ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Attorneys for a man convicted of killing his high school sweetheart, and whose story is at the center of the popular podcast “Serial,” will argue Thursday that he deserves a new trial after his conviction was vacated.
Prosecutors and lawyers for Adnan Syed will present arguments before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. A lower court judge last year vacated Syed’s conviction and ruled that he deserved a new trial because his original attorney failed to cross-examine a key witness. The court will issue a written decision at a later date.
Syed will not attend the hearing and no witness testimony will be presented.
Syed was convicted in 2000 of murder in the death of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and burying her body in a shallow grave in a park in northwest Baltimore. He was 17 at the time.
Last year, a judge vacated Syed’s conviction and ruled that he deserved a new trial because his trial attorney, the late Cristina Gutierrez, provided ineffective counsel when she failed to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of location data that placed Syed near the burial site.
Syed’s story was widely publicized in the 2014 “Serial” podcast, which cast doubt on his guilt and inspired armchair investigators to dig into the case’s details and unearth new information.
In asking for a new trial, attorneys initially argued Gutierrez erred when she failed to call Asia Chapman to the witness stand. Chapman said she saw Syed at the Woodlawn library around the same time prosecutors say Lee was murdered. The judge, Martin Welch, disagreed with this claim.
This was Syed’s second attempt at a new trial. Welch denied an earlier post-conviction relief bid in 2014 after determining that Gutierrez’s decision not the pursue Chapman was the result of reasonable trial strategy, not negligence.
After the judge’s decision, Syed’s attorney Justin Brown said he anticipated the state’s appeal.
“This is obviously an incredible victory,” he said at the time. “We know the state is not going to give up, and we’re ready.”
“Serial” attracted millions of listeners and shattered records for the number of times a podcast has been streamed or downloaded. When asked if Syed would have likely won a new trial without the fanfare surrounding “Serial,” Brown said, “I don’t think so.”
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