Baltimore prosecutors have asked a court to reject the 2000 murder conviction of a man found guilty of killing his ex-girlfriend in a case that drew national attention when the podcast Serial raised doubts about his guilt.
Adnan Syed, 42, has always maintained his innocence in the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee, who was strangled to death and buried in a Baltimore park.
Syed, who was 17 at the time of the murder and has served more than 20 years in prison, will either get a new trial or go free if the court grants the request to vacate the conviction.
In a court filing on Wednesday, prosecutors said evidence suggested two other possible suspects in the case may have been involved in the woman’s death.
“The motion filed today supports a new trial for Syed based on a nearly year-long investigation that revealed undisclosed and newly developed information regarding two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office said in a news release.
Syed has maintained his innocence for decades and captured the attention of millions in 2014 when the debut season of the Serial podcast focused on the case and raised doubts about some of the evidence, including mobile phone tower data.
Prosecutors said they were not asserting Syed is innocent, but they lacked confidence “in the integrity of the conviction” and recommended he be released on his own recognizance or bail.
“We believe that keeping Mr Syed detained as we continue to investigate the case with everything that we know now, when we do not have confidence in results of the first trial, would be unjust,” Mosby added.
‘Make her disappear’
The state’s attorney’s office said if the court grants its motion it would effectively put Syed in a new trial status, and his convictions would be vacated, but the case would remain active.
“Whether the state ultimately continues with a trial in this matter or dismisses the charges will depend on the outcome of the ongoing investigation,” the attorney’s office said.
The two suspects may be involved individually or may be involved together, it added.
One of the suspects had threatened Lee, saying “he would make her disappear. He would kill her,” according to the filing.
“Given the stunning lack of reliable evidence implicating Mr Syed, coupled with increasing evidence pointing to other suspects, this unjust conviction cannot stand,” said Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter, Mr Syed’s lawyer and director of the Innocence Project Clinic.
“Mr Syed is grateful that this information has finally seen the light of day and looks forward to his day in court.”
The suspects were known people at the time of the original investigation and were not properly ruled out nor disclosed to the defence, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also said new information revealed one of the suspects was convicted of attacking a woman in her vehicle, and one of the suspects was convicted of engaging in serial rape and sexual assault.
The state attorney’s office declined to release information about the suspects because of the continuing investigation.