Adnan Syed, Subject of 'Serial' Podcast, Seeks New Trial to Overturn Murder Conviction

Syed's lawyers will focus on a potential alibi witness and will seek to discredit cellphone records used by prosecutors

Photo: Courtesy of Yusuf Syed/AP Photo

Adnan Syed, whose conviction in the 1999 murder of a former high school girlfriend spawned the true crime podcast Serial, returns to court today in Baltimore as his defense team argues for a new trial.

In November, a Baltimore judge granted a request by Syed, 35, to introduce new evidence in the case of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The podcast followed reporter Sarah Koenig investigation into Lee’s death and Syed’s trial and raised doubts about his guilt.

The hearing will focus on a potential new alibi witness for Syed and a reexamination of cellphone evidence.

The witness is Asia McClain, a classmate of Syed’s, who has said she saw Syed in the library at the alleged time of the killing. She was not called as a witness at trial, and she stated in an affidavit that an assistant state’s attorney discouraged her from attending Syed’s post-conviction hearings.

Syed’s lawyers claim that his lawyer at trial, Christina Gutierrez, who is now deceased, never contacted McClain.

Syed’s lawyers will also challenge cell phone evidence used at trial, which was used to show he was in the vicinity of the park in which Lee’s body was found. In a brief requesting a new trial, Syed’s lawyers say that the data should have been inadmissible because it only tracked outgoing calls and not incoming.

Syed’s lawyers claim Gutierrez never alerted the court to a fax cover sheet from AT&T stating: “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.”

“The errors committed by trial counsel were of such a fundamental nature that Syed must be given a new trial,” Syed’s lawyers wrote in their brief.

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Prosecutors have claimed that Syed flew into a rage after Lee began dating someone new, strangling her and then dumping her body in the woods.

In an interview with The Intercept last year, prosecutor Kevin Urick, who declined to be interviewed for the podcast, said, “The case itself I would say was pretty much a run-of-the-mill domestic violence murder.”

Syed has steadfastly maintained his innocence of the murder. He is serving a life sentence.

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