US Judge Vacates Conviction of Adnan Syed, Frees Him After 23 Years in Prison
Syed, convicted in 2000 for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, was the subject of the popular podcast Serial in 2014.
A judge has vacated the conviction of Adnan Syed, a Muslim American who spent 23 years in jail fighting his conviction on the charges that he murdered his former high school girlfriend, a case that drew the eyes of the world after it was documented in the first season of the popular podcast Serial.
Baltimore City Circuit Court's Judge Melissa M Phinn vacated the conviction "in the interests of fairness and justice" as she found that prosecutors had not been able to turn over the evidence that would have helped Syed during trial and even discovered new evidence that could have impacted the outcome of Syed's case.
Prosecutors have been given 30 days to decide whether they will be seeking a new trial or drop the charges against Syed. In the meantime, Syed, born to immigrants from Pakistan, has been placed under home detention.
According to the prosecutors, an investigation had led them to two possible "alternative suspects," however, these individuals have neither been named publicly or charged, as per a report by The New York Times.
"At this time, we will remove the shackles from Mr Syed."Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court
Now a 41-year-old man, Syed had been serving a life sentence for the strangulation of his one time girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a park in Baltimore County in 1999.
A few moments after the judge's announcement, Syed climbed down the courthouse steps, smiled and gave a small wave before getting into a waiting car. He didn't say anything to reporters who surrounded him.
What Was the Case?
Hae Min Lee, an ex-girlfriend of Syed, was found dead in a Baltimore park on 9 February 1999, four weeks after she was last seen alive on 13 January. She had been killed by manual strangulation and buried in the park. Syed became the prime suspect after an anonymous phone call urging the police to focus on him. Based on the testimony of one of Syed's friends and cellphone location data, he was convicted of first-degree murder in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.
About 17 years old at the time, Syed kept reiterating his innocence and in 2014, after the debut of the Serial podcast, questions arose whether or not he received a fair trial.
With its in-depth examination of the unfolding of the events leading up to Hae Min Lee's death and Syed's conviction, the podcast Serial gained pop-culture popularity. The podcast also looked into the inconsistencies of his lawyer who consented to being disbarred against the backdrop of complaints of wrongdoings in 2001 and died in 2004.
However, it wasn't until September 2022 that prosecutors recommended that his conviction be "vacated" and that he should be given the opportunity of a new trial because, according to them, "the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction."
(With inputs from The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun)
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