Adnan Syed Granted a New Trial

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Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed, whose case was the focal point of the first season of Serial, is heading back to trial after 16 years.

Syed was granted a new trial in the 1999 murder of Woodlawn High School student Hae Min Lee by Judge Martin P. Welch, an order states.

The reason doesn’t involve Asia McClain’s alibi, so you’ll have to skip past the first episode to review the backstory. Basically, it comes down to cell phone tower evidence. For Serial fans following along at home, that’s Episode 5. Welch rejects the idea that Syed’s lawyer, M. Cristina Gutierrez, failed to represent him in full. (Episode 10) But when it comes to cell phone records, he writes, she could have done one thing that may have changed the entire case.

The judge agreed with Syed’s legal team that Gutierrez could have cross-examined the state’s cell phone tower expert witness about a disclaimer. In pre-trial discovery, Welch writes, Gutierrez learned of a disclaimer from AT&T that said data about incoming calls was not reliable. She could have brought up that disclaimer to cross-examine the prosecution’s expert, who was not shown the document. Welch rules that could’ve thrown the entire reliability in doubt.

“…there is a substantial possibility that the result of the trial would have been different but for trial counsel’s failure to cross-examine the State’s cell tower witness about the disclaimer,” Welch writes.

Showing how much Serial has affected the case, Welch finds it necessary to bring up the podcast and in his ruling and write that that he was “unfettered by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion.

To be clear: This doesn’t mean that Syed is not guilty, only that he is getting a new trial. Details on a date were not immediately available.



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