Georgetown hires Adnan Syed after court tossed his murder conviction

A photo of Adnan Syed from 1998. MUST CREDITL: Courtesy of “Serial”

A year ago, Adnan Syed was serving a life sentence for murder and about to start taking classes from Georgetown University in a Maryland prison.

Now, the 41-year-old man is free after a court vacated his murder conviction. Prosecutors dropped the case and said that Syed was “not involved” in the killing.

And in yet another twist to a saga publicized in 2014 in the true-crime podcast “Serial,” Syed has landed a full-time job with Georgetown as a program associate for the university’s Prisons and Justice Initiative. Its programs include education and training for incarcerated individuals and others who have left prison.

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Syed reported to work Dec. 12, according to Marc M. Howard, director of the initiative.

One of Syed’s roles is to provide research and other support for a hands-on undergraduate class called “Making an Exoneree,” in which students seek to help free innocent people from prison by examining decades-old convictions and creating short documentaries about the cases.

“I couldn’t have scripted it better,” Howard said Thursday. He said Syed was not available for interviews.

Syed recently came to Georgetown to see the campus for the first time, after taking classes earlier this year through a program at Patuxent Institution in Jessup.

“To go from prison to being a Georgetown student and then to actually be on campus on a pathway to work for Georgetown at the Prisons and Justice Initiative, it’s a full circle moment,” Syed said in a statement through Georgetown. The university’s initiative “changed my life,” he said. “It changed my family’s life. Hopefully I can have the same kind of impact on others.”

Syed was convicted in 2000 in the killing of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend, whose body was found in Baltimore’s Leakin Park the year before. Prosecutors said Lee died by strangulation. He continued to maintain his innocence, and his case gained widespread attention through the podcast.

In September, the Baltimore City state’s attorney office said in a motion in circuit court that it had lost confidence in Syed’s conviction and identified other possible suspects. Days later, Syed was freed when a judge vacated his conviction after finding deficiencies in how prosecutors had turned over evidence to defense attorneys decades ago. As he walked out of the courthouse on Sept. 19, Syed was photographed carrying a binder with a Georgetown bulldog sticker. It contained his final exam for a statistics class.

In October, prosecutors dropped the criminal case against Syed, saying that he was wrongly convicted of murder. After new forensic testing of evidence found no trace of Syed’s DNA, prosecutors said they would not keep pursuing the case against Syed.

Lee’s family was critical of the decision to drop charges and still seeks answers on Lee’s death. The Lee family attorney, Steve Kelly, has argued that the family was not given a chance to meaningfully participate in the court hearing when Syed’s conviction was thrown out.

The Lee family recently asked an appellate court for a hearing to review evidence supporting the decision to vacate Syed’s conviction. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is scheduled to hold a hearing in early February.

Meanwhile, Howard said, Syed is focused on work and wants to continue to pursue a bachelor’s degree. In prison, Syed earned two semesters of credits from Georgetown. Earlier this month, he was the keynote speaker for an event the university held to celebrate educational programs inside the D.C. jail.

“He was very powerful, very moving,” Howard said. “He talked about his experience and how education gave him hope.”

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