Adnan Syed: Appeals court refuses to overturn reinstatement of Hae Min Lee murder conviction

Mr Syed’s attorney says she will appeal to the state Supreme Court

Abe Asher
Thursday 04 May 2023 19:58 BST
Adnan Syed gets new trial

A Maryland appeals court on Tuesday refused to overturn Adnan Syed’s reinstated murder conviction, paving the way for an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of his classmate and ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee was initially vacated by Baltimore County prosecutors last year after they reviewed his case and identified alternative suspects and questionable evidence used in the trial to convict him.

That turn of events was celebrated by Syed’s family along with people around the country and world who became aware of his case when it was featured on the first season of the hit podcast “Serial” in 2014.

But that celebration was short-lived: just months later, Ms Lee’s family said they did not receive sufficient notice of Syed’s vacatur hearing in September and argued that the allegedly insufficent notice violated their right to be “treated with dignity and respect,” according to The New York Times.

Young Lee, Hae Min’s brother, wanted the date of the hearing postponed so he could travel to Baltimore and testify in person, but the judge did not grant his request — instead allowing him to address the court over Zoom. Ms Lee’s family appealled to have the murder conviction reinstated and the vacatur hearing redone, and were successful when the Appellate Court of Maryland voted 2-1 in their favour.

Syed’s legal team appealed the reinstatement, arguing that the Appellate Court broke from its precedent by failing to require Ms Lee’s family to demonstrate how the outcome of the vacatur hearing would have been different had they recieved more notice, but the court rejected the appeal because it was “based on an argument not previously raised.”

Erica Suter, Syed’s lawyer, was not impressed with the court’s reasoning.

“Appellate courts routinely assess whether an error impacted the underlying proceedings,” Ms Suter said in a statement reported by NBC News. “We are dismayed that the Appellate Court of Maryland opted not to do so here. We will be seeking review in the Supreme Court of Maryland.”

Syed’s appeal also raised questions about whether state was affording Ms Lee’s family an undue position of privilege in the case. The Appellate Court’s decision has been viewed as a major victory for the broader victims’ rights movement, which has often opposed progressive criminal justice reform measures.

Syed, who was released from jail in September, will remain free while the case continues. He’s in the remarkable position of still being convicted of a murder despite the state’s wish that the conviction be revoked.

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