Baltimore Prosecutors File Motion to Vacate Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed, Ask For New Trial

Syed, the subject of the wildly popular Serial podcast, is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee

Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed. Photo: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty

Prosecutors in Baltimore have filed a motion to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, convicted of killing ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999 in a case that drew worldwide attention when it was featured in the hit true-crime podcast Serial, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

Prosecutors are also asking "at a minimum" that Syed receive a new trial, the motion filed in circuit court state.

The verdict in Syed's trial, who has always maintained his innocence after his 2000 conviction, was scrutinized in 2014's Serial and later an HBO documentary.

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

Prosecutors said that they will continue their investigation, and "bring a suspect or suspects to justice," but also are not saying "at this time" that Syed is innocent.

"However, for all the reasons set forth below, the State no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction," said the office of Mosby, which is overseeing the reinvestigation, in the court papers.

They also asked for Syed to be released on his own recognizance as the investigation continues.

Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed. Courtesy Syed family

"We have spent 23 years fighting the state and now the state is saying they got it wrong, maybe, and the state is saying he did not deserve to be convicted," longtime Syed family friend Rabia Chaudry tells PEOPLE, her voice wavering with emotion. "To not have to fight the state is incredible."

Chaudry, an attorney and author, is "cautiously hopeful but also nervous."

"We have been close so many times," she says, "and had the rug pulled out from underneath us."

Syed, of Baltimore, is now serving a life sentence after his 2000 conviction for the 1999 kidnapping and murder of his 18-year-old Baltimore high school classmate and ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. At the time of the crime, he was 17.

Hae Min Lee in a yearbook photo
Hae Min Lee.

Following questions raised in the hit Serial podcast, Syed's conviction was overturned in 2016 and he was granted a new trial, a ruling upheld by an appeals court in 2018.

However, he remained behind bars, and in 2019, Maryland's highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled to uphold his conviction and denied him a new trial.

The case received new life when prosecutors agreed in March to conduct new DNA tests on evidence used to convict him.

In Wednesday's court filing, prosecutors said that two suspects "were known persons at the time of the investigation of the case and not properly ruled out."

In addition, a document found in the state's trial file showed that one of the suspects "had a motive to kill the victim" and that "he would make her (Ms. Lee) disappear. He would kill her," according to court documents.

However, this evidence had never been turned over to Syed's defense team, according to Wednesday's filing.

Rabia Chaudry speaks onstage during "The Case of Adnan Syed" panel of the HBO portion of the 2019 Winter TCA on February 8, 2019 in Pasadena, California.
Rabia Chaudry. eff Kravitz/FilmMagic

"This information was not available to the Defendant in his trial in 2000, and the State believes it would have provided persuasive support substantiating the defense that another person was responsible for the victim's death," prosecutors stated in the Wednesday filing.

Other new evidence in the filing include the revelations that after Syed's trial, one of the new suspects had attacked a woman in her car, and that one of the suspects was convicted of rape and sexual assault.

Chaudry, who wrote a book uncovering new evidence that she says shows Syed's innocence, expects that a judge could rule on Wednesday's filing within days or weeks, but doesn't know when it will be.

Prosecutors said in the filing they intend to thoroughly reinvestigate the case "to ensure accountability and justice for the victim, Ms. Lee" and that "continued incarceration of the Defendant while the investigation of the case proceeds, considering all of the information above, would be a miscarriage of justice. "

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