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Judge Vacates Murder Conviction of ‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed, but the State May Still Refile

Officials escort "Serial" podcast subject Adnan Syed from the courthouse on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 following the completion of the first day of hearings for a retrial in Baltimore, Md. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

After spending twenty-three years behind bars for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, Adnan Syed has had his conviction tossed out today by Baltimore Circuit Court judge Melissa Phinn.

This decision has come after reports that “an investigation had pointed to two possible ‘alternative suspects,'” according to writing from The New York Times. As a result, Judge Phinn has released Syed and has given the prosecutors 30 days to either drop all the charges or retry the case. If they do choose to retry, it will be a huge event considering the case gained a huge amount of attention due to the podcast Serial, which was so popular in itself that it’s often regarded as the reason for the surge in popularity of modern true crime podcasts in the mainstream.

While Adnan supporters are no doubt happy about the news, Lee’s family has now found these wounds reopening all over again—pain that was already agitated with the podcast.

Steve Kelly, the lawyer for the Lee family, reportedly asked Judge Phinn to delay Monday’s proceedings to allow Hae Min Lee’s brother to attend and address the court. Judge Phinn did allow the family to make statements on Zoom. Via Zoom in court, Lee’s brother, Young Lee, said, according to the Baltimore Banner, “This is not a podcast for me. This is real life, of a never ending nightmare for 20-plus years. Every day when I think it’s over, whenever I think it’s over or it’s ended, it always comes back.”

Young Lee also expressed feeling betrayed by the state, which moved forward to get this case overturned when Maryland prosecutors asked to vacate Syed’s conviction claiming they lacked “confidence in the integrity” of the verdict.

In 1999, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee was killed and her body was found buried in Baltimore’s Leakin Park. Because she had recently been dating Adnan Syed, he became the prime suspect. He was convicted of her murder in 2000 and remained in prison since then.

Everything changed when Serial reexamined the case at the urging of Rabia Chaudry, a childhood friend and advocate for Syed’s innocence. Chaudry’s efforts, and the podcast’s popularity, led to courts ruling in favor of for a new trial for Syed previously, but Maryland’s Court of Appeals reversed that decision, and then the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal for that decision, leaving Syed’s conviction in place.

I have no idea of Syed’s guilt or innocence, but I can say that the misconduct of the police and prosecutor at the time has made it possible to create some reasonable doubt in the case. Tragically, the failure to do their job properly has made repeat victims of the Lee family and robbed them of any peace. As mentioned before, the state has 30 days to refile, and there is no doubt that, if they do so, this time it will be a media circus.

(via Buzzfeed, image: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.