Adnan Syed, the man whose conviction was documented in award-winning podcast Serial, has finally been granted a new trial.
Back in 2000, a then-teenaged Syed was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee and handed a life sentence. However, he has protested his innocence the entire time and has now received some positive news with regards to a new trial.
There have been several false dawns in the past, but a new decision from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in the United States has given his supporters renewed cause for optimism.
It centres on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel – something raised by Syed and his appeals lawyer C Justin Brown for a number of years.
Back in 2012, two years before Serial presenter Sarah Koenig covered his case, Syed’s new legal team raised claims that his previous lawyer Cristina Gutierrez had acted ineffectively by failing to call a potential alibi witness.
This appeal was denied, but the potential witness in question, Asia McClain Chapman (at the time known as Asia McClain), has remained an integral part of the discussion as Syed has lodged further claims for new hearings.
Furthermore, there were claims that Gutierrez failed to accurately quiz an expert witness who provided testament about cell-phone tower pings - a technological advance which was relatively new at the time of Syed’s original trial.
According to the new Maryland opinion: “There is a reasonable probability that McClain’s alibi testimony would have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror about Syed’s involvement [in] Hae’s murder, and thus ‘the result of the proceedings would have been different.’”
Since the release of Serial in 2014, Syed’s family friend Rabia Chaudry (a lawyer by trade) has covered his case in a separate podcast called Undisclosed and provided updates on Syed’s legal proceedings, even after Undisclosed has turned its attention to a variety of different wrongful conviction cases.
Chaudry, who wrote best-selling book Adnan’s Story with contributions from Syed himself, has been vocal with regards to the latest developments in the case and has promised a new episode of Undisclosed focusing on the latest developments.
There has been support for Syed from a number of individuals who have been closely following the proceedings, including Jerry Buting – best known as Steven Avery’s lawyer during the case documented in Netflix show Making a Murderer.
Support has also come from Two and a Half Men actor Jon Cryer, who has covered the case as host of Undisclosed’s addendum show.