What’s next for Adnan Syed after judge tosses murder conviction?

Published 9/20/2022 8:06 p.m. EDT, Updated 9/21/2022 9:25 a.m. EDT

Baltimore judge Melissa Phinn threw out Adnan Syed's murder conviction in light of new evidence that someone else could have strangled Hae Min Lee, ordered the release of  Syed.

Adnan Syed walked out of a Baltimore courthouse Monday a free man for the first time in over two decades.

A circuit judge granted requests from prosecutors and defense attorneys to overturn his murder conviction in light of new evidence that someone else could have killed Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend and classmate at Woodlawn High School. The attorneys told the judge the evidence had not been shared with Syed’s defense over the years and he deserves at least a new trial.

The ruling brought an abrupt reversal in the case that captured interest around the world through in hit podcast “Serial.”

Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn released him on his own recognizance and placed on home detention with a GPS monitor. Outside the courthouse, security guards whisked him into a waiting car. Photos on social media showed him afterward at a home with his family and defense attorney. His attorney has asked for privacy for Syed and his family; Syed hasn’t given interviews.

Syed became a household name by the podcast, and his case was explored in a popular HBO documentary.

What’s next for Syed and the high-profile case?

  • Although the judge dismissed his conviction, he remains charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment in the death of Lee, according to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office. Lee’s body was found in Baltimore’s Leakin Park in February 1999. She had been strangled and buried in a shallow grave. She was 18.
  • In an unusual move, prosecutors asked the judge to overturn the conviction, but they continue to investigate the case and search for her killer. Syed remains a suspect, and they have 30 days to decide whether to try him again or dismiss the charges. It’s often difficult to retry murder cases when evidence becomes old, memories fade and witnesses move away or even die.
  • Meanwhile, Lee’s brother said their family was blindsided by the reversal and the short notice they had to participate in Monday’s hearing. Attorney Steve Kelly said they are exploring whether they have grounds to appeal the decision over a violation of victims’ rights.

Monday’s hearing followed several whirlwind days in which prosecutors and defense attorneys notified the courts that they found handwritten notes by the former trial attorney that references two other suspects and threats made toward Lee. Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent the past year reinvestigating the case, and they believe these notes were not shared with Syed’s defense attorney as required by law.

That gives Syed the right to a new trial, they told the judge. Erica Suter, his attorney, went further to tell the judge he’s innocent.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has not yet revealed her course of action as people around the world watch and wait for a decision.

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