After spending over two decades in prison for a crime he swears he didn't commit, Adnan Syed has been released from prison following the overturn of his guilty conviction. His sentence, which was handed down in 2000, saw him receive a guilty verdict for the murder of his girlfriend Hae Min Lee, who was found in a park in 1999 having been strangled to death.
Syed was convicted when he was 17 years old and is now 41 — having spent most of his formative years behind bars. You may already be familiar with his case, after the true crime podcast Serial spent 12 episodes debunking major theories and poking holes in the prosecutions case, leading many to question whether they had convicted the right person.
Today, per the New York Times, Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court overturned the guilty conviction "in the interests of justice and fairness," finding that the state prosecutors had failed to share evidence that would have aided Syed's trial and discovered new evidence that would have affected the outcome. This includes flawed mobile phone data, unreliable witness testimony and a potentially biased detective. The integrity of Syed's lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, was also thrown into question, after she was disbarred in 2001 following numerous client complaints. She passed away in 2004.
Syed has now been placed on home detention and has been ordered to wear an ankle monitor, but prosecutors are urging people to remember that the overturning of his conviction does not mean his can be deemed an innocent man. Judge Phinn has ordered a new trial to be set for a later date.
Syed has been appealing his case for countless years. In 2016, a lower court ordered his retrial for Syed on the grounds that his attorney Gutierrez failed to contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel. In 2019, the retrial order was denied by Maryland's highest court, finding that while Syed's counsel was ineffective, it was not believed to have prejudiced the outcome of the case.
The US Supreme Court declined to review Syed's case in 2019.
It wasn't until September 2022 that prosecutors recommended the conviction be vacated, arguing that "the state no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction."
The assistant state's attorney, Becky Feldman told the judge: "I understand how difficult this is, but we need to make sure we hold the correct person accountable."
The case now has two additional suspects under investigation who were known persons at the time of the original investigation, but weren't properly ruled out nor disclosed to the defence. They are said to have records for violence against women.
Sadly, despite this major development, there is still no justice for Hae Min Lee or her family.
Speaking to the court, her brother said:
"Everyday when I think it's over... or it's ended, it always comes back. It's killing me. This is not a podcast for me. This is real life - a never-ending nightmare for 20-plus years."
This case is still unfolding.