Adnan Syed, subject of the first season of the popular Serial podcast whose murder conviction was vacated in June, is seeking to be released on bail as he awaits a retrial.
In court papers filed Monday morning, Syed’s defense attorneys argue that he is not a flight risk nor a danger to the community. Syed had no history of violence before his 1999 arrest for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, and has been a model prisoner, the motion points out.
It also says that the state’s case against Syed “had crumbled,” and that there are severe credibility issues with the prosecution’s star witness, Jay Wilds.
“I want him out,” Justin Brown, Syed’s lead defense attorney, tells PEOPLE. “I think he’s been in there too long, he shouldn’t have been in there in the first place, we’re going to do everything we can to get him back.”
Brown says that normally when someone is charged with first degree murder they do not get out on bail.
“But I would argue that he is in a much better position than your typical person charged with first degree murder because he’s had 17 years to show what kind of person he is and what he is really like,” Brown says, noting that Syed has shown he’s not violent and not someone “likely to run from the law.”
“Normally,” Brown says, “you don’t have that kind of proof.”
In 2000, Syed was convicted of murdering Lee, a classmate at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison.
Following a post-conviction hearing in Baltimore this past February, judge Martin P. Welch vacated Syed’s sentence and ordered a retrial. Welch cited questions about cell tower evidence prosecutors used to corroborate Wilds’ testimony that Syed buried Lee at a Baltimore park.
The state is appealing the ruling, and Brown has said it could take a year or more for the appeals process to play out.
A request for comment from the office of Maryland’s attorney general has not been returned.
Brown says that he doesn’t know when a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge will hear the case for bail. “In a normal case, you can get in there pretty quickly, in a week or two,” he says. “But this is not a normal case.”
In the motion for bail, the defense writes that Syed was just 17 when arrested, and at that time “had no history of violence.”
In his 17 years in maximum security adult prisons, Syed has been a model inmate, his defense attorneys write.
“Prisons are among the most violent places in our society, yet Syed has not been cited for a single violent act in 17 years in that environment,” the motion states, noting Syed’s sole infraction was being caught with a cell phone in 2009.
In Syed’s Department of Corrections records, he is described as an “excellent” worker who “requires minimal supervision,” is “always very respectful of staff,” and has never been charged with any type of insubordination, his attorney writes.
Syed has also retained a social worker to help him with the transition to life out of prison, and who would monitor his compliance if granted bail, the motion states.
The document also details many weaknesses in the state’s case, including the changing stories of Wilds before, during and after the 2000 trial, and that Wilds admitted in a 2014 interview with The Intercept that he lied under oath at trial.
Wilds had testified that Syed confessed to him that Syed had strangled Lee, shown him Lee’s body in the trunk of her car, and that Wilds was with Syed when Syed buried Lee’s body in Baltimore’s Leakin Park.
Wilds pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and served no jail time. (PEOPLE’s attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.)
Syed’s attorneys write that Wilds’s credibility as a witness is further damaged by his multiple interactions with the law since the trial.
“Wilds has been arrested, convicted or investigated by police more than 20 times,” they write, citing police reports that include show Wilds has a long criminal history that includes not telling the truth to law enforcement officers.
This includes an arrest for “violently strangling a female companion in a furious outburst,” the defense writes.
“But most pointedly, Wilds — the only individual to have confessed to being complicit in the events surrounding the victim’s death by strangulation — has an ominous history of being charged for incidents of rage and violence against women,” the defense wrote.
“It is questionable whether any jury would believe his uncorroborated testimony,” they added.
Also noted in the motion is Lee’s autopsy report, which shows it was “forensically and pathologically” impossible for Lee to have been buried at the time prosecutors and Wilds claim she was.