Serial: Adnan Syed's lawyer 'failed to call crucial alibi witness'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 03 February 2016 19:10 GMT
Adnan Syed arrives at court in Baltimore for a hearing
Adnan Syed arrives at court in Baltimore for a hearing (AP)

One of America’s best-known murder cases has returned to court after Adnan Syed, who story featured in the podcast Serial, insisted that he deserves a new trial.

A lawyer for Syed on Wednesday told a judge in Baltimore that the 35-year should get a fresh hearing because his previous attorney had failed to call a crucial witness who could have provided an alibi.

Lawyer Justin Brown told Judge Martin Welch that previous defence attorney Cristina Gutierrez made a key mistake when she failing to call Asia McClain, who claimed to have seen Syed at a library during the time of the killing.

Adnan Syed, the focus of Serial season 1
Adnan Syed, the focus of Serial season 1

“At the time of the Syed case (Ms Gutierrez) was unable to handle her cases,” said Mr Brown, according to the Associated Press.

“Her health was failing, her family was in turmoil. What was happening at her business, it was becoming unwound. As a result of the wheels coming off the bus, the single most important piece of evidence, an alibi witness, slipped through the cracks.”

Prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, of the Maryland attorney general's office, said there were reasons to think Ms McClain might not be a reliable witness.

“There were all sorts of reasons that this was not a reliable witness, and perhaps a risky witness,” said Mr Vignarajah.

The argument were made at the beginning of a three-day hearing for Syed, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999.

The case had been long forgotten but in 2014, Sarah Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, began examining it in a podcast that drew millions of listeners each week.

The investigation raised many questions about the fairness of Syed’s conviction. Among the points considered was the failure to call Ms McClain as a witness.

Such was the popularity of the podcast, that secured a cult following, that a Maryland appeals court granted a hearing on the possibility of a new trial.

Syed was present in court, dressed in light blue prison garb, wearing a long beard and a knit cap.

His hands were shackled. Spectators filled a row reserved for the public, including friends, supporters and members of Syed's family, the AP said.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in