When the world first heard of the Serial podcast from over a year ago, everyone became fascinated with the story of a young man from Baltimore by the name of Adnan Syed. He was convicted in Baltimore of strangling and killing his girlfriend at the time, Hae Min Lee, in 1999. The conviction held through many appeals, despite the lack of concrete evidence that pointed to Syed as the killer. Witness testimonies appeared unreliable and physical evidence was lacking, but his conviction still went through and survived through countless appeals.
But now it seems that new evidence has changed the situation for everyone involved with the Hae Min Lee murder case. Adnan Syed has had his conviction vacated, while he is said to stand trial for the assassination a second time. It is important to note that Syed has been in prison ever since 1999, serving a life sentence. So even if he is found innocent or set free after his second trial, he will have served 17 years in prison for the crime, whether he committed it or not.
The Serial podcast became a revelation more than a year ago when people became aware of the story that was crafted by the “This American Life” team at NPR. One of the reasons everyone loved the story is because it seemed like a genuine mystery that had not been solved to this day. Even though Adnan Syed was sitting in prison for the murder, many people believed that the evidence against him did not make enough sense to warrant a conviction.
One of the key pieces of data that put Syed in the location where the body of Hae Min Lee was found is now being called into question. When the first trial took place, records from cell towers showed that Syed made and received calls that pinged him to the location where Lee’s body was found a few days later.
But his defense team at the time believed that the cell tower evidence was unreliable. Despite the belief in Syed’s innocence, many stated that his attorney at the time did not do an excellent job cross-examining witnesses. A judge in Baltimore has now said that his lawyer was negligent because she did not cross-examine a witness who was a cell tower expert. The witness could have provided some insight into the unreliability of cell tower data during those years, but his lawyer never bothered to ask the right questions.