Convicted killer featured on popular podcast gets boost in bid for new trial

A convicted murderer whose case was featured on a popular podcast last year received a boost in his bid for a new trial Monday when a Maryland state appeals court ruled that a lower court should consider hearing from an alibi witness who would testify on his behalf.

Adnan Syed, 34, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of of his former high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals remands Syed's appeal to a lower court so the testimony of witness Asia McClain can be added to the record.

McClain said in an affidavit that she was in a library with Syed when Lee was killed on Jan. 13, 1999.

Syed's case received national attention last year when it became the subject of the weekly podcast "Serial," hosted by "This American Life" contributor and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig. Koenig's podcast re-examined the case and raised particular questions about Syed's defense attorney, the late Cristina Gutierrez.

Syed's current attorney, Justin Brown, asked for a new trial based on the fact that Gutierrez never called McClain as a witness and did not seek a plea deal for Syed despite his request that she inquire about the possibility. Additionally, in her affidavit, McClain said she was actively discouraged by prosecutors from attending any post-conviction hearings.

The appeals court's order does not guarantee McClain will be allowed to testify. Instead, it states that Syed may file a request with the Baltimore Circuit Court to reopen proceedings to "supplement the record with relevant documents and even testimony" that the appeals court will later review as it makes a determination about whether Syed deserves a new trial.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Syed's legal team has 45 days to file the request in Baltimore Circuit Court, which denied Syed a new trial last year. Oral arguments appealing that ruling before the Court of Special Appeals have been scheduled for next month.

"This is another big step in the right direction, and it brings us closer to our ultimate goal of getting a new trial for Adnan Syed," Brown said.

McClain's attorney, Gary Proctor, said "if subpoenaed by either party, Ms. McClain, as she's always wanted to do, will fulfill her obligation to testify truthfully to any question asked of her."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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