In 2014, Serial Season 1 captivated listeners with the story of the murder of teenager Hae Min Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Through interviews and reviews of evidence, journalist Sarah Koenig led many to wonder if Syed was innocent. And then the season ended, leaving all of its loyal followers in suspense. But today, March 29th, we received an update in the case. The second-highest court in Maryland ruled that Syed deserves a new trial.
Three judges in the Maryland Special Court of Appeals ruled that in the 2000 trial, the defense team’s “deficient performance” made the trial unfair. In particular, the ruling stated that Syed’s lawyers had failed to contact an alibi witness who could “have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror.” Rabia Chaudry, the attorney who initially contacted Koenig about Syed’s case, wrote on Twitter that this alibi witness was Asia McClain Chapman, who had written Syed a letter saying she had seen him on the day of the murder and believed he was innocent.
The ruling wasn’t an entirely new decision, however. A lower court in Maryland actually granted Syed a new trial back in 2016, but prosecutors had appealed this decision. While today’s decision upholds the conclusion reached by the lower court, it can still be challenged in the Maryland Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court. And Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh released a statement that his office is “reviewing today’s decision to determine next steps.”
But Syed’s attorney, Justin Brown said he hopes that this time, the decision will not be appealed. In a news conference, Brown stated that Syed “asked me to convey his deep gratitude and thanks from the bottom of his heart for all those people who have supported him.”
Regardless of whether or not you think Syed is innocent, today’s ruling is a huge victory for his legal team that will hopefully result in a much fairer trial. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for any updates in this case.