The conviction of Adnan Syed, who spent more than 20 years in prison for the alleged 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and whose case was covered by the podcast “Serial,” was upheld by a Maryland appellate court on Tuesday.
By a vote of 2-1, the appellate court ruled that the lower court had violated Young Lee, the victim's brother's right to be present at a crucial hearing.
The 41-year-old was imprisoned for life when he was 19. The Baltimore man was accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and hiding her body in the woods in 1999.
This is the same case that was discussed in the true-crime podcast “Serial” after which the show became a hit.
In October, the prosecutors requested the court to reject the man's conviction saying that a year-long review reveal two more suspects, reported the BBC.
After over two decades, the shackles were taken off of Syed. While the decision did not prove that Syed is innocent, Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn said she was throwing out the conviction for “fairness and justice”. A new trial was then ordered.
In 2000, prosecutors had argued in front of a jury that Syed was a contemptuous lover who murdered his ex-partner and hid her body.
The jury found him guilty based on mobile phone location data which is now being called unreliable.
“Because the circuit court violated Lee’s right to notice of, and his right to attend, the hearing on the State’s motion to vacate … this Court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy,” the court’s opinion said, as reported by CNN.
“We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision,” it added.
David Sanford, the Lee family's solicitor, declared that they were “delighted” with the court's ruling, reported CNN.
Lee's brother had asked for a rerun of that hearing, claiming among other things that he hadn't received enough notice to show up in person. In court records, Lee's attorneys claimed both the prosecution and the circuit court that overturned Syed's conviction had violated the brother's rights. Lee was able to witness the September hearings via Zoom.
They claim that this occurred as a result of inadequate notice given to him, hiding information from the family, and failing to provide the brother a fair opportunity to speak up during the proceedings.
Before the judgement in September to overturn Syed's conviction, Sanford, the family's attorney, complained to Maryland's appellate court that the circuit court and the prosecutors “failed repeatedly.”
“We remain optimistic that justice will be done,” assistant Public Defender Erica Suter.