A judge in Maryland on Friday issued an order reopening the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, whose case was the subject of the blockbuster podcast "Serial."
Judge Martin P. Welch said in an order that “reopening the post-conviction proceedings would be in the interest of justice for all parties.” Syed is serving a life sentence for his 2000 murder conviction in the strangulation of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
Post-conviction hearings are rarely granted and give defendants the chance to present new evidence on a limited basis. They are not the equivalent of a retrial. Defendants can only argue issues not presented during trial. In Syed’s case, the evidence will be limited to testimony challenging the reliability of cell-tower location data, which played a major role in his conviction; testimony from potential alibi witness Asia McClain; and evidence supporting Syed’s claim of ineffective counsel.
A centerpiece of Syed's prosecution was cell-tower evidence placing him at Leakin Park at the time Lee was buried there. Syed’s attorney, Justin Brown, argued in a court motion in August that the accuracy of the location calculated using cell-tower data was unreliable. In a fax cover sheet to the Baltimore Police Department, AT&T included a disclaimer: “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.” This evidence was never presented at trial.
Further, Syed’s original defense attorney, who has since died, failed to present the testimony of McClain, who claims to have seen Syed in a high school library at the time Lee was killed.
The examination of Syed’s conviction on “Serial” brought the case international attention. The podcast has been downloaded more than 68 million times since the series originally aired in the fall of 2014.
Rabia Chaundry, a Syed family friend who brought the case to the attention of “Serial” producers, reacted to the news on Twitter: