Judge orders release of ‘Serial’ podcast subject Adnan Syed

Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether to move forward with a new trial.

Jonathan Ernst / reuters

A Baltimore judge has overturned the conviction of Adnan Syed, reports The Associated Press. The 41-year-old had been serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee. In 2014, his case attracted international interest after it was chronicled by former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig in the first season of the hit podcast Serial.

Koenig spent more than a year investigating the specifics of Syed’s case, focusing in particular on the conduct of his lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez. In 2019, Maryland’s highest court found Gutierrez had failed to properly investigate an alibi witness but voted against granting Syed’s request for a retrial. However, prosecutors recently recommended that a judge grant him a new trial, noting the state had lost “confidence in the integrity of the conviction.” With Monday’s decision, the state has 30 days to decide whether to move forward with a new trial or drop the case entirely.

“This is not a podcast for me,” said Young Lee, the brother of Hae Min Lee, during Monday’s hearing. He said his family felt “betrayed” and “blindsided” by the state’s motion to vacate Syed’s conviction. “Whenever I think it's over, and it’s ended, it always comes back,” he added.

Following the decision, Serial announced it would air a new episode on Tuesday morning. In the years since its widely successful first season, Serial has produced a series of spinoffs, including S-Town and The Trojan Horse Affair. More broadly, it’s safe to say the true crime genre and podcasting more generally have never been more popular – even if the series was never quite able to replicate the success of its first season.

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