Criminal Justice

'Serial' podcasts downplayed info supporting murder conviction, prosecutor says; DNA testing sought

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A popular podcast series raised doubts about the evidence used to convict Adnan Syed of murder without any significant basis for doing so, the Intercept says, relying on information from the prosecutor in the case.

Nonetheless, inspired by the podcast Serial, the Maryland Innocence Project at the University of Virginia is now planning to seek DNA testing on physical evidence, reports Time magazine. Meanwhile, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals is considering whether to reverse a Baltimore trial court ruling that denied his petition for post-conviction relief in the nearly 15-year-old case.

Syed, 34, is serving a life term for strangling his ex-girlfriend to death in 1999 while both were teenagers.

Serial presents the murder case as one of overzealous prosecution and an incompetent defense, but the program amplifies the defense contentions and waters down the evidence on which the prosecution relied, the Intercept says. And Serial doesn’t include input from prosecutor Kevin Ulrick, who says the producer made minimal efforts to contact him as work on the series was wrapping up.

In fact, according to Ulrick, who now practices in Elkton, Maryland, the evidence supporting Syed’s conviction is strong: Cellphone records put him in Leakin Park, where Hae Min Lee’s body was eventually found, on the night she disappeared. Plus a former high school classmate, Jay Wilds, said Syed confessed to the slaying and testified that he helped Syed dispose of the body. (Wilds pleaded guilty and got probation for being an accessory after the fact.)

“[O]nce you understood the cellphone records–that killed any alibi defense that Syed had,” Ulrick told the Intercept. “I think when you take that in conjunction with Jay’s testimony, it became a very strong case.”

Related coverage:

Baltimore Sun: “State: ‘Serial’ murder case should not be reopened”

New York Daily News: “Court should uphold conviction of Adnan Syed, man featured in ‘Serial’ podcast, Baltimore prosecutors say”

See also:

Deseret News: “‘Serial’ spawns quest to reverse conviction”

WMAR: “Last ‘Serial’ podcast released: Who killed Hae Min Lee?”

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