The new hearing will be limited to just two issues: an alibi witness and the reliability of cell phone tower evidence presented during his 2000 trial. He is serving a life sentence.
“This is obviously great news for Adnan. It brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal of getting him a new trial,” said C. Justin Brown, Syed’s attorney. “What once appeared highly improbable is starting to look more and more probable.”
The Maryland attorney general’s office has argued against Syed’s requests for a new hearing, saying the claims are “meritless.” [In September], Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah said reopening the proceedings would be “inconsequential theater and not in the interest of justice.”
Now, the court will consider a 2015 affidavit from Syed’s alibi witness, Asia McClain, in which she said she remembered talking with Syed in the library at the time prosecutors said the then-teenager killed his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. McClain said she reached out to Syed about helping with his defense, but his former lawyer never contacted her.
Welch said the court may potentially consider McClain’s live testimony and the failure of Syed’s defense lawyer to contact her as a potential alibi.
The court will also take up the reliability of cellphone evidence that helped the state place Syed at one of the scenes of the crime. Welch wrote that the court will also take up Syed’s former attorney’s “alleged failure to cross-examine” the state’s cellphone expert and “potential prosecutorial misconduct during trial.”
In a sworn affidavit submitted last month, former AT&T engineer Abraham Waranowitz said he wasn’t given a disclaimer about the reliability of such data that he considered “critical” and “would have affected my testimony.”
The new hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet.