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

  • Prosecutors hope these 19 women can help convict Bill Cosby

    Entertainment CTV News
    PHILADELPHIA -- Prosecutors this week asked the judge in Bill Cosby's spring retrial to let jurors hear from 19 other women who say the entertainer drugged and molested them. They want to show that an alleged assault in 2004 that led to Cosby's only criminal charges was part of a five-decade pattern of drugging and harming women. Source
  • 'Call Me By Your Name,' 'Lady Bird' land GLAAD nominations

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Five feature films including "The Shape of Water" and "Call Me By Your Name" have been nominated for GLAAD Media Awards, one year after it found only two films to honour for gay-inclusive story lines and characters. Source
  • Kim and Kanye choose Chicago for their new baby's name

    Entertainment CTV News
    It's Chicago -- where Kanye West was raised -- as the name of baby No. 3 with Kim Kardashian West. Mom made the announcement Friday on her app without explanation. Chicago was born Monday, weighing in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces. Source
  • Producers Guild unveils anti-sexual harassment guidelines

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- The Producers Guild of America has ratified guidelines for combating sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, requesting that every film and TV production offer in-person harassment training and provide multiple ways for alleged victims to complain. Source
  • W5's intimate interview with Kiefer Sutherland about life, acting and music

    Entertainment CTV News
    There is a fake U.S. president in a fake Oval office, who understands the Canadian psyche. He goes by the name Tom Kirkman. Once a low level secretary, Kirkman was catapulted into the role of Commander-in-chief after a terrorist attack. Source
  • Montreal filmmaker at Sundance explores plight of tiny nation Kiribati

    Entertainment CTV News
    PARK CITY, Utah - Montreal's Matthieu Rytz hopes his first film, "Anote's Ark," will put the plight of the tiny Pacific Ocean island nation of Kiribati on the world's radar. The documentary premieres today at the Sundance Film Festival and focuses on a country that many do not know exists -- and might not for much longer. Source
  • Royal Shakespeare Company co-founder John Barton dies at 89

    Entertainment CTV News
    LONDON -- John Barton, co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has died. He was 89. The company said on its website Thursday night that Barton had died earlier in the day. Barton co-founded the company in 1960 and spent the rest of his career with the group. Source
  • 'Jersey Shore' reality star expected to plead to tax charges

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEWARK, N.J. -- One of the former stars of the "Jersey Shore" reality TV show is due in federal court in Newark on Friday to plead guilty to cheating on his taxes. Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino and his brother, Marc, were charged in 2014 and again last year with multiple counts related to nearly $9 million in income from the show. Source
  • 'Jersey Shore' star Sorrentino pleads guilty to tax evasion

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEWARK, N.J. -- Michael "The Situation" Sorrentino, one of the stars of the "Jersey Shore" reality TV series that depicted 20-somethings partying and brawling by the seaside, pleaded guilty Friday to cheating on his taxes. Source
  • The Eagles settle lawsuit against Canadian-owned Hotel California

    Entertainment CBC News
    There can evidently be only one Hotel California. The Eagles have settled a lawsuit to stop a Mexico hotel from using the name Hotel California, arguably referencing the country-rock band's most famous song, after the hotel's owners withdrew their application to trademark the name in the United States. Source