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Adnan Syed Wins The Right To Present New Evidence In "Serial" Case

The decision will allow Syed's legal counsel to present the testimony of alibi witness Asia McClain, and call into question the validity of cell phone location data used in the original trial.

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Adnan Syed, 1998

Adnan Syed, 1998

The Maryland Circuit Court ruled on Nov. 6 that Adnan Syed's Motion to Reopen Post-Conviction Proceedings should be granted. The Court's decision will mean the alibi testimony of witness Asia McClain will be heard in Court for the first time in the case.

17-year-old Adnan Syed was jailed in 1999 for the January 13 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Adnan, now 34, is currently serving a life plus 30 years sentence in a maximum security prison in Maryland.

Judge Martin P. Welch stated in the court order that "reopening the post-conviction proceedings would be in the interest of justice for all parties."

The decision comes after Syed's case was remanded from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals back down to the Circuit Court in May 2015. This was based on a January 2015 affidavit by Asia McClain, in which she claims she was never contacted by Syed's original trial attorney, M. Cristina Gutierrez. McClain also states she was with Syed at the time the State of Maryland claimed the murder occurred.

The petition also raised a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel by Cristina Gutierrez. The claim was based on her failure to contact Asia McClain, and her failure to properly cross-examine the State's witness on the reliability of cell phone tower location data.

Undated yearbook photo of Hae Min Lee

Undated yearbook photo of Hae Min Lee

The ruling also gives Syed's current defence counsel, C. Justin Brown, the opportunity to question the scientific validity of cell phone location data used to convict Syed in the first trial.

Syed's outgoing and incoming call records were used to track his location on the day of the murder. According to Brown, the records were combined with the testimony of witness Jay Wilds to build the prosecutors' case against Syed.

However, a rediscovered document, the AT&T cover sheet from the original call record, warns: "Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information." According to Brown, "much of, if not all of, the cellular evidence would have been rendered inadmissible", had the cover sheet been presented in the original trial.

Syed's case gained worldwide attention in late 2014 when it was the subject of "Serial", a 12-part podcast by reporter and This American Life producer, Sarah Koenig. Koenig reexamined the case and the evidence against Syed, Asia McClain's potential alibi, testimony of key witness, Jay Wilds, as well as the performance of Gutierrez in Syed's original trial.

The case was brought to Koenig's attention by Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and friend of the Syed family. Since Serial ended in December 2014, Chaudry has continued to investigate the case and uncover evidence on her own podcast, Undisclosed, along with fellow attorneys Susan Simpson and Colin Miller.


A date for the hearing to present new evidence has not been set.

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