Adnan Syed Released From Prison After Baltimore Judge Vacates His Conviction in the Murder of Hae Min Lee

Prosecutors now have 30 days to seek a new trial, as Adnan Syed is placed on home detention with GPS monitoring.

Adnan Syed was released Monday after a Baltimore judge vacated Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a case detailed on the hit true crime podcast series “Serial.”

Syed, now 42, will now be placed on home detention with GPS location monitoring. Prosecutors must decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn said the move was “in the interest of judgement and fairness” when announcing her decision, the Associated Press reported. The judge ruled that the state violated a legal obligation to share evidence that may have helped Syed’s defense.

This comes after Baltimore City prosecutors filed a motion last week to vacate his murder conviction and seek a new trial, questioning the integrity of the original trial that put Syed behind bars. 

Their lengthy investigation into the trial, conducted with support of Syed’s defense, “revealed undisclosed and newly-developed information regarding two alternative suspects as well as unreliable cell phone tower data,” according to a prosecution news release. While prosecutors said they were not claiming Syed was innocent, they lacked confidence in “the integrity of the conviction,” the release stated.

Syed, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, has been behind bars for the last 23 years and serving a life sentence plus 30 years after he was found guilty of strangling Lee, his ex-girlfriend, when she was 18 years old.

Lee’s body was found buried in Leakin Park. Authorities at the time said Syed snapped when Lee broke up with him, and ended up killing her.

Syed has maintained his innocence and his case received widespread attention in 2014 when “Serial” raised new questions about Lee’s death, and highlighted questionable evidence in the case. The 12-episode podcast about Syed’s case won a Peabody Award.

He and his lawyers fought the conviction many times during his incarceration, most notably in 2016, when he was granted a new trial, but Maryland’s highest court later reinstated his conviction. Syed’s team then brought their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court, where his plea for a new trial was denied in 2019.

Hae Min Lee’s brother, who participated in the hearing via Zoom from California, called the ruling “a nightmare.” “This is not a podcast for me,” he said, according to NBC Baltimore. “It’s real life that will never end.”

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