Baltimore court vacates murder conviction of ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed News
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Baltimore court vacates murder conviction of ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed

Baltimore Judge Melissa Phinn Monday vacated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed after he spent 23 years in prison for the murder of student Hae Min Lee in 1999. Syed was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison; his case was the subject of the podcast Serial and documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed.

Phinn determined that a Brady violation occured in Syed’s case, meaning the prosecution suppressed evidence favorable to Syed. Under Maryland Rule 4-263(d)(5), the state must “disclose, without request, all metrial of information in any form whether or not admissible, that tends to exculpate the defendant or negate or mitigate the defendant’s guilt.”

Syed’s friends and family were present for Phinn’s order. The Baltimore Banner captured Rabia O’Chaudry, Syed’s legal advocate and childhood family friend, entering the courthouse with documentary filmmaker Amy Berg. Journalist Katie Barlow shared a video of Syed leaving the courthouse to cheers.

Syed’s exoneration draws attention to a larger trend of prosecutorial misconduct. According to a statement from the Innocence Project, Mallory Nicholson, John Galvan and Herman Williams were exonerated in the last three months alone due to previously concealed exculpatory evidence. The National Registry of Exonerations believes that authorities concealed exculpatory evidence in 44 percent of the first 2,400 US exoneration cases, making concealment of evidence the most common form of official misconduct. The Innocence Project believes that “[t]he integrity of the legal system requires accountability for not only Mr. Syed’s wrongful conviction but also the pain the State’s unlawful conduct caused to Hae Min Lee’s family.”

Syed was represented by Erica Suter of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic. He was released on his own recognizance on Monday and placed in home detention under GPS tracking. Maryland authorities have 30 days to schedule a new trial or enter a “nolle prosequi” indicating that they are unwilling to pursue further charges against Syed.