Maryland Supreme Court asked to consider wiping away Adnan Syed conviction


Lawyers for Adnan Syed asked Maryland’s highest court Wednesday (May 24, 2023) to consider once again wiping away the murder conviction of the “Serial” podcast subject.

Taking aim at a Maryland Appellate Court panel’s 2-1 decision to reinstate Syed’s conviction, Syed’s lawyers argued that the Maryland Supreme Court should take up the case to decide critical questions about the extent of victims rights in a criminal matter.

The appellate panel decided in March that a circuit court judge had violated the rights of Young Lee – the brother of the teenager that Syed had previously been convicted of killing – because the judge did not give Lee an adequate chance to attend the hearing at which Syed’s conviction was vacated. The panel reinstated Syed’s conviction and ordered a do-over of the hearing – though it said its decision would not take effect for 60 days.

But Syed’s lawyers argued that prosecutors had told Lee in advance of the hearing and allowed him to appear via Zoom – which should have been enough to satisfy his rights. They asked the Supreme Court to keep delaying the conviction from being reinstated while justices considered whether to take up the matter.

In a statement, Erica Suter, an assistant public defender and Syed’s lawyer, said that Syed’s rights as a defendant are “directly impacted by the Appellate Court of Maryland’s decision.”

“Reincarcerating Adnan would be devastating for him and his family and would be an affront to justice,” Suter said.

Lee’s family attorneys and the Maryland attorney general’s office both supported the bid to have the state Supreme Court delay the imposition of the conviction being reinstated – a move that would ensure Syed remains free while the legal wrangling continues.

At 17, Syed was arrested in the killing of Hae Min Lee, an 18-year-old he once dated. He was convicted of murder in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison. The incident drew widespread attention when the podcast “Serial” covered the case.

Syed and his representatives waged a years-long battle to have the conviction overturned but until recently had little success.

Then in September, at the request of then-Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn vacated his conviction after deciding that there were problems in how prosecutors turned over evidence to defense attorneys decades prior.

Even still, Syed’s future remained uncertain, as Hae Min Lee’s brother appealed the decision and the appellate court sided with him, ordering the judge to hold a new hearing about the conviction being vacated. It is possible the end result could be the same. But Mosby is now out of office, and her successor, Ivan Bates, has not announced what posture he will take on the case as it makes its way through the process.

David Sanford, one of the Lee family’s attorneys, said in a statement that they were confident the Maryland Supreme Court would hold that victims must be able to receive notice of and “meaningfully participate” in a vacatur hearing. He said that within the next 14 days he, too, planned to challenge part of the appellate panel’s opinion, which limited Lee’s ability to actively challenge in court prosecutors’ evidence that the case against Syed should be thrown out.

“What we’re asking for is a meaningful right through meaningful participation, and that’s what our appeal is going to be based on,” Sanford said in an interview. “We are not on a campaign to have Adnan Syed reincarcerated. The issue is, fundamentally, about victim’s rights.”



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