'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

  • Teenage Dream? Katy Perry to host MTV VMAs

    Entertainment CBC News
    Get ready to roar with Katy Perry at the MTV Video Music Awards: The pop star is hosting the show next month and will also perform. MTV announced Thursday that Perry will host the Aug. 27 event at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Source
  • 'Dancing With the Stars' hoping to tango with Sean Spicer: Reports [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON - So... does Sean Spicer know how to samba? Now that the outgoing press secretary's days of tap dancing around tough questions in the White House press room have come to an end, word is that his next gig might be quite a change of pace: Spicer is apparently being courted as a celebrity contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," the New York Post first reported. Source
  • Mick Jagger releases 2 new songs in new audio-visual project

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Mick Jagger has released two songs which he says are urgent responses to the “confusion and frustration with the times we live in.” The Rolling Stones leader released the songs and music videos Thursday. Source
  • 'Swish swish': Katy Perry scores hosting gig at MTV VMAs

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Get ready to roar with Katy Perry at the MTV Video Music Awards: The pop star is hosting the show next month. MTV announced Thursday that Perry will host the Aug. 27 event at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Source
  • Ben Affleck, Matt Damon producing Showtime drama pilot

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK - Showtime says Oscar-winning filmmakers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are re-teaming off-screen for a new one-hour drama pilot. The prospective new series, "City on a Hill," is based on an idea by Affleck and Damon, and focuses on Boston in the early 1990s. Source
  • Mick Jagger releases 2 tracks in new audio-visual project

    Entertainment CBC News
    Mick Jagger has released two songs which he says are urgent responses to the "confusion and frustration with the times we live in." The Rolling Stones leader released the songs and music videos Thursday. He's calling Gotta Get a Grip and England Lost an audio-visual project. Source
  • 5 reasons Charlize Theron needs to become the next ‘James Bond’ [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Talk about Bond 25 is heating up. Latest chat has two French gents topping the list of potential directors: Quebec’s own Denis Villeneuve and Parisian Yann Demange. Word has it that Daniel Craig will indeed return as 007, but until that’s formally announced, the rumour mill has been working overtime. Source
  • Angelina Jolie gets heat for 'money game' used to audition Cambodian orphans

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Angelina Jolie has been blasted for teasing Cambodian orphans with a money-based game in order to find the lead for her new film. In a cover interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Jolie revealed how she had chosen untrained actress Sareum Srey Moch to play the child version of her Cambodian friend, Loung Ung, the main character in her latest film project First They Killed My Father. Source
  • 'Did I really get it right?'; James Cameron to reassess 'Titanic' film in new doc

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Moviemaker James Cameron is planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Titanic by revisiting the hit movie and scrutinizing the production decisions he made in a new documentary. The disaster drama, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, quickly became the highest-grossing movie of all-time upon its release in 1997, but perfectionist Cameron still thinks the film could have been better. Source
  • William Shatner escapes injury after falling from horse cart

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    William Shatner has escaped injury after being thrown from a cart by a spooked horse. The 86-year-old participated in a horse and buggy competition at the Mercer County Fair and Horse Show in Harrodsburg, Kentucky on Wednesday. Source