A court in Maryland has overturned a ruling that would have granted Adnan Syed, the subject of the podcast Serial, a new trial, The Baltimore Sun reports. The ruling is a setback for Syed and his legal team, who had hoped that a new trial would potentially lead to his freedom.
In 2000, a jury convicted Syed of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, who had been found dead in a Baltimore park the year before. Serial brought a renewed interest in Syed’s case, and raised the possibility that he might be innocent, or at the very least, might not have been properly represented by his attorney.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals granted Syed an appeal for his case, during which, his legal team was permitted to introduce new evidence — potential alibi accounts and testimony about cell towers — before the court. In 2016, a judge vacated the conviction and ordered a new trial, which was upheld against an appeal from the state. This ruling from Maryland’s Court of Appeals reverses that decision.
The 7-member panel of judges agreed that the efforts of Syed’s attorney Cristina Gutierrez “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment and was, therefore, deficient,” but said that likely wouldn’t have mattered. In an opinion for the court’s 4-vote majority, Judge Clayton Greene Jr. wrote that additional alibi witnesses “could not have affected the outcome of the case because that evidence did not negate Mr. Syed’s criminal agency”
C. Justin Brown, Syed’s attorney, told the Sun that they “will not give up on Adnan Syed,” and that they are looking into “at least three other avenues of relief.” Legal observers say that they could potentially look into asking the court to reconsider, or take the case to the US Supreme court.
The ruling comes just before another the premiere of a new documentary about Syed at South by South West this weekend — The Case Against Adnan Syed, a four-hour series that will air on HBO on Sunday.