If a Maryland appeals court orders a redo of a key hearing and allows the family of Hae Min Lee to participate, an attorney representing Adnan Syed argued on Monday, that would result in him being reimprisoned for a crime that he did not commit and “wreak havoc on our criminal justice system.”

In a brief, Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney and director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, wrote that the Appellate Court of Maryland should throw out an appeal in the case.

Suter argued that the case is moot because the state dropped all charges against her client. She also contended that the prosecution provided notice that complies with all provisions in the state constitution, law and rules related to crime victims’ rights.

“Adnan Syed’s innocence is not before the Appellate Court of Maryland,” Suter said in a statement.

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Instead, Suter said, the appeal concerns other legal questions. She said her client’s convictions have been overturned several times because of misconduct from the trial prosecutor, former Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin Urick.

“As this appeal plays out in our courts and in the court of public opinion, it is crucial to remember the people who continue to suffer because of the trial prosecutor’s misconduct,” Suter said.

“Wrongful convictions shatter the lives of all they touch, the innocent-accused, the victim, and their loved ones,” she added. “They erode our faith in our criminal legal system, threaten public safety, and compound the harm to already-grieving families.”

Syed, now 41, was found guilty in 2000 in Baltimore Circuit Court of first-degree murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment and robbery and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years in the killing of Lee, his ex-girlfriend and classmate at Woodlawn High School.

Her body was found in Leakin Park in Baltimore on Feb. 9, 1999. She was 18.

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At the time, Syed was 17. He has always maintained his innocence.

His case received worldwide attention in 2014 with the release of the podcast “Serial.” The HBO documentary series “The Case Against Adnan Syed” and the podcast “Undisclosed” have also examined his legal saga.

Last year, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office filed a motion to throw out Syed’s conviction, citing the results of an almost one-year investigation that revealed that prosecutors did not turn over exculpatory evidence and discovered information about two possible alternative suspects. Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa M. Phinn later granted that request and freed Syed from prison.

Next, Steve Kelly — an attorney representing Young Lee, Hae Min Lee’s brother — filed a notice of appeal. He asked the courts to put the case on hold. Later, then-State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby dropped the charges against Syed, citing the results of new DNA testing.

Kelly argues that his client did not receive proper notice and was denied the right to be heard, necessitating a redo of the hearing. They want to be able to present evidence, call witnesses and challenge information that prosecutors put forward in court.

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“All they are seeking is what the law requires — a full evidentiary hearing in which they can meaningfully participate and one that makes public the relevant evidence,” Kelly previously said in a statement.

In her brief, Suter recounted the long procedural history of the case and addressed what she described as attacks on her client’s innocence.

When the state’s attorney dropped the charges, that ended the criminal case against her client, Suter said. The state lawfully acted, she said, and crime victims cannot challenge that decision on appeal.

The state provided notice of the hearing to Young Lee as soon as it was practicable, Suter said. She described his assertion that he was not notified before the court proceeding as “both inaccurate and without support in the law.”

Plus, Suter noted, prosecutors reached out to Young Lee six months earlier to let him know about a joint request for DNA testing in the case.

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The law, she said, is unambiguous. Crime victims have the right to receive notice and attend these hearings, but not one to make a statement, Suter said.

Despite that fact, Young Lee was allowed to appear via Zoom and address the court, Suter said.

Young Lee, she said, is seeking new rights that are “well beyond the thoughtful and deliberate protection of victims’ rights currently enshrined in Maryland law.” That’s something that he must pursue through the Maryland General Assembly — not the courts, Suter said.

The Maryland Office of the Attorney General has questioned the process that led to Syed’s freedom but previously wrote in court documents that the appeal is likely moot.

But in a brief also filed on Monday, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Daniel Jawor argued that the state’s attorney dropped the charges against Syed after a “legally defective” court proceeding.

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Jawor contended that Mosby did not have the authority to terminate the prosecution. That means the appeal is not moot. He’s asking the appeals court to order a redo of the hearing.

The attorney general’s office agreed with Young Lee’s position that he did not receive sufficient notice and was denied the right to attend the hearing in person. The office also concurred those circumstances “unfairly compromised” his ability to be heard.

The state, though, did not agree that he has a right to present evidence, call witnesses and challenge information that prosecutors put forth in court, Jawor said.

The Appellate Court of Maryland is set on Feb. 2 to hear oral argument in the case.

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com

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