'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.


Latest Entertainment News

  • Donald Glover cast as Lando Calrissian in Han Solo film

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Donald Glover is joining the "Star Wars" universe. Disney announced Friday that the writer, actor and rapper will play Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo "Star Wars" film. Alden Ehrenreich was previously cast as the title character. Source
  • TV legend Carol Burnett signed to ABC sitcom project

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Carol Burnett fans: You'd be glad to have some more time together with this comedy legend, and she's likely headed back to series TV in a project Amy Poehler will executive produce. Source
  • ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 7 premiere: Who is Negan’s victim? We break down the odds

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Eeeny, meeny, miny, moe. Which Walking Dead character is going to go? AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama has never been shy about killing off the living as well as the undead. But the last season of The Walking Dead ended with a particularly cruel cliffhanger finale: after being captured by the charismatic, sadistic Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his ruthless gang of Saviors, Rick and pals were forced to kneel in a line while Negan introduced them to the new world order. Source
  • Donald Glover cast as Lando Calrissian in upcoming Star Wars spinoff

    Entertainment CBC News
    Actor and singer Donald Glover will be playing Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo spin-off film from the Star Wars universe, Walt Disney Co. and Lucasfilm said on Friday. Glover, 33, creator and lead star of FX's new dramedy Atlanta, will play the role made famous by Billy Dee Williams in the original Star Wars films, 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi. Source
  • Donald Glover confirmed as Lando Calrissian in Han Solo 'Star Wars' spinoff

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES -- Former Community star Donald Glover is joining the Star Wars universe. Disney announced Friday that the writer, actor and rapper will play Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars film. Alden Ehrenreich was previously cast as the title character. Source
  • Nintendo Switch hopes to succeed where Wii U sputtered

    Entertainment CBC News
    The logo for Nintendo's new gaming machine — two joysticks arranged into an image resembling a yin-yang — represents an important shift for the company. The Nintendo Switch, announced Thursday morning, aims to merge the 127-year-old company's dual home and portable platforms into a single, harmonious entity. Source
  • Wonder Woman named a special UN ambassador, despite protests

    Entertainment CBC News
    The United Nations celebrated Wonder Woman's 75th birthday on Friday by naming the comic book character as its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Woman and Girls, despite frustration from both inside and outside the world organization that the spot should go to a real — and less sexualized — woman. Source
  • Man who stalked Kendall Jenner was methodical: Jury told

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — A man charged with stalking Kendall Jenner showed a single-minded focus in his efforts to meet the model and reality show star, even after he knew she was afraid of him, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday. Source
  • Matt LeBlanc goes from friend to father in 'Man with a Plan'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    As Matt LeBlanc and I discussed the history of TV sitcom dads, I mentioned to him that we're approximately the same age. I have a few years on him, but we're in the same generational ballpark. “You're 25 as well?” LeBlanc asked. Source
  • Digital media recommendations for kids updated by U.S. doctors

    Entertainment CBC News
    The quantity and quality of media children and teens consume should change with their age, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization also says parents should oversee children's media consumption and educate them about proper media engagement. Source