A court in Maryland has reinstated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man whose alleged involvement in the 1999 murder of 17-year-old Hae Min Lee was the subject of the hit podcast Serial.
Syed, 41, was convicted of murdering Lee in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison, though he always maintained his innocence. In September last year, state prosecutors revealed they had uncovered new evidence they said undermined Syed’s conviction and pointed to two alternative suspects.
A circuit court judge then threw out Syed’s conviction, saying that the state had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence with the defense. Prosecutors declined to recharge the case, entering what is known as a “nolle prosequi” in the court record.
In December, Young Lee, Hae Min’s brother, filed an appeal arguing that prosecutors violated state law requiring them to give sufficient notice of hearings to victims or their representatives so they may attend in person.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the Maryland appeals court agreed with Lee that the state violated his rights by giving him just one business day’s notice, and said “this court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy”.
But the ruling also suggests Syed will not remain convicted for long and that the reinstatement will be temporary until the hearing is repeated.
The ruling orders “a new, legally compliant and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision”.
Since being freed from prison, Syed has been hired at Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, where he works on prison reform.
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