Adnan Syed Remains Free 'for the Time Being' as His Lawyer Slams Court: 'No Basis to Retraumatize' Him

Adnan Syed's murder conviction was reinstated after the Appellate Court of Maryland decided that a lower court violated the rights of Young Lee, the brother of Syed's slain ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee

adnan syed
Adnan Syed. Photo: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A Maryland court on Tuesday reinstated the first-degree murder conviction of Serial's Adnan Syed, and his attorney is criticizing the court's 2-1 decision.

Assistant Public Defender Erica J. Suter, Syed's attorney and Director of the Innocence Project Clinic at University of Baltimore Law School, says the appellate court's decision "was not about Adnan's innocence but about notice and mootness."

"The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan's convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms. Lee's brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing," reads a statement obtained by PEOPLE. "We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee's attendance over Zoom was sufficient."

"There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon," Suter added. "For the time being, Adnan remains a free man."

The conviction was reinstated after the Appellate Court of Maryland decided that a lower court violated the rights of Young Lee, the brother of Syed's murdered ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, because the Lee family wasn't given proper notice of an October hearing to toss out Syed's conviction, according to The New York Times.

A new hearing was ordered, the Times reports.

Syed, 41, will not have to report back to prison immediately because the court issued a 60-day stay, which "gives the parties time to assess how to proceed in response to this Court's decision."

In a statement to PEOPLE, David Sanford, attorney for the Lee family, said: "We are delighted that the Appellate Court of Maryland agrees with Mr. Lee that his right to have reasonable notice of the Syed vacatur hearing and his right to be physically present at that hearing were violated by the trial court. We are equally pleased that the Appellate Court is directing the lower court to conduct a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court's decision will be based on evidence for the world to see."

Syed, who has always maintained his innocence, was sentenced in 2000 to life in prison for the 1999 murder of Lee, his 18-year-old Woodlawn High School classmate and ex-girlfriend, whose body was found buried in a park four weeks after she was reportedly kidnapped.

hae mi lee & adnan syed
Hae Min Lee, Adnan Syed. NC; Courtesy Syed family

Syed had been imprisoned for more than a decade when his case was featured in the first season of NPR's true-crime podcast Serial, triggering widespread scrutiny of his arrest and prosecution.

Syed was released from prison in the fall of 2022 after being cleared of the first-degree murder charge. Last fall, Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn wrote in an order that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence to Syed's lawyers that could have helped prove that he didn't kill Lee.

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There was also a "substantial and significant probability that the result would have been different," Phinn said.

State's attorney for Baltimore City Marilyn Mosby said in the motion filed Sept. 14 that "after a nearly year-long investigation by the state and defense" new information was discovered, including "the possible involvement of alternative suspects."

As the reinvestigation by Mobsy's office continues, Suter says she remains optimistic that "justice will be done."

"We intend to seek review in Maryland's highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, and will continue to fight until Adnan's convictions are fully vacated," reads the statement. "Ensuring justice for Hae Min Lee does not require injustice for Adnan."

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