'Serial' Subject Adnan Syed's Lawyers Argue Against Delays in Murder Retrial

A judge vacated Syed's conviction based on testimony about the reliability of cell towers allegedly placing Syed at the crime scene

Photo: Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS/Getty

Attorneys for Serial subject Adnan Syed filed court documents and issued a public statement urging a judge to reject the arguments of prosecutors who say he shouldn’t get another trial despite a judge’s ruling to vacate his conviction earlier this year.

“If the State’s case against Syed is so strong – as they claim it to be – the State should retry the case,” Syed’s lead attorney, Justin Brown, said in a statement. “Give Syed a fair trial and let a jury decide.”

“My client has spent more than 17 years in prison based on an unconstitutional conviction for a crime he did not commit. The last thing this case needs right now is more delay.”

The statement accompanies two court filings Thursday presenting arguments supporting Judge Martin Welch’s June decision to vacate Syed’s murder conviction in the death of ex-girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee in 1999.

Prosecutors are appealing the ruling as Syed remains imprisoned and still accused – but not convicted – of Lee’s murder.

The Attorney General, which is handling the case for the state, declined comment, citing pending litigation.

February’s post-conviction hearing centered on cell phone records prosecutors used in Syed’s 2000 trial to place Syed near where a prosecution witness said he saw Syed bury Lee in a shallow grave. Syed’s lawyers in February noted that AT&T supplied a disclaimer with Syed’s phone records saying the records were unreliable for incoming calls. Welch overturned Syed’s conviction because Syed’s original defense attorney overlooked the AT&T document and didn’t challenge the state’s cell tower expert, Abe Waranowitz, who contended the records were reliable.

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The state, in its appeal, has argued that Welch erred in allowing Syed’s attorneys to present arguments over the cellphone records at the February hearing.

According to Thursday’s filing by Syed’s attorneys, Waranowitz was informed for the first time last year that the records were unreliable for incoming calls. He stated in an affidavit that had he been aware of the “critical information” he would not have testified the way he did, according to the filing.

“The Circuit Court properly found that the AT&T disclaimer, on its own, significantly undermines the State’s prized cell phone location evidence, creating a substantial possibility that the result of the trial was fundamentally unreliable,” attorneys for Syed say in court documents.

In another court document filed Thursday, Syed’s defense team disputed claims by two sisters that alibi witness Asia McClain, who said she was with Syed in the library at the alleged time of the killing, is lying to free him. McClain has vehemently denied she is lying.

“What the State seeks to do is no different than a defendant losing at trial and then requesting a new trial because he has now found a witness who would testify that the State’s critical witness lied,” Syed’s attorneys state in the documents. “It is too late for that.”

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