Hearing opens in murder case profiled in 'Serial' podcast

BALTIMORE -- A defence lawyer's failure to call an alibi witness was a key point of contention as a convicted murderer returned to court Wednesday to argue he deserves a new trial in a case that gained fresh notoriety through the podcast "Serial.

See Full Article

"

A three-day hearing began in Baltimore for 35-year-old Adnan Syed, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999.

Syed's attorney Justin Brown told Judge Martin Welch that previous defence attorney Cristina Gutierrez made a key mistake in failing to call Asia McClain, who claimed to have seen Syed at a library during the time of the killing. But prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah with the Maryland attorney general's office said there were reasons to think McClain might not be reliable.

Vignarajah argued that Gutierrez was a dedicated and effective attorney, and that Syed was convicted not because his lawyer was incompetent, "but because he did it." Vignarajah added that Gutierrez made a decision not to pursue McClain as a witness.

"There were all sorts of reasons that this was not a reliable witness, and perhaps a risky witness," Vignarajah said.

But Brown said linked the decision to personal problems that were plaguing Guitierrez, who was later disbarred in connection with other cases.

"At the time of the Syed case (Gutierrez) was unable to handle her cases," he said. "Her health was failing, her family was in turmoil. What was happening at her business, it was becoming unwound. As a result of the wheels coming off the bus, the single most important piece of evidence, an alibi witness, slipped through the cracks."

Adnan was present in court, dressed in light blue prison garb, wearing a long beard and a knit cap. His hands were shackled. Spectators filled a row reserved for the public, including friends, supporters and members of Syed's family.

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 podcast raised questions about the fairness of Syed's trial, 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.

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

McClain has 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, Gutierrez, to contact her. But the attorney never did.

McClain is expected to testify during the hearing. The state, too, will have a chance to call witnesses.

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

  • Halifax mayor moonlights as stand-up comic for comedy festival Saturday

    Entertainment CTV News
    Halifax's mayor will try his hand at stand-up comedy this weekend. Mike Savage, known for his off-the-cuff jokes and one-liners in council chambers, will take his humour to the stage of the Halifax Comedy Fest. Source
  • Gunpoint heist 'meant to happen to me,' says Kim Kardashian West

    Entertainment CBC News
    Kim Kardashian West says that being held at gunpoint during a Paris jewelry heist last year "was meant to happen." Kardashian West said she's "such a different person" after the October robbery, during an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show on Thursday. Source
  • Remastered Purple Rain will include 6 unreleased Prince tracks

    Entertainment CBC News
    A remastered version of Prince's landmark album Purple Rain will be released this summer with several previously unreleased songs. In 2015, the year before his death, Prince himself oversaw the remastering of Purple Rain, his landmark album that was accompanied by a film starring the influential singer-songwriter and musician. Source
  • Karen Gillan's Nebula was killed off in original 'Guardians of the Galaxy' script [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Actress Karen Gillan is thankful to still be a part of the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise because her villainous character Nebula was killed off in the first movie’s original script. The Scottish star reprises her role as the alien baddie in the blockbuster’s new sequel, but she wouldn’t still have the Marvel gig if screenwriters had stuck to their initial plot for the 2014 release. Source
  • Jefferson Starship's former guitarist sues band over name

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    SAN FRANCISCO — A founding member of Jefferson Starship filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop some of his former bandmates from using the band’s name for upcoming performances and merchandise. Guitarist Craig Chaquico is asking a judge to prevent a new iteration of Jefferson Starship from using the name in the federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco. Source
  • Blink-182 pull out of disastrous Fyre Festival in Bahamas

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Punk trio Blink-182 have pulled out of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas over fears about the promoters. In a statement released on Thursday the rockers reveal they were concerned they wouldn’t be able to deliver a performance fans expect. Source
  • Getting carried away at the East Coast Music Awards in Saint John

    Entertainment CBC News
    The East Coast Music Awards handed out many of the event's top awards on Thursday night at the gala in Saint John. The region's top performers had a chance to pick up awards — and in the case of Serge Brideau of Les Hotesses D'Hilaire, the premier of New Brunswick. Source
  • Maine poet wins international prize for work about dementia

    Entertainment CTV News
    PORTLAND, Maine -- A Maine poet's endearing piece about her husband's dementia has won an international poetry award. The Press Herald reports that Lee Sharkey was presented with the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize for her poem, "Letter to Al", at an award ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, on Thursday. Source
  • Guitarist sues to stop use of Jefferson Starship band name

    Entertainment CTV News
    SAN FRANCISCO -- A founding member of Jefferson Starship filed a lawsuit Thursday to stop some of his former bandmates from using the band's name for upcoming performances and merchandise. Guitarist Craig Chaquico is asking a judge to prevent a new iteration of Jefferson Starship from using the name in the federal lawsuit filed in San Francisco. Source
  • Prince's 'Purple Rain' to be re-issued with unreleased songs

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- A remastered version of Prince's landmark album "Purple Rain" will be released this summer with several previously unreleased songs. NPG Records and Warner Bros. Records announced Friday that two remastered versions of the 1984 album will be released June 23. Source