Serial podcast Adnan Syed ‘freed’ 22 years later: Who is Adnan Syed? What is the Serial Podcast? Why was he freed?

A US judge ordered the release of Adnan Syed, a man convicted in 2000 for the murder of Hae Min Lee in a case that was documented in the popular podcast ‘Serial’. Here’s what you need to know.

Adnan Syed is the man who was convicted for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999 - her body was found buried in a Baltimore park.
Adnan Syed is the man who was convicted for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999 - her body was found buried in a Baltimore park.

A Baltimore judge vacated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed on Monday, overturning the charge for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, Syed’s 18-year-old high school girlfriend at the time.

Adnan Syed, now 41, was serving a prison sentence of life plus 30 years. Now, 22 years later, he is walking away under home detention.

This came after a true crime podcast breathed new life into his defence decades later, offering new insight that could lead to his freedom.

So, who is Adnan Syed, what was the podcast Serial that questioned his conviction, and what was his case all about?

Who is Adnan Syed?

Adnan Syed was a student of Woodlawn High School in 1999 where he - along with his girlfriend Hae Min Lee - attended classes together before her disappearance after school one day.

Her body would later be found buried in a Baltimore park.

Sarah Koenig is the the host and executive producer of the podcast Serial, a popular show that was instrumental in sparking deeper investigation into Adnan Syed's murder case.

After six weeks, 17-year-old Syed was arrested for the murder of Hae Min Lee and faced his murder trial that same year.

His first trial ended in a mistrial, however when he returned to court in 2000 the jury found him guilty of strangling the high school senior.

Syed was then sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison despite maintaining that he was innocent every step of the way.

Now, at 41 years of age, he ‘walked free’ on Monday for the first time after over two decades behind bars.

Why was Adnan Syed released?

After several failed attempts to free Adnan Syed were made over recent years, prosecutors filed a motion last week that explained how an investigation with the defence uncovered new evidence.

Assistant State Attorney, Becky Feldman, explained in detail to Judge Melissa Phinn the new information that contradicted the conviction made in 1999; this included unreliable witness testimony and flawed mobile phone data.

This investigation also produced new data regarding two other suspects, of whom the detectives were aware of during the time of the original investigation. Prosecutors said they were improperly ruled out and not revealed to the defence.

Adnan Syed only ‘walked free’ after Judge Phinn ruled that the legal obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence was violated.

Syed’s campaign for proper justice was also supported by the ‘Serial’ crime podcast which “cast doubts over the conviction” regarding the case’s evidence, spurring wider investigations.

What is the Serial Podcast?

Serial is the 2014 true-crime series which was pioneered by Sarah Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun news reporter and longtime radio producer.

Koenig spent over a year investigating Adnan Syed’s murder case and meticulously detailed her findings in hours-long podcasts.

Serial, which spanned multiple seasons, was listened to by millions of people and effectively cast doubt over the evidence the prosecutors had used against Syed during his case.

By 2018, episodes of the podcast had been downloaded approximately 350 million times.

Its success inspired other media investigations such as the book ‘Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial’ and the podcast ‘Undisclosed’ which eventually led to the reopening of Syed’s case.

What happens to Adnan Syed now?

Judge Phinn ordered on Monday that Adnan Syed shall be placed under home detention with GPS monitoring.

According to her ruling, the state must decide whether to dismiss the case or seek a new trial date within 30 days.

Marilyn Mosby, State Attorney for Baltimore, said that investigators were awaiting results from DNA analyses before confirming whether or not they would seek a new trial date for Syed to “certify his innocence.”

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