In October 2014, Sarah Koenig debuted her popular podcast, “Serial.” The podcast discussed the prosecution of Adnan Syed, who was accused of murdering Hae Min Lee, a high-school senior that vanished after school in 1999. For years, the Maryland courts have been split over whether Syed deserves a new trial because of issues raised in appellate and post-conviction proceedings. Of course, courts are not the only ones split over the case. “Serial” listeners were split between those who advocated for Syed’s release and those believing the conviction was valid.
After many years of litigation and clouds that loomed over the case, on September 19, 2022, a new development arose. A Maryland judge granted the prosecution’s request to vacate Syed’s conviction. The court further ordered Syed’s immediate release, pending a new trial. According to the court, prosecutors had withheld critical, exculpatory evidence from the defense at the time of his trial. And, as a result, Syed’s trial was “profoundly and outrageously unfair.”
The order issued by the Maryland court is rare. Yet, courts have issued similar orders in other cases. To that end, the National Registry of Exonerations reports that, since 1989, nearly 3,000 people have been exonerated in the United States. What is even more rare is when the prosecution advocates for such an outcome. Nevertheless, the prosecution in this case are quick to note that the court’s decision does not mean that Syed is innocent; instead, it merely means that he deserves a new trial, a bedrock of our criminal-justice system.
For more information on this analysis, contact Kayla Sweet at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (717) 221-7970.