January 29, 2023

FREE AT LAST: Adnan Syed RELEASED from prison after DNA evidence clears him

FREE AT LAST: Adnan Syed RELEASED from prison after DNA evidence clears him

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Prosecutors in Baltimore, MD have dropped all charges against Adnan Syed, released last month after spending 23 years in prison for the murder of his high school ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge approved the state’s motion to vacate Syed’s sentence after receiving DNA test results that exonerate him.

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According to WBAL-TV11, Judge Melissa Phinn said:

 “In the interest of judgment and fairness, the state’s motion to vacate judgment … is hereby granted. The defendant will be released and placed on remote monitoring … The state will have 30 days to refile or nolle pros. At this time, we will remove the shackles off of Mr. Syed.”

Prior to dropping the charges, Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that prosecutors were still awaiting DNA analysis results, falling within the 30-day mandate to re-file charges or not.

“It was found out that prosecutors failed to tell Syed’s defense attorneys about evidence that would have allowed him to defend himself, including details that established two other people had threatened Lee’s life.” – 11 News

They chose the latter after Syed’s DNA was excluded. “The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office announced it would not further prosecute the case based on DNA test results that excluded Syed from the DNA recovered from evidence,” according to a statement released by the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. Syed’s attorney, Eric Suter, said:

“Finally, Adnan Syed is able to live as a free man. The DNA results confirmed what we have already known and what underlies all of the current proceedings: That Adnan is innocent and lost 23 years of his life serving time for a crime he did not commit.”

“While the proceedings are not completely over, this is an important step for Adnan, who has been on house arrest since the motion to vacate was first granted last month,” Suter said. “He still needs some time to process everything that has happened, and we ask that you provide him and his family with that space,” the public defender and Director of the University of Baltimore Law School’s Innocence Project Clinic, added.

Syed’s case was detailed in the podcast Serial, which ended in a mistrial during the first and conviction by a jury in the second.

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While state prosecutors questioned the “integrity in the conviction” as part of their reasoning for dropping the charges, it was the same office that failed to disclose evidence that may have helped Syed in his defense. An investigation turned up “Brady violations” in the state’s prosecution of Syed.

“Under Brady v. Maryland, “the state has a constitutional obligation to turn over exculpatory material — exculpatory means it would suggest it would help the defense — they have to turn that over to the defense in the course of trial,” David Jaros said.

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The Director of the University of Baltimore Law School’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform went on to say:

“Here, there were notes in the file that were discovered late that were not apparently turned over to the defense, initially or during the appeals, that suggested that someone else had been threatening to kill the victim. That is really significant,” Jaros said.

While advocates for Syed are celebrating the State Attorney’s decision, Lee’s family is not so much. Her younger brother, Young Lee, filed a notice of appeal after not being allowed to significantly participate in the hearing that led to the judge’s order to vacate Syed’s sentence. The family’s attorney, Steve Kelly, wrote in a statement, “Young Lee filed a notice of appeal based on violations of his family’s right to meaningfully participate in the Sept. 19, 2022, hearing on the motion to vacate Adnan Syed’s conviction.”

“For more than 20 years, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has told the family of Hae Min Lee that their beloved daughter and sister was murdered by Adnan Syed. One week ago, for the first time, the family was informed that, through a year-long investigation that is apparently still ongoing, the state had uncovered new facts and would be filing a motion to vacate Mr. Syed’s conviction.

Syed is no longer on home detention, but recent developments reveal a huge miscarriage of justice – not just for the man convicted in 1999 for a murder DNA evidence has excluded – but for the grieving family as well. The charges against Syed may be dropped, but the case is far from closed.

Original reporting by Lisa Robinson, Blair Young, and David Collins at WBAL-TV11.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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