'Serial' podcast star Adnan Syed argues for new trial

BALTIMORE -- A convicted murderer who was the focus of a popular podcast is returning to court to argue he deserves another trial and a new chance at freedom.

See Full Article

The podcast "Serial" revolved around the story of Adnan Syed, now 35 and serving a life sentence. At 19, he was convicted of strangling his high school girlfriend and leaving her body in a wooded park on the northwestern edge of Baltimore. The show raised questions about the fairness of Syed's trial in Hae Min Lee's death. It gained a cult following and uncovered evidence that helped prompt a Maryland appeals court to grant a hearing on the possibility of a new trial.

The case had been closed for years when producer Sarah Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, began examining it in the podcast in 2014, drawing millions of listeners each week -- so many that the public radio podcast shattered Apple's iTunes store's record for downloads, reaching 5 million faster than any other podcast program.

The hearing, scheduled to last three days before Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch, is meant to determine whether Syed's conviction will be overturned and case retried.

"We've waited a long time to get back into court and to put on witnesses that will prove our claim, and that's exactly what we're going to do this week," said Justin Brown, Syed's attorney.

Syed's motion for a new trial centres on two issues: an alibi witness who was never called to testify at Syed's trial, and cell tower data that defence attorneys argue is inaccurate, misleading and should never have been entered into evidence.

Prosecutors called no eyewitnesses and presented no DNA evidence at Syed's original trial in 2000. Prosecutors did present cell tower data from the night Lee was killed, saying it linked Syed to a general area where her body was found a month later. Brown argued in his motion that the state intentionally omitted a cover sheet from AT&T warning that such data is unreliable in determining a person's exact location.

The alibi witness is Asia McClain, a former classmate who said she spotted Syed at a library the day Lee was strangled. Last year, McClain filed an affidavit saying that she'd be willing to testify on Syed's behalf. McClain said that she contacted Syed in jail while he was awaiting trial, and Syed told his attorney at the time, Cristina Gutierrez, to contact her. But the attorney, who was later disbarred in connection with other cases, never did.

Now, McClain will have a chance to tell her story. She is expected to testify during the hearing. The state, too, will have a chance to call witnesses.

McClain's testimony will likely reflect her affidavit and letters she sent to Syed in jail. In one letter, dated May 1, 1999, McClain wrote, "I'm not sure if you remember talking to me in the library on Jan. 13 but I remembered chatting with you." She adds, "I have reason to believe in your innocence."

McClain wrote that she contacted the library, which is next to their high school campus, and that they had a surveillance system. McClain also told Syed that she was trying to reach his attorney.

"If you were in the library for a while, tell the police and I'll continue to tell what I know even louder than I am," she wrote. "My boyfriend and his best friend remember seeing you there too."

The Maryland attorney general's office, which is handling the case for the state, opposed Syed's request for a new trial. In a September filing opposing Brown's motion, Deputy Attorney General Thiruvendran Vignarajah wrote that it's "preposterous" to suggest that Syed received inadequate counsel.

A motion filed Tuesday shows that prosecutors intend to call the original lead prosecutor in Syed's case, Kevin Urick, as well as other members of the prosecution team. An FBI agent who specializes in cell tower data is also on the state's potential witness list, as is William Martin, an expert in criminal defence practices.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • 'Bachelor' star called 911 before allegedly fleeing deadly crash

    Entertainment CTV News
    This Tuesday, April 25, 2017, photo provided by the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office in Independence, Iowa, shows Chris Soules, former star of ABC's "The Bachelor," after being booked early Tuesday after his arrest on a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident near Arlington, Iowa. Source
  • Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Iggy Azalea set to appear at 2017 iHeartRadio MMVAs

    Entertainment CBC News
    Lorde is headed to this year's iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards — but whether her lamp will make an encore performance remains to be seen. The New Zealand-raised musician is among the first round of artists announced for the televised street party in Toronto on June 18. Source
  • Jonathan Demme, director of 'The Silence of the Lambs', dead at 73 [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Oscar-winning moviemaker Jonathan Demme has died, aged 73. The acclaimed director of The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia passed away in New York on Wednesday. He had been battling esophageal cancer and died of complications from heart disease, according to a family source. Source
  • 'So sad he's gone' - fans react to death of Jonathan Demme

    Entertainment CTV News
    Some reaction to the death of filmmaker Jonathan Demme. "Jonathan Demme was a great artist, humanitarian, activist & a warm encouraging colleague. I've known very few like him. He will be missed." -- director Ron Howard via Twitter. Source
  • 'Nobody knows what I know': Madonna's not happy with a planned biopic about her start

    Entertainment CBC News
    Madonna isn't happy with a new biopic planned on her pre-fame life. The Hollywood Reporter reported Monday that Universal had acquired the rights to Blond Ambition, a script about the singer. Brett Ratner is expected to produce the film, which centres on her struggles in New York while making her first album. Source
  • Johnny Depp's former managers call him 'habitual liar'

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Johnny Depp's former business managers say the star "is a habitual liar who denies responsibility for his own outrageous conduct" and "has himself to blame for his financial woes." The statement from Management Group spokesman David Shane is the latest volley in a public battle between the actor and his one-time management team. Source
  • Blockbuster has survived in the most curious of places - Alaska

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    For families across the United States, driving to the local Blockbuster Video was a Friday night ritual. The kids fought over which movies to rent, parents had to pay off the late fees and all succumbed to the popcorn and candy buckets at the register. Source
  • Jonathan Demme, 'Silence of the Lambs' director, dead at 73

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Jonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning director of "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Philadelphia," and whose Talking Heads documentary "Stop Making Sense" is considered one of the greatest concert films ever, has died. Source
  • Ron Sexsmith is the Last Rider

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Call him a musician on the move: After three decades of renting in T.O., Ron Sexsmith jokes he had to leave the city to really live like "a rock star." The veteran 53-year-old singer and songwriter, whose latest album, The Last Rider, sees him touring theatres across Canada in April and May recently bought a four-bedroom house in the stage town of Stratford, Ont. Source
  • Jonathan Demme, director of 'The Silence of the Lambs', dead at 73

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Oscar-winning moviemaker Jonathan Demme has died, aged 73. The acclaimed director of The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia passed away in New York on Wednesday. He had been battling esophageal cancer and died of complications from heart disease, according to a family source. Source