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Star of ‘Serial’ Podcast Files Appeal to Supreme Court

August 21, 2019 Criminal Law and Procedure

Adnan Syed, the focus of the first season of the Podcast “Serial,” was convicted of robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment and the first degree murder of Hae Min Lee in a 2000 trial in Maryland.

The two teenagers were classmates as well as ex-boyfriend and ex-girlfriend. Hae Min’s body was found partially buried in a park 1 month after her disappearance. The cause of death was strangulation. Syed has consistently maintained his innocence. Now, Syed is appealing to the United States Supreme Court, claiming he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial.  Specifically, Syed claims his lawyer did not present an alibi witness which would have helped his defense.

The Circumstantial Evidence

Investigator’s received an anonymous phone call that Syed had motive to kill Lee because he was a jilted ex-boyfriend. Syed’s friend, Jay Wilds, told investigators that he had helped Syed bury the body after Syed called him for help. In addition, prosecutors retrieved phone records from AT&T that pinged Syed’s cell phone in close proximity to the murder scene. These were the only facts that led the jury to convict Syed. There was no physical evidence that tied the defendant to the murder.

The Questions

After the conviction, experts now believe Wilds’s testimony was coerced. The interrogation tapes have long, awkward pauses between answers. Wilds’s story also changed several times making his testimony less reliable. It is also believed that Wilds was out for the reward of over $3,000 in order to buy a motorcycle.

After reviewing the AT&T phone records it became apparent that only outgoing calls are reliable for placing an individual in a specific location. Incoming phone calls are not reliable at pin pointing a location. The two phone calls that led to Syed’s conviction were incoming phone calls. So therefore, they did not indefinitely place him at the murder scene.

Syed had no history of violence, even though he was convicted on the belief that he was an angry, jealous ex-boyfriend.

The biggest piece of evidence is one that was overlooked all together. Asia McClain, who went to High School with Lee and Syed, claims she saw Syed at the High School library at the time of the murder. She did not testify at either trial.

The Trials

The first trial Syed was represented by Maria Cristina Gutierrez who is now deceased. The jury overheard the judge calling her a liar so therefore, a mistrial was declared.

Charles H. Dorsey represented Syed in his second trial. The prosecution demonized Syed’s muslim religious background to force the conviction. Kevin Urick, the Assistant State Attorney, stated Syed’s pride drove him to murder his ex-girlfriend who was dating another man at the time. After two hours of deliberation the jury convicted Syed. He was then sentenced to life in prison.

The Appeals

Syed applied for an appeal for a new trial in 2003, but was denied. In 2016 he was granted a post-conviction hearing that would allow the legal system to revisit the case. However, the Maryland Court of Appeals found no prejudice in Syed’s case. His legal team, C. Justin Brown and Catherine Stetson, have filed a petition to the Supreme Court for a new trial based on the fact that Gutierrez failed to present Syed’s alibi at trial. They claim Gutierrez provided ineffective representation. They are waiting on a decision.

ArborYpsi Law Takeaways

Syed was convicted on circumstantial evidence. The evidence does not, beyond a reasonable doubt, demonstrate that the defendant murdered Hae Min Lee. In fact, now the evidence that convicted Syed seems to be completely unreliable. In addition, his Muslim background was used again him and uncharacteristically portrayed him has a violent ex-boyfriend. Lastly, the most important and reliable witness who placed him miles away from the scene of the murder did not testify at the trials. He has every right to a new trail. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will hear his case and let him have what he is entitled to as an American – a fair, unbiased trial.

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Sam Bernstein is a Ann Arbor Criminal Defense Lawyer.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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Sam Bernstein is a criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County. He has represented clients in Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Livingston, Lenawee and Jackson County. He has practiced criminal defense in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, Saline, Plymouth, Canton, Westland, Novi, Howell, Northville, Wyandotte, Taylor, Detroit, Livonia, Warren, Southgate, Detroit, and Jackson among other Metro-Detroit cities.

If you have been charged with a felony call ArborYpsi Law. Attorney Sam Bernstein specializes in criminal defense. He has experience trying felony cases that result in favorable outcomes for his clients. ArborYpsi law represents clients charged with assault and battery, domestic assault, domestic violence, DUI’s, DWI’s, sex crimes, divorce, retail fraud, traffic tickets, expungements, drinking and driving, drug charges, shop lifting, sexual assault, rape, child abuse, and child endangerment.