'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

  • ’Wonder Woman’ steals show at CinemaCon

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LAS VEGAS — Wonder Woman is here to save the world, and, possibly the future of Warner Bros. DC Comics universe. New footage featuring actress Gal Gadot’s lasso-wielding superhero stole the show Wednesday night at CinemaCon, which also featured some peeks at “Aquaman” and “Justice League. Source
  • Mischa Barton calls ex shopping sex tape 'emotional blackmail'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Mischa Barton has detailed the “emotional abuse” she suffered through her ex shopping around a sex tape. The actress staged a press conference earlier this month when she revealed an ex-lover had been trying to sell the sex tape, which was allegedly filmed without her consent, to various adult entertainment companies for release. Source
  • Bob Dylan archives open in Oklahoma

    Entertainment CTV News
    TULSA, Okla. -- Part of music icon Bob Dylan's once-secret 6,000-piece archive, including thousands of hours of studio sessions, film reels and caches of unpublished lyrics, has opened in Oklahoma, curators announced this week. More than 1,000 pieces spanning Dylan's six-decade career are available to scholars at the Gilcrease Museum's Helmerich Center for American Research in Tulsa. Source
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Q-Tip hang out at intimate showcase

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Longtime friends Leonardo DiCaprio and Q-Tip hung out at an intimate showcase for an Australian band making its New York City debut late Wednesday. The Oscar-winning actor and Grammy-winning rapper were in the small audience at Ludlow House as trio Chase Atlantic performed songs in a stripped, raw form. Source
  • Visceral 'Dunkirk' footage gets hearts racing at CinemaCon

    Entertainment CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- A propeller stops midair. Soldiers packed like sardines on a pier cower in fear of an unseen threat. Those are the images Christopher Nolan left CinemaCon audiences hanging onto Wednesday as he premiered new footage from "Dunkirk," his long-awaited epic about the storied Second World War evacuation. Source
  • 'Happy Endings' star Adam Pally arrested on drug charges

    Entertainment CTV News
    FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, actor Adam Pally poses for a portrait to promote the film, 'Band Aid,' at the Music Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.(Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File) Source
  • 'Wonder Woman' wows at CinemaCon

    Entertainment CTV News
    LAS VEGAS - Wonder Woman is here to save the world, and, possibly the future of Warner Bros. DC Comics universe. New footage featuring actress Gal Gadot's lasso-wielding superhero stole the show Wednesday night at CinemaCon, which also featured some peeks at "Aquaman" and "Justice League. Source
  • Cellphones banned backstage for accountants after Oscar flub

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — PwC accountants won’t be allowed to have their cellphones backstage during future Oscar telecasts. Film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs sent an email to academy members Wednesday detailing the new protocols for announcing Oscar winners developed after the best-picture flub at last month’s Academy Awards. Source
  • 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' aunt takes aim at cast reunion

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air alum Janet Hubert has slammed her castmates following their recent reunion. The actress, who played Aunt Vivian on the hit show, took to Facebook on Tuesday and posted a rant against her former co-stars, accusing them of reuniting solely for publicity. Source
  • Michael Bay in talks to produce El Chapo film

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Blockbuster king Michael Bay is reportedly in talks to produce and direct a film about the drug lord Sean Penn interviewed for Rolling Stone while he was on the run from Mexican authorities Movie bosses at Sony have acquired the rights to Cole Merrell’s upcoming book Hunting El Chapo: The Thrilling Inside Story of The American Lawman Who Captures The World’s Most-Wanted Drug Lord and they are in negotiations with the Transformers director to produce the project. Source