Is Serial’s Adnan Syed about to get a retrial?

A new lawyer in Syed’s murder case is raising doubts over the quality of his original defence.

Is Serial’s Adnan Syed set for a retrial?
Not guilty? Serial raised some serious questions over Adnan Syed’s guilty verdict over 16 years ago. Image Photo Serial

As Loaded reported last week, there’s been a lot of speculation over Steven Avery’s guilty verdict in the case from Netflix’s Making A Murderer. Now, the Adnan Syed case made famous by the Serial podcast could also be set for retrial.

Any of the 120 million people who downloaded Serial will know that the series’ investigation raised serious questions about how Syed’s defence team handled his case, as well as the legitimacy of evidence used against Syed in the trial that found him guilty of murdering his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.

Syed is currently serving a life sentence plus 30 years for killing Lee in Baltimore in 1999. But it was facts highlighted in Serial that led to him being granted a post-conviction hearing last year, which crucially allows submission of new evidence.

Syed’s new defence lawyer, C. Justin Brown, will argue on Wednesday that the original murder trial violated Syed’s constitutional right to effective council. Brown will also present fresh evidence and an alibi witness who was not asked to testify in the original trial.

That witness was one of the main concerns raised in Serial. Syed’s original defence lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, didn’t call his classmate Asia McClain to the stand as a witness. McClain recalled talking to him at a library at the time he was supposed to have killed Lee.

Syed’s new lawyer will also accuse the state of Maryland of prosecutorial misconduct, after a number of questions were raised over evidence used in the original trial. One key fact unearthed by Serial presenter Sarah Koenig is that cellphone records used to place Syed’s location around the time of the murder contained a disclaimer on their accuracy, which was ignored in the case.

In the hearings, McClain – a key voice in Serial when it was broadcast in 2014 – will take to the stand for the first time. Syed, now 35, could be called to take to the stand himself to corroborate her version of events. This is something he didn’t do in the previous trial.

The state argue that Gutierrez, who died in 2004, was a “skilled and seasoned trial attorney” and filed alibi paperwork for McClain in the original case. They claim that this shows that the decision to not use her testimony was a strategic decision on Gutierrez’s part, rather than incompetence.

The second series of Serial is currently continuing. Investigating the case of whether or not US soldier Bowe Bergdahl was co-operating with the Taliban when he was captured in 2009, its episodes are being broadcast every fortnight.

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