The Supreme Court Just Denied Serial’s Adnan Syed a New Murder Trial

He'll continue to serve his life sentence — for now.
November 25, 2019, 3:19pm
In a Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing.

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The Supreme Court just denied Adnan Syed’s appeal for a retrial after new information came to light in the hit podcast “Serial.”

Syed was convicted in 1999 — without any eyewitnesses — of fatally strangling his high school classmate and ex-girlfriend, 17-year-old Hae Min Lee, in the parking lot of a Best Buy in Baltimore. Though his case won’t go before the Supreme Court, his lawyers say they’re going to keep fighting for their client, who maintains his innocence.


Syed, now 39, has spent half his life in prison and will continue to serve a life sentence.

"We’re deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court is not taking this case,” C. Justin Brown, Syed’s attorney, told the Baltimore Sun. “But by no means is this the end."

A Maryland state court reopened Syed’s case in 2015, a year after “Serial” first aired. At the time, Syed’s lawyers argued that the lawyer in his first trial had been ineffective because she failed to question a witness who would’ve vouched for Syed’s alibi.

But the state successfully appealed Syed’s new trial, arguing the witness wouldn’t have changed the facts of the case, and Maryland’s Court of Appeals agreed earlier this year by just one vote.

Syed's lawyers then appealed to the Supreme Court in August.

Season one of “Serial,” which was downloaded tens of millions of times, featured an interview with Asia McClain, who said in a 2015 affidavit that she’d seen Syed in the high school library during the time that he was allegedly murdering Lee.

McClain also said she’d reached out to Syed’s attorney at the time, but wasn’t asked to testify in his first trial — which Syed’s current lawyers argue constitutes a violation of his right to competent legal representation.

Syed was convicted based on location data from cell phone towers, which prosecutors argued placed Syed near Baltimore’s Leakin Park, where Hae’s body was found, on the night she disappeared. But that cell tower data came with a disclaimer that it wasn’t unequivocally reliable.


READ: How cops can hack into your cell phone without a warrant

“Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location,” the cover sheet for data that AT&T faxed to prosecutors read.

Syed’s current lawyers are also arguing that the prosecution improperly used incoming call data to place Syed at the park where Hae’s body was found and failed to mention the disclaimer at trial.

The cops also obtained the data without a warrant — which the Supreme Court ruled last year that they can’t do anymore.

Cover image: In a Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)