Adnan Syed’s murder conviction has been reinstated in the latest development in the prolonged case featured in the hit podcast Serial.
At the age of 17, Syed was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of 17-year-old Hae Min Lee, his former girlfriend and classmate.
Ms Lee was strangled and buried in Baltimore Park in 1999.
However, the 41-year-old was released in October after Baltimore City State Attorney said DNA evidence supported his innocence of being involved in the murder.
Following that decision, Ms Lee’s family filed an appeal arguing that they were not notified of the efforts made to release Syed.
And on Tuesday, the court in Maryland reinstated the murder conviction and ordered a new hearing in the case.
The court’s decision, ruled by the Appellate Court of Maryland, stated that a lower court failed to give sufficient notice to the victim’s family when it scheduled a hearing in September last year, which allowed Syed to regain his freedom.
Here’s what happened
In September 2022, after reviewing the case, prosecutors concluded that new evidence was found which undermined Syed’s conviction and pointed to two other suspects.
The lower court then scheduled a hearing on the state’s motion to vacate the case.
Due to short notice, Young Lee, Hae Min’s brother, could not attend the hearing in person.
Mr Lee asked for the judge to postpone the proceedings for one week so he could be there in person, but that did not happen and he was forced to attend via Zoom.
Maryland law provides victims with the right to prior notice of these hearings – and it was decided that rule was violated.
‘The new hearing should be more transparent’
In court lawyers argued the victim’s family were treated as an “afterthought” when prosecutors decided their case was actually flawed from the beginning and the appellate court agreed.
“Allowing a victim entitled to attend a court proceeding to attend in person, when the victim makes that request and all other persons involved in the hearing appear in person, is consistent with the constitutional requirement that victims be treated with dignity and respect,” the court ruled.
The court also said the new hearing should be more transparent and requires evidence if the motion to vacate is presented and the court must give a reason for its decision.
The order, however, does not go into effect for 60 days.
In a statement, Ms Lee’s family said they were “equally pleased that the Appellate Court is directing the lower court to conduct a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court’s decision will be based on evidence for the world to see”.
Syed’s attorney Erica Suter said the appeal was “not about Adnan’s innocence but about notice and mootness”.
“There is no basis for re-traumatising Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon,” Ms Suter added.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office is now reviewing the ruling.