Adnan Syed Catches a Break

Prosecutors agree to new DNA testing of crime scene evidence
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2022 8:29 AM CST
Adnan Syed Catches a Break
In this Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing.   (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

(Newser) – Adnan Syed would have been released from prison this year if he'd admitted guilt in the killing of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, when Syed was 17. Now 40, he remains holed up in a Maryland prison serving life, though he's pushing for a sentence reduction that won't require him to admit to a crime he says he didn't commit. Prosecutors have agreed to a request from Syed—whose case was chronicled in the popular Serial podcast and later in a four-part HBO documentary series—for new forensic testing of evidence found on or near Lee's body due to advances in genetic profiling, the New York Times reports.

A judge ordered a new trial in 2016 on arguments that Syed's initial defense lawyer failed to call an alibi witness. That decision was upheld by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2018 but overturned by Maryland's highest court a year later. That was after Syed's DNA failed to turn up in an analysis of various items from the scene in Baltimore's Leakin Park, where Lee's body was found, including fingernail clippings, a rope, and a condom wrapper, per the Baltimore Sun. His lawyers said that was proof he didn't strangle and bury Lee, but state prosecutors disagreed. The Supreme Court has declined to hear the case, though Syed has requested a sentence modification under the Juvenile Restoration Act.

"In the process of reviewing this case for a possible resentencing, it became clear that additional forensic testing—which was not available at the time of the original investigation and trial in this case—would be an appropriate avenue to pursue," said Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Experts will look for DNA on "Lee's clothing and shoes, as well as hairs recovered around her body and other pieces of evidence not specified," per the Sun. Syed's lawyer Erica J. Suter argues the absence of Syed's DNA would call into question the prosecution's theory of the murder. "We are eager to finally have access to the forensic tools to establish Mr. Syed's innocence," she says, per the Times. (Read more Adnan Syed stories.)

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