Adnan Syed, the subject of This American Life's 2014 Serial podcast, has been granted a new trial, The Baltimore Sun reports. Syed was convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder when he was just 19 years old.
In 1999, Syed's ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee was found dead in a Baltimore park. In order to reach a conviction, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of a single witness who claimed to be with Syed when he committed the murder. Serial painted the prosecutor's timeline of the evening, assembled through call records and cell tower data, as somewhat flimsy, if not partially fabricated.
16 years after his conviction
At the start of last year, Syed was granted an appeal by a Maryland court. The motion had been filed by Syed's lawyer, C. Justin Brown, months before Serial aired, but the podcast was nonetheless instrumental in bringing the case back into the public eye. Then, this past November, Syed was granted a motion that allowed him to present new evidence regarding his alibi and the cell tower records at a hearing.
WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!! #FreeAdnan— Justin Brown (@CJBrownLaw) June 30, 2016
Brown's main argument for a retrial has been that Syed's original attorney, Christina Gutierrez, mishandled the case — something that was discussed in the podcast. Gutierrez never questioned a potential alibi witness, and was even later agreed to her own disbarment after being accused of stealing clients' money. The judge who granted the trial today, Martin Welch, wrote in his opinion on the case that Gutierrez "fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment" when she failed to cross-examine a key witness from the prosecution, according to the Sun. That witness was an AT&T engineer who had apparently never seen a "crucial disclaimer about cell tower data," The New York Times reports.
There are no details on when the trial will be held.