WASHINGTON – The subject of the popular podcast "Serial" will be allowed to appeal his murder conviction, a Maryland court has ruled, a development that gives the man his best chance at a new trial or a change to his life sentence.
Adnan Syed, 34, was convicted in 2000 of strangling his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, the year prior, when both were high school students in suburban Baltimore. "Serial" examined the case in detail and raised questions about Syed's guilt and whether he received a fair trial.
Syed argues that the attorney who represented him ignored his requests to negotiate a plea deal. He also claims she failed to interview a witness who could have provided him with an alibi.
Prosecutors have argued that Syed was never offered a plea deal and that there was no evidence beyond his own post-conviction testimony that attorney Cristina Gutierrez failed him. Gutierrez was disbarred in 2001 and died in 2004.
On Friday, Maryland's second-highest court, the Court of Special Appeals, granted Syed's application for leave of appeal. That means both sides will file briefs, and the court will hear oral arguments in June.
Syed's attorney, Justin Brown, said it's historically difficult to persuade the court to hear such cases.
"If they had said no, that would have been it," Brown said Saturday. "There would have been this incredible finality to it. But now the door's open."
Prosecutors argued that Syed became inconsolably jealous after Lee began dating someone else. There were no eyewitnesses to her slaying, but a former classmate testified that he helped Syed dispose of Lee's body, which was found in a shallow grave in a Baltimore park a month after she was killed.
Syed is serving his life sentence at a prison in western Maryland.