Earlier this week, attorneys for the State of Maryland filed a motion to block Adnan Syed’s release on bail while he awaits a new trial in Hae Min Lee’s 1999 murder case.
A judge granted Syed a new trial in late June. In his ruling, Judge Welch wrote that before Syed was convicted of murder Lee in 2000, his attorney should have cross-examined a cell phone tower expert about evidence. Welch also wrote that his defense didn’t contact a witness who later testified that Syed was with her in a library when his girlfriend was murdered.
Lee and Syed were both students at Woodlawn High School. Lee’s murder and Syed’s subsequent conviction became the subject of the first season of the “Serial” podcast series, and Syed gained a significant following from listeners who believed he may not have done it. The evidence, or lack thereof, that was uncovered was enough to get Judge Welch to give him another chance in court.
While awaiting that new trial, Syed’s attorneys last month asked that their client be let out of prison on bail. They noted that it could be years before he gets a new trial and wrote that Syed has been well-behaved for the entire time that he’s been incarcerated and doesn’t pose a flight risk.
However, this week, lawyers for the state filed a motion to block his release, arguing Syed is not in a “pretrial posture.” They wrote that he is still a convicted murderer based on the judge’s order that stayed the new trial ruling, and that Syed’s lawyers should have asked the judge to set bail shortly after that ruling during the summer.
They’re also concerned about what could happen if he is let out in the meantime. “Because Syed has been charged, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for premeditated murder, there remains a risk of flight and a risk to public safety,” they write at the end of their motion.
Furthermore, they wrote that a judge is not supposed to consider the evidence in a defendant’s case when deciding whether to let him out on bail pending an appeal. According to a blog post by Colin Miller, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, that is incorrect.
Syed’s lead attorney, C. Justin Brown said by phone today that he finds it “extremely troubling that this man’s conviction has been vacated, because his conviction was unconstitutional as found by Judge Welch, and he’s still in prison. I think that the arguments that the state has set forth in their opposition are incorrect in both the law and the facts of the case.”
Brown added, “We look forward to having the opportunity to present our arguments to a judge.”
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