Serial podcast case: Family in US appeals over decision to overturn murder case involving Adnan Syed featured in podcast

The family of a woman whose murder 22 years ago became famous through a true crime podcast series has appealed against the release of the man jailed for her death.

The case of Adnan Syed, the ex-boyfriend of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee who was convicted of her murder in 1999, was overturned last week.

The ruling allowed Mr Syed to walk free from the courtroom for the first time in his adult life. The judge said she had vacated the conviction "in the interest of fairness and justice", adding the state had failed to share evidence that could have helped his defence at trial.

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The case became known across the world when it was investigated in 2014 by podcast Serial. Producer Sarah Koenig spent months investigating the case and carrying out interviews with witnesses, raising questions as to whether Mr Syed had been given a fair trial.

Adnan Syed at a court hearing in February
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Mr Syed was last week released into home detention with an electronic tag while prosecutors, who have spent the past year reviewing evidence with Mr Syed’s legal team, decide if they will proceed with a new trial or drop the charges.

Now Ms Lee's family have appealed the decision, claiming there has been “violations” of their right to participate in the hearing.

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The notice of appeal was filed by lawyer Steven Kelly on behalf of Young Lee, the victim’s brother.

“Young Lee filed the attached notice of appeal based on violations of his family’s right to meaningfully participate in the September 19, 2022 hearing on the motion to vacate Adnan Syed’s conviction,” Mr Kelly told US media.

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“The notice of appeal is the first step in seeking the Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ review of the potential violations of Maryland’s victim’s rights statutes in connection with the hearing.”

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Mr Lee complained last week he had not had enough notice of the hearing to attend. The judge paused proceedings for half an hour to allow him to leave work and join the courtroom on a Zoom call.

“This isn’t a podcast for me, it’s real life,” Mr Lee said at the time.

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During the review, prosecutors said they had unearthed information that had not been available for Mr Syed’s defence team during the trial, saying the state "no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction”.

It turned up two "alternative suspects", who have not been named, but are said to have been known to police at the time of the initial investigation. Both, the review team reported, are said to have had “motive and/or propensity to commit this crime”.

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They also raised questions over mobile phone data used to place Mr Syed near the burial site – three miles from the high school he and Ms Lee both attended – citing a notice on the records specifically stating billing locations for incoming calls “would not be considered reliable information for location”.

Zy Richardson, spokesman for Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office, said: “We truly empathise with Hae Min Lee’s family, who believed they had resolution and are now being re-traumatised by the misdeeds of the prior prosecutors.”

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