Criminal Justice

Adnan Syed of 'Serial' podcast fame released to home detention after judge vacates murder conviction

  • Print

AP Adnan Syed Sept 2022

Adnan Syed, center, leaves the courthouse Sept. 19 in Baltimore. A judge ordered the release of Syed after overturning his conviction for a 1999 murder that was chronicled in the Serial podcast. Photo by Brian Witte/The Associated Press. Adjacent photo by Casey Fiesler/Flickr.

A Baltimore judge has vacated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, whose case was featured on the Serial podcast, after Baltimore prosecutors said the defense was never given information about two “alternative suspects.”

Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore ordered Syed’s release Monday, although prosecutors could seek to try him again.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun covered the hearing.

Phinn said Syed should remain in home detention, and prosecutors should decide whether to retry him within 30 days, according to the New York Times.

Syed, now 41, was convicted in February 2000 for killing his former girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. Syed was 17 at the time that Lee was murdered in January 1999.

Serial Podcast Related article from “Judge orders new DNA tests in Adnan Syed murder case featured on ‘Serial’ podcast”

Prosecutors said in a Sept. 15 motion they no longer had confidence in the conviction. They cited expert opinion about the unreliability of cellphone location evidence used at trial, undisclosed information about the alternative suspects, and inconsistent statements made by the main witness in the case, Jay Wilds.

Prosecutors did not disclose the identity of the alternative suspects. They said one of the alternative suspects had threatened to kill Lee and make her “disappear.” One was later convicted for attacking a woman in her vehicle “without provocation or excuse.” And one was later convicted for “multiple instances of rape and sexual assault of compromised or vulnerable victims.”

Prosecutors said in the motion they wanted to vacate Syed’s conviction, but they would decide later whether they will move to drop the case. Their decision will depend on the results of their ongoing investigation, they said.

Lee’s brother, Young Lee, addressed the court by Zoom after his family’s lawyer contacted him during a hearing recess, according to the New York Times. He said the motion to vacate the conviction made him feel “betrayed” and “blindsided.”

He said he wasn’t against the investigation, but “knowing that there could be someone out there free for killing my sister—it’s tough,” according to the Washington Post.

See also: “Top state court reinstates murder conviction of Adnan Syed; his case was chronicled in ‘Serial’ podcast”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.