Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’ denied new trial days before HBO documentary

Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was the focus of the popular podcast "Serial," has been denied a retrial.
Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was the focus of the popular podcast “Serial,” has been denied a retrial.

Image: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for HBO

Adnan Syed, the focus of the first season of the hit podcast Serial, has been .

The highest court in Maryland, the Court of Appeals, to grant Syed a new trial and vacate his previous murder conviction.

Since 2000, Syed has been in prison serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Syed has maintained his innocence throughout the years behind bars.

His argument rested on the failure of Syed’s defense lawyer at the time to call a witness who saw Syed in the library on the afternoon of Lee’s disappearance. The court ruled that while his lawyer was “deficient” in not having this witness testify, Syed was not “prejudiced” by the “deficient performance” because there was other evidence that proved him guilty.

The Court of Appeals also rejected a claim that Syed’s defense lawyer failed to raise challenges against prosecutors use of cellphone location data in 2000. The court denied this claim because it was raised late into the process.

Syed’s case was thrust into the In 2014, thanks to a podcast called Serial, hosted by former “This American Life” producer Sarah Koenig.

The following year, due in part to the podcast’s popularity, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals accepted Syed’s , which would grant Syed’s legal counsel the chance to make arguments for a new trial.

In 2016, Adnan Syed found himself in court , this time making the case for his retrial. Later that year, a Baltimore judge granted him . The decision was upheld .

However, that decision has now been reversed.

Syed’s lead defense lawyer, C. Justin Brown, released the following after the court’s ruling:

We are devastated by the Court of Appeals’ decision but we will not give up on Adnan Syed. 

Unfortunately we live in a binary criminal justice system in which you either win or you lose. Today we lost by a 4-3 vote. 

Our criminal justice system is desperately in need of reform. The obstacles to getting a new trial are simply too great. 

There was a credible alibi witness who was with Adnan at the precise time of the murder and now the Court of Appeals has said that witness would not have affected the outcome of the proceeding. We think just the opposite is true. From the perspective of the defendant, there is no stronger evidence than an alibi witness.

The ruling comes just days before the premiere of a looking at the case and Syed’s years-long attempts to win an appeal. The Case Against Adnan Syed airs Sunday, March 10 on HBO.

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