Adnan Syed asks Maryland Supreme Court to review reinstated murder conviction

Posted at 2:54 PM, May 24, 2023 and last updated 2:54 PM, May 24, 2023

By: Ryan Dickstein

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Scripps News Baltimore) — Attorneys for Adnan Syed are asking the Supreme Court of Maryland to review an appellate ruling last month reinstating his murder conviction.

Adnan Syed gets emotional as he speaks to reporters

FILE – Adnan Syed gets emotional as he speaks to reporters outside the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal building after a hearing, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, in Annapolis, Md. A Maryland court did not give the family of the murder victim in the case chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial” enough time to attend a court hearing in person that led to Syed’s release, a Maryland appellate court ruled Tuesday, March 28, and it ordered a new hearing to be held. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)

Syed’s defense team argues the Appellate Court of Maryland’s decision was based on a procedural error that would not have impacted the outcome of a hearing before a lower court.

The hearing in question was held back in September in Baltimore City Circuit Court at the request of then-City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Her office asked a judge there to vacate Syed’s conviction and sentence based on newly uncovered evidence which they say put his guilt into doubt.

That judge approved Mosby’s request and freed Syed, who had been sentenced to life in prison for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.

Her brother, Young Lee, claims to have only been given one business day’s notice about the hearing. He wanted to attend in person but was unable to make it due to living in California.

The circuit judge declined Lee’s request to delay the hearing, instead allowing him to appear on Zoom.

Lee filed an appeal, claiming his rights were violated by the lack of notice and being denied a chance to appear in person.

MORE: Maryland Court of Appeals reinstates Adnan Syed’s murder conviction

The Appellate Court for those reasons sided with Lee, ordering a new vacatur hearing in City Circuit Court.

As a result, the appellate judges reinstated Syed’s conviction and sentence but did not order him back to jail.

In their latest appeal, Syed’s defense team is asking the state’s highest court to consider the following four questions.

  1. Whether [Mosby’s] decision to dismiss charges against Syed made the appellate challenge moot?
  2. Whether Zoom attendance satisfied [Young Lee’s] right to attend the hearing?
  3. Whether the notice of the hearing was sufficient given the ability to attend virtually?
  4. Whether [conviction reinstatement] is appropriate without showing the result of the vacatur hearing would have been different?

The first three questions were addressed in the appellate court’s ruling reinstating Syed’s conviction.
“The State’s entry of a nolle prosequi did not render Mr. Lee’s appeal moot under the circumstances of this case,” the March 28 opinion stated in part. “Allowing a victim entitled to attend a court proceeding to attend in person, when the victim makes that request and all other persons involved in the hearing appear in person, is consistent with the constitutional requirement that victims be treated with dignity and respect.”

The panel of judges declined to reconsider their opinion based on the fourth question, however, they denied Lee’s motion to challenge new evidence the state claims to have that clears Syed of his sister’s murder. To that end, the appellate court ordered the circuit judge to allow Lee’s impact statement to be given in person and for the new evidence to actually be presented by the state and heard before a ruling is made on the case.

“We remand for a new, legally compliant, transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision.”

Read the full appellate court decision here.

This story was originally published on May 24, 2023, by WMAR in Baltimore, an E.W. Scripps Company.