Man freed after being convicted of murder in the serial podcast was thrown out ThePipaNews

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ThePipaNews

A US judge has ordered the release of a man convicted in 2000 in a murder case chronicled on the hit podcast Serial.

On behalf of prosecutors in Baltimore, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered Adnan Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee to be vacated and she approved the release of the 41-year-old who has spent more than two decades behind bars.

Judge Phinn ruled that the state breached its legal obligation to share exculpatory evidence with Syed’s defense.

She ordered him released from custody and placed on home detention with an electronic tag. She also ordered the state to decide whether to request a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

Mr Syed, who has always maintained his innocence, gained widespread attention in 2014 when the debut season of Serial focused on Ms Lee’s murder and cast doubt on some of the evidence used by prosecutors, inspiring countless debates about Mr Syed’s innocence or guilt.

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying a lengthy investigation conducted with the defense had uncovered new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction of Mr. Syed, who was Ms. Lee’s ex-boyfriend.

“I understand how difficult this is, but we have to make sure we hold the right person accountable,” Assistant State’s Attorney Becky Feldman told the judge as she outlined details from the case that undermine the decades-old conviction, including flawed cell phone records, unreliable witness testimony and a potentially biased detective.

He was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of strangling the 18-year-old whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park.

The investigation “revealed secret and newly developed information about two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office said in a news release last week.

The suspects were known at the time of the original investigation, but were not properly excluded or disclosed to the defense, said prosecutors, who declined to release information about the suspects because of the ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors said they did not claim Mr Syed was innocent, but they lacked confidence “in the integrity of the conviction” and recommended he be released on his own recognizance or bail.

The state attorney’s office had said that if the motion was granted, it would effectively put Mr. Syed in a new trial status, vacating his conviction, while the case remained active.

He was led into a packed courtroom in handcuffs on Monday, wearing a white shirt and tie. He sat next to his lawyer and his mother and other family representatives were in the room, as was Mosby.

In 2016, a lower court ordered a new trial for Syed on the grounds that his attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, failed to contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel.

After a series of appeals, the Maryland Supreme Court in 2019 denied a new trial in a 4-3 opinion. The Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court that Mr. Syed’s legal counsel was deficient in failing to cross-examine an alibi witness, but it did not agree that the deficiency affected the case. The court said Syed waived his ineffective counsel claim.

The US Supreme Court declined to review the case in 2019.

The true-crime podcast was the brainchild of longtime radio producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, who spent more than a year digging into Syed’s case and reported her findings in near-real time in hour-long segments.

The 12-episode podcast won a Peabody Award and was transformative in popularizing podcasts for a wide audience.

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