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Prosecutors Say Adnan Syed’s Murder Conviction, Subject of First ‘Serial’ Podcast, Should Be Overturned

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Prosecutors have asked a court to vacate the 2000 murder conviction of Adnan Syed — who was found guilty of the murder of his girlfriend — recommending he be released from prison and granted a new trial. Syed’s case was the focus of the groundbreaking “Serial” podcast back in 2014 and became a widely followed story.

Syed, now 41, has been serving a life sentence in prison since 2000. He has maintained his innocence.

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On Wednesday, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office said in a filing in circuit court after an almost yearlong investigation it had uncovered new evidence in Syed’s case that cast doubt on his guilt. “[T]he State no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction,” the office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.

The prosecutors told the court Syed should be released from prison on his own recognizance pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation. Per the Journal, prosecutors said they found new evidence that two other suspects — known at the time of the initial investigation — may have been involved in the murder of Syed’s girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, either separately or together.

Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, who is the director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, issued a statement on the latest development through the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. “Given the stunning lack of reliable evidence implicating Mr. Syed, coupled with increasing evidence pointing to other suspects, this unjust conviction cannot stand,” said Suter, an assistant public defender in the state. “Mr. Syed is grateful that this information has finally seen the light of day and looks forward to his day in court.”

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“Serial” launched in 2014 as a spinoff of NPR’s “This American Life” and became an overnight podcasting hit. In the first season, Sarah Koenig investigated Syed’s first-degree murder conviction for the 1999 strangulation death of Lee in Baltimore. “Serial” raised questions about the evidence against him, including an account of Asia McClain, who claimed she saw Syed at a public library during the time of Lee’s murder.

Syed’s case also was the subject of a four-part HBO docuseries released in 2019 by director Amy Berg called “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” which also questioned his guilt. The filmmaker hired private investigators and reached out to new allies following the release of the “Serial” podcast.

In March 2019, Maryland’s highest court denied Syed a retrial and he appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear his appeal.

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