The Maryland Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to take up the case of Adnan Syed, who served more than 20 years in prison in the killing of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend and classmate at Woodlawn High School.
The justices will consider the legal questions that Syed raised in his appeal as well as the one that the Lee family presented in their own. Oral argument is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Chief Justice Matthew J. Fader did not take part in the consideration of the case.
“We are very pleased that the Supreme Court recognized the importance of reviewing the legal issues raised by the Appellate Court’s decision, and we are optimistic that we will prevail,” said Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter, Syed’s lead counsel and director of the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law, in a statement.
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.
He was 17 at the time and has always maintained his innocence. The case received worldwide attention in 2014 with the release of the hit podcast “Serial.”
Following an almost one-year investigation, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office in 2022 filed a motion to throw out Syed’s conviction, stating that prosecutors failed to turn over exculpatory evidence and reporting that the state had identified two possible alternative suspects.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa M. Phinn later granted the motion and ordered Syed to immediately be released from prison. Prosecutors had 30 days to either schedule a new date for trial or drop the charges.
Phinn denied a request from Young Lee, Hae Min Lee’s brother, to delay the hearing for one week so he could attend the court proceeding in person. She allowed him to make a statement over Zoom.
Steve Kelly, one of Young Lee’s attorneys, filed a notice of appeal and 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 that excluded Syed as a contributor on several items.
The Appellate Court of Maryland later ruled 2-1 to reinstate Syed’s conviction and sentence, finding that Young Lee’s rights to prior notice of the hearing and in-person attendance were violated.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General argued that while the previous decision was correct, both sides raised “novel questions of broad public importance” that warranted review.
In a statement, David Sanford, one of Young Lee’s attorneys, said the state of Maryland supports victims and their families with rights under the constitution and law.
“We will urge the Maryland Supreme Court to recognize those rights by allowing Young Lee and his family the opportunity to challenge the state’s evidence, to the extent it has any evidence, suggesting Adnan Syed did not murder Young Lee’s sister 23 years ago,” Sanford said.
Georgetown University hired Syed to work at the Prisons and Justice Initiative after his release from prison. He continues to remain free during the appeals process.