The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has granted Adnan Syed’s request for a new trial. The 2000 conviction received national scrutiny and criticism after Syed’s trial became the focus of the popular podcast, Serial.
In 2000, 17-year-old Syed was convicted of killing his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and burying her body in a park in northwest Baltimore. The case only received local attention at the time of the trial, but later became the focal point in the first season of Serial in 2014, the investigative journalism podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. The podcast’s viral popularity, recounting the seemingly botched trial against the teenager, resulted in national outcry more than a decade after Syed’s conviction. Authorities began to turn their attention to the closed trial after an increase in public demand for Syed’s case to be reexamined.
In 2016, a lower court judge vacated Syed’s conviction, ruling that he deserved a new trial because his original attorney failed to cross-examine a key witness, Asia Chapman, who placed Syed at the library in Woodlawn around the same time prosecutors say Lee was killed. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld this ruling on Thursday, finding that Syed had ineffective assistance at the 2000 trial.
The ruling could still be appealed to the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, which would mean extensive delays up to several months before Syed could get a new trial. A statement from Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office said that the Attorney General is “currently reviewing today’s decision to determine next steps.”