Bizarre Twist: Adnan Syed’s Murder Conviction Reinstated On a Technicality
- The second highest court in Maryland said the lower court had vacated Syed’s conviction without giving the murder victim’s brother an “adequate chance to attend the hearing.”
Adnan Syed’s life seems to be entrapped in ‘Serial’ misfortune. In a bizarre twist, a Maryland appellate court reinstated his murder conviction on a technicality — that “a circuit court judge had violated the rights of Young Lee, the brother of the teenager that Syed had previously been convicted of killing because the judge did not give Lee an adequate chance to attend the hearing,” the Washington Post reported on March 28.
According to a 2-1 decision of the appellate court panel, the lower court that vacated Syed’s conviction and released him has to redo the hearing with Young Lee’s presence. The court ordered a new, legally compliant, transparent hearing on the prosecutors’ motion to vacate the case “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,” the Post reported.
“Allowing a victim entitled to attend a court proceeding to attend in person, when the victim makes that request and all other persons involved in the hearing appear in person, is consistent with the constitutional requirement that victims be treated with dignity and respect,” the court ruled.
Syed’s lawyer and an assistant public defender Erica Suter said that she would seek a review of the order in the Maryland Supreme Court. The appeal, she noted, is not about Syed’s innocence but about notice and mootness.
“There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon,” she said adding, “For the time being, Adnan remains a free man.”
Syed languished in prison for 23 years after he was found guilty of killing his high school classmate and ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Syed and Lee were seniors at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County in January 1999 and were said to be dating, when she disappeared. Lee’s body was found in a shallow grave in Leakin Park, at Baltimore’s western edge in 1999. Syed was arrested, and convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment in the death of Lee.
His conviction was set aside last October when he was cleared by DNA testing. Syed’s case had become a cause célèbre after his story was picked up by “Serial” podcast that went viral.
While it is not clear what will happen next, the Post reported: “The appellate court panel said the “mandate” of its decision would be delayed for 60 days to allow the parties “time to assess how to proceed in response to this Court’s decision.” The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office under Marilyn Mosby had dropped the case entirely before the appellate court ruling. That office is now run by Ivan Bates.”