'Serial' questions don't make Syed innocent: prosecutor

BALTIMORE -- An alibi witness who was never called, cellphone data that was misrepresented and other legal failures justify a new trial for Adnan Syed, his defence lawyer argued Tuesday, closing a hearing prompted by a podcast that turned millions of listeners into armchair detectives.

See Full Article

Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah countered that the evidence is "overwhelming" that Syed was properly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 strangling death of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

"This is not a popular position, but the state's role is to do justice," the prosecutor said, acknowledging the interest generated by "Serial," a public radio podcast that extensively re-examined the long-closed case.

Syed, now 35, was convicted at 19 of killing Lee and burying her body in a wooded park on the northwestern edge of Baltimore. The show raised questions about the fairness of his trial, and gained a cult following as it brought to light evidence that helped prompt a Maryland appeals court to grant this hearing.

Defence attorney Justin Brown urged Judge Martin Welch to reverse Syed's conviction.

"We proved our case. We did exactly what we said we would. I believe we met our burden and that Mr. Syed deserves a new trial."

Brown said cell tower data linking Syed to Lee's burial site was misleading because prosecutors presented it without a cover sheet warning that the information about incoming calls was unreliable.

Moreover, Brown said Syed's trial lawyer was ineffective because she didn't contact Asia McClain, now Asia Chapman, who said Syed was with her at a public library during the time Lee was killed.

"A mistake was made not to talk to an alibi witness who could have turned this trial around," Brown said, calling Chapman "earnest," "compelling" and "extremely credible."

Brown said, "If Mr. Syed was with Ms. McClain at the library on Jan. 12, 1999, he didn't kill Hae Min Lee. He couldn't have."

She wasn't the only defence witness ignored at trial, Syed's attorneys said. Investigator Sean Gordon testified that he managed to locate 41 of 83 potential alibi witnesses, and only four said they had been contacted by the original defence team for the 2000 trial. Of those, none were asked to testify.

Brown blamed personal problems plaguing Syed's trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, 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 ... 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."

The case had been closed for years when producer Sarah Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, began examining it in 2014, drawing millions of listeners to her weekly podcast.

Despite this renewed attention, the prosecutor said, Syed wasn't convicted because of ineffective counsel or faulty evidence, but because "he did it."

Vignarajah said Gutierrez put on a "passionate, vigorous defence," and "poured every ounce of her great talents into Mr. Syed." Syed himself wrote to the trial judge during his original proceedings saying that Gutierrez's "hard work, determination and belief in my innocence assures me I'm in the best hands," he noted.

The victim's relatives insist he's guilty.

"Unlike those who learn about this case on the Internet, we sat and watched every day of both trials -- so many witnesses, so much evidence," their statement read. The defence's key alibi witness, they said, "did not know Hae, and because of Adnan she never will."



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Scott Disick, Sofia Richie make is Instagram official [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Scott Disick and Sofia Richie have taken their romance to the next level by sharing pictures of each other on social media. After weeks of rumours, the reality TV star and Lionel Richie’s daughter confirmed they were dating last week when they were pictured kissing on a beach in Miami, and they have already stepped up their relationship by making it Instagram official. Source
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan accidentally reveals he and wife Hilarie Burton are expecting a baby girl [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Jeffrey Dean Morgan was left red-faced after accidentally revealing that he and wife Hilarie Burton are expecting a daughter at the Supernatural convention in New Jersey on Sunday. The 51-year-old actor was just one of the castmembers of the hit U.S. Source
  • Caitlyn Jenner's rep confirms Kylie's pregnancy, has known for 'some time' [Video]

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Kylie Jenner’s father Caitlyn has known about the 20-year-old’s shock pregnancy for “some time”, according to a spokesperson for the transgender Olympian. The reality TV star and make-up mogul hit headlines on Friday amid multiple reports suggesting she is expecting a baby with her rapper boyfriend Travis Scott. Source
  • 'It’s not my hand': Taron Egerton refused to shoot sex scene in 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Poppy Delevingne’s husband landed an unexpected cameo in Kingsman: The Golden Circle after leading man Taron Egerton declined to shoot a controversial sex scene with the model-turned-actress. Egerton reprises his role as spy Eggsy Unwin in the sequel to 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, and part of the plot requires Unwin to get intimate with his mission target, Clara, played by Poppy, to plant a tracking device in her genitals. Source
  • Jennifer Lopez donates $1M to Puerto Rico relief

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Jennifer Lopez has pledged $1 million toward hurricane relief efforts in her family's native Puerto Rico. Lopez announced during a news conference with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday that she would give money from her ongoing Las Vegas residency to various charities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Source
  • Francois Girard's 'Hochelaga' is Canada's pick for best foreign-language film

    Entertainment CTV News
    Actors, from left, Samian, Naiade Aoun, and Wahiakeron Gilbert, as well as producer Roger Frappier, and Telefilm Canada's executive director Carolle Brabant, pose for photos after the film "Hochelaga, Land of Souls," was named as Canada's entry in the race for the 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar on Sept. Source
  • Prince Harry, Meghan Markle make first official public appearance together

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Prince Harry and his girlfriend Meghan Markle have made their first official public appearance as a couple. The prince and Markle, a Toronto-based actor in the legal drama "Suits," held hands Monday afternoon as they walked toward Toronto's city hall to take in one of the sporting events for the Invictus Games. Source
  • Hochelaga, terre des âmes named Canada's foreign-language contender for the Oscars

    Entertainment CBC News
    Hochelaga, terre des âmes has been chosen to represent Canada for the best foreign-language film Oscar. The film was written and directed by Quebecer François Girard, the director of 1998's The Red Violin. Carolle Brabant, the executive director of Telefim Canada, made the announcement in Montreal Monday afternoon. Source
  • Toronto premiere of 'Muriel’s Wedding' delayed, Mirvish adds three new shows

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    TORONTO - Mirvish Productions is delaying the Toronto premiere of “Muriel’s Wedding,” the musical adaptation of the film that was set to debut in the spring. The theatre production company says scheduling conflicts have caused the delay. Source
  • Don Rickles interview series debuts online

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — A digital series starring late comedy legend Don Rickles will debut online Monday. The 13-episode show “Dinner with Don ,” produced by AARP Studios, features Rickles interviewing celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel, Snoop Dogg , Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese at his favourite restaurants in Hollywood. Source