A Maryland court has agreed to allow an appeal in the case of Adnan Syed, a Baltimore County man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend when he was a teenager.
Syed’s case was popularized by the smash hit podcast “Serial,” created by journalists from the “This American Life” public radio broadcast. Since the podcast ended in December, Syed’s case and his efforts to contest his conviction have continued on.
The decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which was filed Friday, allows Syed’s lawyers to move forward with the appeals process. In January 2014, a Baltimore circuit court denied Syed’s petition for post-conviction relief on the grounds that his attorney at the time, Christina Gutierrez, had been ineffective. This decision allows him to appeal that denial.
“I’m excited about it,” said C. Justin Brown, Syed’s attorney. “I think that it shows that the court is interested in the issues that we raised. If they weren’t interested in them they wouldn’t have granted the [application for leave to appeal].”
“We look forward to arguing in front of the panel and we view this as a step in the right direction in our efforts to get a new trial for Mr. Syed,” he added. Brown said he has not yet spoken to Syed about the ruling.
New evidence in the case could be brought to the surface, thanks in part to the popularity of the radio show.
A former classmate, Asia McClain, says she can provide an alibi for Syed at the time of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. McClain, who did not testify at Syed’s 2000 trial, has said that she would be willing to testify in the case if subpoenaed.
McClain, who attended Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County with Syed, claims in letters that she wrote him in 1999 while he was in jail, and in a new affidavit filed in January, that she remembered speaking to Syed at the public library next to their school at the time prosecutors said Lee was being slain.
The court’s decision left open the possibility that new evidence might be allowed to be introduced in the case. In a highly unusual step, the court said that another three judge panel will address the issue of whether McClain’s testimony will be admitted.
After McClain indicated that she was willing to testify, Syed’s lawyers filed a supplement to their original appeal, requesting, in part, that the case be moved to a circuit court so that they can call McClain as a witness. The state requested that the court strike that request.
The special appeals court’s Friday decision denied the state’s request and said a panel of judges will consider the request from Syed’s lawyers to admit new testimony along with his appeal.
“Adnan Syed has a due process right to fairness, and we are encouraging them and asking them to let her testify,” Brown said.
CORRECTION: This post initially described the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decision as overturning an earlier circuit court decision denying Syed’s petition for post-conviction relief. In fact it allowed Syed to appeal the circuit court’s denial.
[This post has been updated and corrected.]