Maryland’s highest court prevents reinstatement of Adnan Syed’s conviction in ‘Serial’ podcast case

·2 min read
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Maryland’s Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the reinstatement of Adnan Syed’s murder conviction while it decides whether to hear his appeal in the long-running, twisted tale.

Syed served more than 20 years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, before prosecutors dropped all charges last September and Syed was released, years after the case was the focus of the “Serial” podcast.

Prosecutors said they found new suspects and unreliable evidence had been used at Syed’s trial.

Syed has remained free, but the case has grown even trickier.

In February, the victim’s brother appealed the conviction being vacated. The brother said he hadn’t been given adequate notice of a court hearing and he asked an appeals court to reverse the reversal and do the hearing over again to determine whether the conviction should be reversed again.

In March, a state appellate court reinstated Syed’s conviction after ruling a lower court had violated the rights of Lee’s brother, Young Lee, to attend the hearing. The victim’s family wants to have another hearing about whether to vacate the conviction.

On Wednesday, Syed asked the state’s highest court to review that decision. He sought an evaluation of several factors in the case, including Young Lee’s allegations about receiving enough notice.

Syed’s “innocence is not at issue, but his rights as a defendant and freedom as an exoneree are directly impacted by the Appellate Court of Maryland’s decision,” Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, said in a statement.

Thursday’s order stays the reinstatement while Syed’s petition is pending and throughout any potential appeals process, if the court decides to hear his case. Lee’s brother and the attorney general’s office agreed to the stay, Justice Shirley Watts wrote in the order.

“[Syed] is grateful that the victim’s representative and Attorney General have consented to the stay,” the Maryland Office of the Public Defender said in a statement Wednesday. “Reincarcerating Adnan would be devastating for him and his family and would be an affront to justice.”

David Sanford, an attorney for the Lee family, said in an emailed statement Friday the Supreme Court did the “right thing,” adding “the ultimate issues in this case are yet to be decided.”

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