The latest episode of Sarah Koenig’s hit true crime podcast dives into the reasons behind his release.
Adnan Syed has been released from prison after 23 years following a Maryland judge’s decision to overturn his conviction for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
Syed – whose case was examined in minute detail by Sarah Koenig on the first season of the hit true crime podcast Serial – was released after state prosecutors filed a motion asking the court to throw out the murder conviction he was sentenced to in 2000 after new information about “two alternative suspects” came to light.
It also said that the legal parties involved in the case had identified “significant reliability issues” concerning the “most critical” pieces of evidence used in the original trial.
Syed – who has always maintained his innocence – will now be released to home detention. The judge has given the state 30 days to decide whether to seek a new trial or dismiss the case.
To say this decision has been long-awaited would be an understatement. While Syed’s initial hearing received little attention, Serial’s 12-part deep dive into the case – which revisited the circumstances surrounding Lee’s death and questioned the legitimacy of the case against Syed – quickly went viral. It has now been downloaded over 300 million times.
The case later became the subject of a 2019 HBO docuseries – The Case Against Adnan Syed – which was executive produced by Syed’s family friend and experienced lawyer Rabia Chaudry. Chaudry was also the one who brought Syed’s case to Koenig and the Serial team in the first place.
Despite the widespread scrutiny surrounding Syed’s case, numerous appeals against his conviction have been denied. In 2016, he was granted a new trial based on the failure of Syed’s original lawyer to challenge mobile phone location data presented by the prosecution.
This decision was upheld by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2018 – which also cited the original lawyer’s failure to contact a potential alibi witness – but was later overturned by the supreme court in 2019.
While Syed’s release is good news for those who have defended his innocence, it’s important to acknowledge the impact this decision has had on Lee’s family. Speaking before the ruling on Monday, Lee’s brother told the court that he was “not against the investigation” but felt the family had been blindsided by the prosecutors who had filed the motion.
“Every day when I think it’s over… or it’s ended, it always comes back. It’s killing me,” Young Lee said. “This is not a podcast for me. This is real life – a never-ending nightmare for 20-plus years.”
Steve Kelly, a victim’s rights lawyer representing the family, added that the Lees were “deeply disappointed” with the way they’d been treated in the lead-up to yesterday’s decision.
“All they wanted was information,” Kelly said. “If the truth is that somebody else killed their daughter, they want to know that more than anyone.”
Following the news of Syed’s release, Serial confirmed that Sarah Koenig was at the courthouse yesterday – and that an episode based on these new developments would be coming later today (20 September).
That episode was released just before 11:30am this morning, and you can listen to it here.
For more information on Serial and the case against Adnan Syed, you can check out Stylist’s coverage of the investigation.
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