US prosecutors drop case against subject of ‘Serial’ podcast

Advocates welcome decision to drop case against Adnan Syed, who was released from a US prison last month.

Adnan Syed leaves a courthouse in September
Adnan Syed leaves a courthouse in September in Baltimore, Maryland, US, after a judge found that his trial had been mishandled [File: Brian Witte/AP Photo]

Prosecutors in the US city of Baltimore have dropped a murder case against Adnan Syed, who became the subject of the popular podcast series Serial that cast doubt on his guilt in the 1999 killing of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee.

Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore, told reporters on Tuesday that her office would pursue justice for Lee but had closed its case against Syed.

A Maryland judge had overturned Syed’s conviction last month, releasing him from prison and giving prosecutors one month to decide whether to renew the case.

“This case is over. There are no more appeals necessary,” Mosby said during a news conference.

“Although my administration was not responsible for neither the pain inflicted upon Hae Min Lee’s family, nor was my administration responsible for the wrongful conviction of Mr Syed, as a representative of the institution, it is my responsibility to acknowledge and to apologise to the family of Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed,” she said.

“Justice is never denied, but justice be done. Today, justice is done.”

The act is a final vindication for Syed, now 42 years old, who spent more than 20 years in prison for a murder that he had always maintained that he did not commit.

The Serial podcast series, released in 2014, became enormously popular, attracting millions of listeners, and raising doubts about the fairness of the trial.

Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn ruled last month that the state had violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have strengthened Syed’s defence in the case. He was accused of strangling Lee, who was buried in a Baltimore park.

Data from a mobile phone tower had been used in the case to paint a picture of Syed’s location despite the fact that it was known to be unreliable. A notice on the records specifically advised that the billing locations for incoming calls “would not be considered reliable information for location”.

Prosecutors have said that a reinvestigation of the case unearthed new evidence relating to two possible alternate suspects, one of whom had threatened to kill Lee and make her “disappear”, according to a court filing. Both suspects had a history of violent crimes against women.

Prosecutors said that the two potential suspects were known at the time of the original case, but were not properly ruled out or disclosed to the defence.

Syed was placed on home detention with a GPS monitor, a common practice in the US criminal justice system, after his release from jail on September 19.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies