Adnan Syed, whose 2000 conviction for murdering his girlfriend was the subject of the first season of the hit podcast Serial, will receive a new trial, according to his attorney C. Justin Brown, who announced the news on Twitter.
Judge Martin Welch wrote in his opinion that Syed's trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, "rendered ineffective assistance when she failed to cross-examine the state's expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence." Gutierrez died in 2004.
Syed was allowed, earlier this year, to enter new evidence during a post-conviction hearing. It was another step in a long, labored process in Syed's attempt to get a new trial that began soon after his conviction in 2000 (an earlier trial had ended in a mistrial) for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years.
Serial listeners will know that the basis of Syed's conviction seemed, to many observers, flimsy: the cell tower technology evidence used to place Syed at Leakin Park, the site where Lee's body was found, was deemed by AT&T as unreliable (something the company had even expressly told the state of Maryland).
An earlier post-conviction hearing was denied in 2013, even after Syed demonstrated to the court that Gutierrez had not acted competently and failed to interview a witness who could place Syed in a public library, and not in Leakin Park, at the time of the murder. Fusion has previously covered Syed's post-conviction hearing.
In the fall of 2014, Serial, a spinoff of This American Life, premiered and brought national attention to Syed's case. The first season's 12 episodes focused on the police work, evidence, and Gutierrez's effectiveness as a defense attorney, and questioned whether a racial and religious bias played a role in his trial and conviction. The podcast was a huge hit, garnering millions of downloads and streams, remaining at no. 1 on the iTunes podcast charts three months after the first season concluded.
Rabia Chaudry, who first brought Syed's case to Serial host Sarah Koenig and a vocal supporter of his innocence, also tweeted her excitement. Her book about the case, Adnan’s Story: Murder, Justice, and The Case That Captivated a Nation, is set to be released in September.
The state of Maryland remains adamant that Syed is guilty. Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah told the Baltimore Sun that he knows the state's position on the matter is "not popular," but is the only logical solution.
You can read Judge Welch's full opinion below.
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