutorial misconduct” in regards to the cell tower evidence. But the judge granted the order on the basis of “ineffective assistance” from Syed’s attorneys with regard to the cell tower evidence.
Adnan Syed has been granted a new trial. Judge Welch’s order: https://t.co/Io4HRRNWLt pic.twitter.com/CzT4LK2w79
— Serial (@serial) June 30, 2016
The judge denied motions for a new trial related to the allegations of “ineffective assistance from Syed’s attorneys with regards to the alibi witness, Asia McClain (now Asia Chapman) and “alleged prosecutorial misconduct” in regards to the cell tower evidence.
Judge Welch was not swayed by the testimony of Syed alibi witness Asia McClain; also finds no Brady violation re: fax cover sheet #Serial
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) June 30, 2016
The court order, via the Sun‘s Justin Fenton, is posted in full below.
Witnesses to Syed’s alibi
Earlier in the trial, an alibi witness testified that she spotted Adnan Syed at a public library on the day prosecutors say he killed Hae Min Lee at a different location.
Asia McClain, now known as Asia Chapman, testified at a hearing earlier this year that she had a conversation with Syed at the library during the time prosecutors say Lee was killed. Chapman has said Syed’s defense team never contacted her for her testimony, a fact Syed’s current attorneys say amounts to ineffective counsel.
Asia spoke out on Twitter and an an interview about why she’s choosing now to come forward.
Good to get it out. Never done criminal court b4. I was more scared because I didn’t know what to expect. #garyproctor rocks
— Asia Chapman (@AsiaRChapman) February 5, 2016
An investigator, meanwhile, said he located 41 possible alibi witnesses for the defendant in a murder case profiled in Serial, but only four told him they were contacted by the original defense team for the 2000 trial.
Defense investigator Sean Gordon testified that he went through 83 names on the original defense witness list. He was able to contact 41/83
— Katie Wall (@NBCKatie) February 5, 2016
State picking apart Asia McClain’s memory on events in 1999 regarding #AdnanSyed & his whereabouts day of murder pic.twitter.com/HhIpVbYwaZ
— JoyLepolaStewart (@jlepolastewart) February 4, 2016
Sean Gordon testified that out of 83 potential alibi witnesses, he was able to reach 41. Of those, he said, only four said they were contacted by Cristina Gutierrez, Syed’s original lawyer, and none were asked to testify.
Defense expert Dave Irwin’s soundbite on Christina Gutierrez’s work on #AdnanSyed ‘s case pic.twitter.com/MxwOGL97uk
— Christian Schaffer (@chrisfromabc2) February 8, 2016
Cameras at the library
A former librarian says there were security cameras at the library where an alibi witness said she saw murder suspect Adnan Syed during the time prosecutors said Syed’s girlfriend was being killed.
Michelle Hamiel leaving court. #AdnanSyed pic.twitter.com/iyitchoOhP
— P. Kenneth Burns (@PKBNews) February 5, 2016
During the hearings earlier this year, Michelle Hamiel testified that there were security cameras at Baltimore’s Woodlawn Public Library. However, Hamiel also said the footage was erased every month. Syed was arrested roughly six weeks after Lee was killed.
A deeper look at the cell tower data
Prosecutors used cell tower data during the first trial of Adnan Syed, saying it placed him at the scene where the body of Hae Min Lee was found in 1999.
Attorneys for Syed have said cell tower data presented during his first trial was given to a jury without a fax cover sheet warning that the data referred only to outgoing calls, and any information about incoming calls was unreliable.
Gerald Grant-also cell tower expert in Boston bombing-testified in #AdnanSyed hearing that incoming calls could not provide location info
— Baynard Woods (@baynardwoods) February 4, 2016
At the February hearings, Gerald Grant, a cell tower expert, told the court that the warning was crucial in order to accurately read the data.
Attorney Justin Brown also entered into evidence an affidavit from an AT&T radio frequency engineer who testified for the state at Syed’s original trial. At the time, Abraham Waranowitz testified that the cell data placed Syed at the burial scene. But in the affidavit he wrote that he was unaware of the warning about reliability.
Grant confirms that former AT&T “expert” during #AdnanSyed 2000 trial did not have all the info to assess Adnan’s location accurately.
— Mariam Khan (@MKhan47) February 4, 2016
“If I had been made aware of this disclaimer, it would have affected my testimony,” he wrote, adding that he wouldn’t have affirmed a phone’s possible location without better understanding the disclaimer.
The podcast Serial revolved around Syed, now 35 and serving a life sentence. At 19 he was convicted of strangling his ex-girlfriend in a wooded park on the northwestern edge of Baltimore. The show raised questions about the fairness of Syed’s trial in Lee’s death. It gained a cult following and uncovered evidence that helped prompt a Maryland appeals court to grant a hearing on the possibility of a new trial.
More from #AdnanSyed‘s mother #SerialUpdate @cbsbaltimore pic.twitter.com/yyy6hp0sWK
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) February 8, 2016
The case had been closed for years when producer Sarah Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, reopened it in the podcast in 2014, drawing millions of listeners each week — so many that the podcast shattered Apple’s iTunes store’s record for downloads, reaching 5 million faster than any other podcast program.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
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