Adnan Syed’s murder conviction has been reinstated just months after he was freed from prison, as reported earlier by The Associated Press and The Baltimore Sun. Syed, whose case was featured in the popular Serial podcast, was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999 and spent over 20 years behind bars.
The Appellate Court of Maryland ruled in favor of the victim’s family after they filed an appeal, claiming that they weren’t given the proper notice to attend the hearing that resulted in Syed’s release. The court ordered a new hearing with sufficient notice given to Lee’s brother, Young Lee. It will reexamine the question of overturning Syed’s conviction, which, for now, is back in force.
“This court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations” of the family’s right to appear in court, “as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy,” the ruling states. “We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person.”
As noted by The Baltimore Sun, the reinstated conviction doesn’t mean that Syed’s going back to prison immediately. The ruling will take 60 days to come into effect, giving Syed the time to appeal the decision to the Maryland Supreme Court, which could block him from returning to prison if it rules in his favor.
Last year, a Baltimore judge vacated Syed’s murder conviction after prosecutors called the integrity of the original trial into question. Criminal charges were later dropped against Syed when the results of a DNA test suggested that he had not been near Lee at the time of her death. Syed, who was sentenced to life in prison at age 17, has continued to maintain his innocence.
If Syed decides not to appeal the decision or the Maryland Supreme Court rules against him, The Baltimore Sun states that “he likely would be back before Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn for a redo of the September 2022 hearing that initially set him free.”