Adnan Syed’s Conviction Vacated After 23 Years

After 23 years in prison, Adnan Syed, the suspect charged with the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, was released on Sept. 19. Syed was charged with first degree murder, robbery, kidnapping, and false imprisonment resulting in a life sentence without parole plus 30 years.

In 2014, Syed received worldwide support thanks to the podcast “Serial” by journalist Sarah Koenig. Koenig spent the first season trying to piece together what truly happened on the night Lee was killed by reviewing documents and interviewing individuals involved in the investigation. The show was made in response to an email from Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed, asking Koenig to look into the case.

After a nearly year-long investigation reviewing the facts of this case, Syed deserves a new trial where he is adequately represented and the latest evidence can be presented.

— Marilyn Mosby

“For the last year, I’ve spent every working day trying to figure out where a high school kid was for an hour after school one day in 1999,” Koenig said in the first episode of her podcast in 2014.

On Sept. 14, Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office filed for a new trial after re-investigating Syed’s case over the past year. Prosecutors released a statement revealing evidence pointing towards two possible suspects who currently remain unnamed. With this information in hand, the State’s Attorney’s Office requested that Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn overturn Syed’s conviction due to “lack of confidence in the results of the first trial.” Though not incarcerated, Syed is required to wear an ankle bracelet until further notice.

“After a nearly year-long investigation reviewing the facts of this case, Syed deserves a new trial where he is adequately represented and the latest evidence can be presented,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement.

Despite being persons of interest in the original investigation, the suspects were not disclosed to Syed’s defense until this month. Both suspects had been convicted previously, one for assaulting a woman and the other for serial rape and sexual assault. However, due to large amounts of circumstantial evidence against Syed, the senior was arrested .

“I’m so glad that the courts put aside what I assume was some racial bias and realized that there wasn’t enough evidence keeping Syed locked up,” senior Megan Helge said. “I think his case was handled more like ‘guilty until proven innocent’ instead of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. How long he was in prison without any hard evidence pinning him as the murderer definitely shows that.”

The prosecution has been given a month to decide whether to drop the charges against Syed or hold a new trial. As of now, both parties await the results of an attorney-requested DNA test on Lee’s clothing and shoes–a piece of evidence that has never been tested before.

Despite this exciting moment for Syed and his supporters, the case evokes painful memories for the family of Hae Min Lee. Though vocal about their feelings on the case over the years, the family wants nothing more than closure for the death of their daughter.

“The family is principally interested in justice,” the Lee’s family attorney Steve Kelley said after leaving the hearing. “For the past 22 years the world and they have been told that Adnan Syed is the murderer of their daughter and sister Hae Min Lee. Now the court and prosecutors have a different view. The family seeks truth and a just process and result.”