The Slatest

Adnan Syed Is Back in Court For the First Time Since Serial and Is Fighting For a New Trial 

Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed, who is serving a life term in prison after being convicted of murdering his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend, is shown in this still image from video footage as he is brought into Baltimore City Circuit Court in Baltimore, Maryland, February 3, 2016.

Gershon Peaks/Reuters TV

Adnan Syed appeared in a Baltimore courtroom today to ask for a new trial, about 16 years after he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and just over one year after he became a household name thanks to the hit podcast Serial. Syed, who is now 34 years old, entered the courtroom wearing a long beard and a light blue prison uniform, as well as a traditional Muslim kufi. 

Syed’s attorney, C. Justin Brown, will argue before a judge this week that one of Syed’s classmates, Asia McClain, who says she saw Syed at a library around the time of Lee’s murder, should be allowed to testify. McClain wrote to Syed in jail when he was first arrested and indicated that she could provide him with an alibi, but for unclear reasons, Syed’s then-lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, never even reached out to her as a possible witness. (Gutierrez was disbarred not long after Syed’s conviction, and has since died.) 

In addition to bringing in McClain, Brown will argue that the court was wrong to allow prosecutors in Syed’s first trial to use cell phone tower data as evidence that Syed had visited the park where Lee’s body was found. The cell phone records were a misleading indicator of Syed’s location, Brown has said, because they were based on incoming, as opposed to, outgoing calls. (According to the Baltimore Sun, Brown has a memo from AT&T that says, “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.”) 

“It’s our position that the alibi issue all by itself is an issue strong enough to win a reversal of Adnan’s conviction,” Brown was quoted as saying in the Guardian. “But also the cell tower evidence even by itself is also strong enough to merit his sentence being vacated.”

Syed’s post-conviction hearing—which Serial host Sarah Koenig attended today—is supposed to last three days. According to the Sun, it’s unknown whether the judge presiding over the hearing will make a decision at the end of that period or at a later date.