Lawyers for Adnan Syed, who spent more than 20 years in prison in the killing of his ex-girlfriend and classmate at Woodlawn High School in a case spotlighted on the podcast “Serial,” have reiterated their argument that the state’s decision to drop the charges against their client rendered an appeal in the case moot.
In a reply brief filed Friday in the Maryland Supreme Court, Erica Suter and Brian Zavin, Syed’s attorneys, addressed various legal arguments in the case. Oral argument is scheduled for Oct. 5.
“For the foregoing reasons, and those stated in Petitioner’s Brief, Petitioner Adnan Syed respectfully requests that this Court hold that the State’s entry of nolle prosequi rendered moot the appeal by the victim’s representative from the order vacating Mr. Syed’s convictions,” Suter and Zavin wrote.
“In the alternative,” they added, “Mr. Syed requests that the Court hold that there was no violation of Mr. Lee’s rights to attendance and notice or that any violation did not result in prejudice sufficient to justify reinstating Mr. Syed’s convictions.”
Suter is an assistant public defender and director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Zavin is chief attorney of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender’s Appellate Division.
Syed, now 42, was found guilty in 2000 in Baltimore Circuit Court of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years in the killing of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend and classmate at Woodlawn High School.
Her body was discovered in Leakin Park in Baltimore on Feb. 9, 1999. She was 18. Meanwhile, Syed was 17 at the time.
Syed has been free since 2022 when a judge granted a motion to throw out his conviction and ordered him to immediately be released from prison. Steve Kelly, an attorney who previously represented Young Lee, Hae Min Lee’s brother, moved to appeal, and the Baltimore state’s attorney at the time, Marilyn Mosby, then dropped the charges, citing new DNA test results.
The Appellate Court of Maryland ruled 2-1 to reinstate Syed’s conviction after determining that Young Lee’s rights to notice and in-person attendance were violated. The three-judge panel concluded that the state’s attorney’s move to drop the charges was “void” and a “nullity.”
The Maryland Supreme Court later agreed to take up the case.
Last week, Syed convened the press at his parents’ home in Baltimore County and spoke for more than two hours about his case. Syed called on Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown to look into allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Brown’s office promptly declined that request, stating that it lacked the authority to investigate such claims.
Syed has always maintained his innocence.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Hae,” Syed told reporters. “Ever since the very beginning, all we’ve ever wanted to do is prove that I’m innocent and, just as importantly, or more importantly, to get justice for Hae and her family.”
Following his release from prison, Georgetown University hired Syed to work at its Prisons and Justice Initiative. He has remained free during the appeals process.