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Adnan Syed from “Serial” Won’t Be Getting a Retrial

Elika Roohi

Adnan Syed, who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, has been denied a new trial, the Maryland Court of Appeals announced Friday.

Syed’s conviction gained international attention after it became the subject of the wildly popular podcast Serial, which investigated whether he could be innocent. Serial didn’t come to any conclusions, but it did open the doors to further actions that could be taken with regard to Syed’s case.

In March last year, Syed and his legal team had a small victory when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rules that his “Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was violated” by a failure to investigate a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, who said she saw Syed in the library at the time Lee was murdered.

However, Maryland’s highest court denied Syed a new trial in a 4-3 decision last week, reasoning that while there had been a failure to investigate an alibi witness, that deficiency did not prejudice the case overall. The court also said that Syed waived his ineffective counsel claim.

Syed’s attorney, Justin Brown, said the legal team was “devastated” by Friday’s ruling but would “not give up on Adnan Syed.”

All the news about Syed’s case comes right at HBO has released a new documentary series about the case called The Case Against Adnan Syed. While most of the first episode is reportedly quite similar to the Serial investigation, the documentary promises to share new information.

Hold on, what’s this case again?

In January 1999, Hae Min Lee, age 18, went missing in Baltimore County, Maryland. Her body was found four weeks later in Leakin Park, bearing signs of manual strangulation. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of first-degree murder in February 2000 and given a life sentence plus 30 years.

Lee’s murder initially only generated local interest, until it became the subject of the first season of Serial 15 years later. The podcast, which was downloaded 175 million times, brought international attention to the crime and called Syed’s conviction into question.

While Serial’s investigation didn’t prove anything definitively, it exposed certain inconsistencies in the case, such as the court failing to call a witness who could have potentially corroborated Syed’s alibi and the general failings of Syed’s lawyer overall. After spending a year investigating the complicated case, reporter Sarah Koenig said, “the case is a mess.”

Following the release of the podcast and its tremendous popularity, the Innocence Project redoubled its efforts to bring justice to Syed.

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