Adnan Syed, whose murder trial and subsequent conviction were the subject of the hit podcast Serial, is not getting a new opportunity to prove his innocence in court. Maryland’s highest court on Friday reversed a decision from last year and reinstated Syed’s conviction for the killing of Hae Min Lee in 1999.
Although the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed that Syed received a “deficient performance” from his attorney but decided that ultimately the evidence still pointed to his guilt and there was no reason to believe the outcome of the trial would be different. Considering “the totality of the evidence” against Syed, there was not “a significant or substantial possibility that the jury would have reached a different verdict had his trial counsel presented the alibi witness,” the court of appeal’s majority opinion said.
Syed has been serving a life sentence since 2000, when he was convicted of killing his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend in 1999. Syed has always claimed he was innocent of killing Hae Min Lee, whose body was found in a shallow grave.
“We are devastated by the Court of Appeals’ decision, but we will not give up on Adnan Syed,” defense lawyer Justin Brown said in a statement. “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.”
Syed had argued his lawyer had hurt his case in two separate points. First, the lawyer never contacted a fellow student who said she saw Syed at a library around the time of the murder. And also, the lawyer failed to question an expert witness about the reliability of cell phone tower location evidence that was used to place Syed at the site where Lee was buried. The Maryland Court of Appeals said Syed never brought up that issue in an earlier appeal.
The decision came shortly before HBO is scheduled to premiere a docuseries titled The Case Against Adnan Syed on Sunday.
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