A US judge in Maryland has ordered the release of Adnan Syed from prison, where he has been incarcerated for more than 20 years. Syed was convicted of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a case which gained national attention after being the focus of the popular podcast “Serial.”
The murder of Hae Min Lee gripped the nation when it occurred. On January 13, 1999, 18-year-old Lee went missing one day after school and was later found dead in a city park. She had last been seen driving her 1998 Nissan Sentra on her way to pick up her 6-year-old cousin and then go to her job at LensCrafters. Her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was arrested and charged with her murder not long after.
Syed’s trial occurred in 2000, and he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. The case remained largely forgotten until 2014 when it was thrust back into the national spotlight by the “Serial” podcast. The hugely popular show raised doubts about Syed’s guilt and sparked new interest in the case.
In 2016, a US appeals court overturned Syed’s conviction, ruling that his lawyer at the time had ineffective counsel. The court ordered a new trial for Syed, but prosecutors appealed that decision. The appellate court ruled in the prosecutors’ favour, but earlier this year, the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to hear Syed’s case one last time.
When the prosecutors agreed to new DNA testing in March this year, they said it was merited because advances had been made with genetic Profiling. A new law allows prosecutors discretion to correct sentences for offenders under 18 when crimes occurred and had already served 20 years behind bars.
The prosecutors asked the judge to overturn Syed’s conviction on September 14th because they said there were two “alternative suspects” who could’ve committed this crime. Key evidence was also left out of his lawyer’s possession, and “significant reliability issues” with the most critical pieces presented at trial.
On Monday, Judge Melissa Phinn vacated Syed’s conviction and granted him bail pending a new trial. Prosecutors have 30 days to seek a new trial or dismiss the case.
The recent release of Syed is welcome news for Muslims across America, who have been watching this case closely. We are hopeful that Adnan Syed will finally get the justice he deserves after spending more than 20 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.