Adnan Syed to get a new trial after 'Serial' podcast

Syed is currently serving life in prison for the murder of his former girlfriend in 1999.
June 30, 2016, 10:15pm
Foto di Barbara Haddock Taylor/AP

A Maryland judge on Thursday ordered a new trial for Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was put into question by the 2014 podcast Serial.

Syed, now 36, is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee, 18. His lawyers had sought a new trial amid questions about the fairness of the case that were raised by the podcast.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch ordered Syed's conviction vacated because of ineffective legal help.

"Petitioner's request for a new trial is hereby granted," Welch wrote in his order.

Lee's body was found buried in a Baltimore park. Syed was convicted in 2000 of murdering her.

Welch, who oversaw a five-day hearing in February about reopening the case, said Syed's original lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, had failed to cross-examine prosecutors' expert about the reliability of cellphone tower location evidence.

During the hearing, Syed's lawyers had argued that Gutierrez had failing skills when she defended him. She later was disbarred, and died in 2004.

Welch rejected Syed's lawyers' contention that his original defense team had failed to call an alibi witness, Asia McClain Chapman.

A former high school classmate of Syed, she testified during the hearing that she had spoken with him at a library on the day that Lee went missing and that he appeared calm.

Serial, a spinoff of the radio program This American Life, investigated Syed's trial more than a decade later, and in its first season became the most popular podcast of all time, topping some 120 million downloads.

The second season of Serial focuses on the events surrounding the trial of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was accused of deserting his military base in Afghanistan in 2009 and "misbehavior before the enemy," which carries a possible life sentence. Bergdahl was captured by militants shortly after walking off his base. The soldier was kept in isolated captivity until 2014 when he was finally released in exchange for five Taliban commanders who were being held at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.