‘Serial’ Murder: Prosecutors Move To Vacate Adnan Syed Conviction, Call For Prison Release

Millions of Serial podcast listeners are likely thinking “told ya so” today as Baltimore prosecutors are asking a judge to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed in the 1999 killing of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

“This is big news,” tweeted the Serial podcast. “For the first time, Baltimore prosecutors are saying they don’t have confidence in Adnan Syed’s conviction and are asking for his release.”

In a motion filed in circuit court today (read it here), the state’s attorney for Baltimore City writes that a year-long investigation conducted with Syed’s defense team uncovered new information “concerning the possible involvement of two alternative suspects,” and, additionally, that the legal parties “have identified significant reliability issues regarding the most critical pieces of evidence at trial.”

The prosecutor emphasizes that the investigation is ongoing, and that it will use “all available resources to investigate this case and bring a suspect or suspects to justice.”

“To be clear, the State is not asserting at this time that Defendant is innocent,” the motion continues, but adds that the prosecution “no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction.”

A new trial, or a decision to abandon the case against Syed, would depend on the outcome of the ongoing investigation. In the meantime, the motion asserts, Syed should be released from prison on his own recognizance.

Syed’s attorney, Erica J. Suter filed a response to the State’s motion (read it here), writing, “Mr. Syed’s conviction rests on the evolving narrative of an incentivized, cooperating, nine-year-old co-defendant, propped up by inaccurate and misleading cell phone location data. This was so in 1999, when Mr. Syed was a seventeen-year-old child. It remains so today. The most recent revelations as detailed in the State’s Motion have rightfully caused the State to lose faith in the integrity of this conviction. Mr. Syed’s conviction should not stand.”

Though neither of the two legal documents filed today named other possible suspects or the “incentivized” co-defendant, followers of the immensely popular 2014 season of Serial might certainly be able to offer suggestions for their identities. The Peabody Award-winning podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig, while making no definitive finding of Syed’s guilt or innocence, raised serious doubts the law enforcement and legal cases against the defendant, and posed questions about the reliability of a key cooperating witness.

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