Stating that the matter involves important legal issues, the family of Hae Min Lee on Thursday asked the Maryland Supreme Court to hear an appeal in the case of Adnan Syed, who served more than 20 years in prison after being convicted of her killing.

In court documents, David Sanford, an attorney representing Young Lee, Hae Min Lee’s brother, wrote that while an intermediate state appeals court fixed “serious procedural deficiencies” when it reinstated Syed’s conviction and sentence, its ruling “falls short in one critical respect.” That’s because the three-judge panel held that Young Lee did not have the right to speak or challenge evidence during a key hearing in the case.

Sanford urged the state’s highest court to take up the appeal and ensure that victims are given a “meaningful voice.”

“Our system of justice relies on the adversarial process,” Sanford said in a cross-petition for writ of certiorari. “Deciding a case based on untested, one-sided claims would mirror the abuses of authoritarian regimes.”

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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. The two previously dated and were classmates at Woodlawn High School.

He was 17 at the time and has always maintained his innocence. His case received worldwide attention in 2014 with the release of the podcast “Serial.”

In 2022, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office moved to throw out Syed’s conviction, reporting that an approximately one-year investigation had uncovered that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence and discovered information about two possible alternative suspects.

Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn granted the motion at a hearing and ordered Syed to immediately be released from prison. Prosecutors had 30 days to set a new date for trial or drop the case.

Phinn had denied a request to postpone the court proceeding for one week, but allowed Young Lee to make a statement over Zoom.

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Steve Kelly, an attorney representing Young Lee, filed a notice of appeal and then asked the courts to put the case on hold. The state’s attorney at the time, Marilyn Mosby, then dropped the charges, citing the results of new DNA testing.

The Appellate Court of Maryland later ruled 2-1 to reinstate Syed’s conviction and sentence, and ordered a new “legally compliant” and “transparent” hearing.

The mid-level appeals court found that Young Lee’s rights to notice and in-person attendance were violated. The judges, though, ruled that he neither had the right to speak nor challenge evidence put forth in court.

Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney and director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, has already asked the Maryland Supreme Court to take up the case.

In a previous statement, Suter noted that the case has broader implications for the criminal justice system.

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“Adnan’s innocence is not at issue,” Suter said, “but his rights as a defendant and freedom as an exoneree are directly impacted by the Appellate Court of Maryland’s decision.”

Suter said she is hopeful the justices will vote to hear the issues that her client raised in his petition.

Since his release from prison, Syed has worked at Georgetown University and helped take care of his elderly parents. He has remained free during the appeals process.

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com

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