On Monday a judge ordered the release of Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man serving a life sentence for a 1999 murder he says he did not commit, after overturning his conviction. Syed’s case was chronicled in the popular podcast “Serial.” The 42-year-old Syed was released to home confinement after serving more than 20 years in prison. Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn said she overturned his conviction “in the interest of justice.” Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek a new trial or drop the charges against him. Phinn gave the state 30 days to decide which course to pursue.
Syed had been convicted in the killing of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park. Prosecutors cited a lack of confidence “in the integrity of the conviction” after completing a yearlong investigation with Syed’s attorneys. Lee’s brother, Young, attended the hearing remotely from California. Though he told the court he trusted the system, he also said he felt “betrayed” having believed the right person had been brought to justice.
Phinn’s decision to overturn his conviction follows a request from prosecutors last week, who said they weren’t asserting that Syed is innocent, but that they have uncovered new evidence that potentially links two previously known suspects to Lee’s murder. Evidence about those unidentified individuals had been withheld from Syed’s defense attorneys during his trial.
Syed’s criminal case captured the attention of millions in 2014 when he became the focus of the hit podcast ‘Serial’ that raised doubts about the evidence presented against him, including cellphone tower data. “Serial” podcast host Sarah Koenig was in the courtroom at the time of Syed’s ordered release, and the podcast announced on Twitter that a new episode of the program will be released Tuesday morning.
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