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

  • Lawsuit filed against S-Town podcast creators

    Entertainment CBC News
    The estate of the man at the centre of the popular S-Town podcast is suing the show's creators, saying they exploited details of his private life for financial gain. Craig Cargile, the executor of John B. McLemore's estate, filed the lawsuit Thursday in Bibb County, Ala. Source
  • Yvette Nicole Brown to be interim guest host of Walking Dead

    Entertainment CBC News
    Yvette Nicole Brown is filling in for Chris Hardwick as host of the The Walking Dead and Talking Dead while AMC Networks reviews sexual assault allegations against Hardwick. AMC announced Friday that Brown will be "interim guest host" of The Walking Dead Season 9 Preview Special on Aug. Source
  • Indigenous theatre without Indigenous actors: Robert Lepage criticized over Kanata

    Entertainment CBC News
    A week after cancellation of his controversial slave song show SL?V, Quebec's Robert Lepage is the target of criticism once again, this time over what appears to be a lack of Indigenous performers in a new show about relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Source
  • Indigenous artists criticize Quebec director Robert Lepage over new show

    Entertainment CBC News
    A week after cancellation of his controversial slave song show SL?V, Quebec's Robert Lepage is the target of criticism once again, this time over what appears to be a lack of Indigenous performers in a new show about relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada. Source
  • Yvette Nicole Brown is interim guest host of 'Walking Dead'

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Yvette Nicole Brown is filling in for Chris Hardwick as host of "The Walking Dead" and "Talking Dead" while AMC Networks reviews sexual-assault allegations against Hardwick. AMC announced Friday that Brown will be "interim guest host" of "The Walking Dead Season 9 Preview Special" on Aug. Source
  • More politicians say they were fooled by Sacha Baron Cohen

    Entertainment CBC News
    Some politicians are going through the several stages of panic associated with an interview with Sacha Baron Cohen: remorse, damage control, anger and regret for being duped. One of the comedian's latest targets, defeated U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, is threatening a defamation lawsuit over an upcoming episode of the comedian's new television series. Source
  • Indigenous artists criticize SLAV director Lepage for new show 'Kanata'

    Entertainment CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec director Robert Lepage is once again being criticized for a lack of representation in one of his stage shows. About 30 people signed an open letter in Le Devoir today to denounce Lepage for not including Indigenous performers in his upcoming show "Kanata. Source
  • Nancy Sinatra Sr., first wife of Frank Sinatra, dies at 101

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Nancy Sinatra Sr., the childhood sweetheart of Frank Sinatra who became the first of his four wives and the mother of his three children, has died. She was 101. Her daughter, Nancy Sinatra Jr. Source
  • 'Diversity is there, even in the deep past': More period TV dramas exploring non-white stories

    Entertainment CBC News
    When actor Dalmar Abuzeid dons the shabby bowler hat of Bash, a newcomer on Season 2 of Anne with an E, he won't just be adding a character who didn't exist in the L.M. Montgomery books on which the series is based. Source
  • Diversity in period TV dramas expected to 'grow and grow'

    Entertainment CBC News
    When actor Dalmar Abuzeid dons the shabby bowler hat of Bash, a newcomer on Season 2 of Anne with an E, he won't just be adding a character who didn't exist in the L.M. Montgomery books on which the series is based. Source