'An Incredible Turn of Events': Serial Weighs in on Adnan Syed's New Trial
, the podcast that brought national attention to the homicide of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for her death, tells PEOPLE exclusively they are still digesting the “incredible” news that he will get a new trial.
“It’s an incredible turn of events,” a spokeswoman for the series says. “We don’t have much more to say than that right now.”
On Thursday, Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Syed’s conviction and ordered the new trial, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE. Welch cited cell phone tower data used in the initial trial – specifically, Syed’s former attorney’s “failure to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of cell tower location evidence.”
“We spent last night and today reading and talking through Judge Welch’s opinion, to try to understand exactly what it means,” the Serial spokeswoman tells PEOPLE.
Syed has long proclaimed his innocence in Lee’s death, and has sought a new trial, unsuccessfully, for years. The handling of the case was spotlighted on the podcast’s first season, which became a phenomenon for its genre when it aired in 2014.
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Lee, a Maryland high school senior at the time of her death, disappeared from school in 1999. Her body was found in a city park a month later, and Syed was soon arrested for the crime.
In a statement following the judge’s order Thursday, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office reiterated its support of Syed’s original conviction.
There does appear to be at least one ground that will need to be resolved by the appellate courts, said Christine Tobar, the attorney general s deputy communication director, according to Fox45. The state s responsibility remains to pursue justice, and to defend what it believes is a valid conviction.
Following his conviction, Syed was sentenced to life in prison – a result of the incompetence of his then-lawyer, the now-deceased Cristina Gutierrez, Syed’s new defense argues.
His attorneys also say Gutierrez neglected to contact Syed’s high school friend Asia Chapman – formerly McClain – about her alleged alibi for her classmate.
Chapman has said that she was in the library with Syed during the time prosecutors say he murdered Lee. In his order Thursday, Welch agreed that Gutierrez fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgement by not contacting Chapman about the potential alibi.
Welch ordered Chapman’s testimony, during Syed’s February post-conviction hearing and in her 2015 sworn affidavit, be entered into the official court records.
“I’m grateful that my testimony is going to be part of the official record. It is of relevance, whereas all these years I didn’t think it had any relevance,” Chapman told PEOPLE. “That is very fulfilling.”
Syed’s family has also spoken out: Brother Yusef told PEOPLE, “We are happy and in shock still. We have waited 20 years for justice.”
• Reporting by ADAM CARLSON