It took a while, but Adnan Syed, the man who spent more than 20 years in prison for strangling his ex girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, will be released and his murder conviction vacated. Syed rose to fame after the seismic-shifting podcast hit Serial in 2014.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn approved the release of the now 41-year-old Syed, according to the AP. Syed was placed on home detention and given a GPS monitoring device while the state decides if it will set a new trial date or simply dismiss the case. The judge gave the state 30 days to decide.
“All right Mr. Syed, you’re free to join your family,” the judge said at the end of the hearing. Throughout the course of his trial and subsequent imprisonment, Syed has always claimed to be wrongfully incarcerated.
The podcast brought an unprecedented amount of attention on his case and Serial became on of the most popular podcasts ever, simultaneously legitimizing the medium and creating a bonafide hit that captured the attention of the entire nation.
Prosecutors recently filed a motion basically saying that after they spoke at length with the defense it became clear that new evidence could undermine the previous conviction.
“I understand how difficult this is, but we need to make sure we hold the correct person accountable,” assistant state’s attorney Becky Feldman told the judge. The issues discussed included bad cell phone data, a possibly-biased detective, and witness testimony deemed unreliable after the fact.
In a news release last week, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office said over the course of the investigation it was revealed that there was “undisclosed and newly-developed information regarding two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data.”
The two additional suspects were known at the time, but weren’t ruled out properly and they weren’t shared with the defense, the release said. The office didn’t come out and claim Syed’s innocence, but prosecutors said they didn’t have confidence “in the integrity of the conviction.”
The vacated conviction means Syed will essentially get a brand new trial with the new evidence, or simply remain free. Syed almost got a new trial in 2019 after a set of appeals reached Maryland’s highest court, but that court ruled 4-3 to allow his conviction to stand.
The podcast household names of Syed, his deceased girlfriend Min Lee, and the producer of the podcast, Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, who practically investigated the case in real time and created a new genre in the process. We’ll keep you posted as or whether things progress in a new case.