Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular podcast Serial, is now a free man after a judge vacated his conviction for murder.
Syed, 41, was in a Baltimore courtroom on Monday (Sept. 19) after prosecutors were granted approval of their motion to vacate his 2000 conviction for the murder of Hae Min Lee. Lee, who was killed in 1999, was Syed’s former high school girlfriend. Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn vacated Syed’s conviction and explained that there was material in the state’s investigation that wasn’t turned over properly to defense lawyers and the existence of two suspects that possibly were cleared improperly.
“In the interest of judgment and fairness, the state’s motion to vacate judgment … is hereby granted. The defendant will be released and placed on remote monitoring … The state will have 30 days to refile or nolle pros. At this time, we will remove the shackles off of Mr. Syed,” Judge Phinn said.
The decision was met with a burst of cheers as Syed was freed from his shackles and escorted from the courtroom.
Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby said afterward that her office is not declaring Syed innocent, but recognizes his right to a fair trial. “The investigation is separate and apart from the 30-day mandate. What we are currently waiting for is DNA analysis. So we are going to try to expedite that,” she continued.
For the family of Min Hae Lee, they felt that there was a rush to judgment. Lee’s brother did testify in the hearing via Zoom. In a statement released by their lawyer Steve Kelly, the family reiterated those concerns saying:
“For more than 20 years, no one has wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family. The Lee family is deeply disappointed that today’s hearing happened so quickly and that they were denied the reasonable notice that would have permitted them to have a meaningful voice in the proceedings.”
The overturning of Syed’s conviction comes eight years after the Serial podcast delved deeper into the case against him, prompting numerous questions about the investigation and his team of lawyers. It would mark the beginning of the era of true-crime podcasts and lead to more examinations of what occurred with the HBO docuseries, The Case Against Adnan Syed, being a major example. Syed will wear an ankle monitor with tracking while he is free in the meantime.