For several years, the general public has been invested in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee. In addition to being featured on the first season of the podcast “Serial” in 2014, HBO premiered the documentary, The Case Against Adnan Syed, in March 2019.
According to an HBO press release from June 2018, the four-hour special presented “new discoveries, as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case” and featured “exclusive access to Syed, the defense team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of Hae Min Lee and Adnan Syed, and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement.” Despite the crime happening over two decades ago, there have been new developments in the case in recent years. Keep scrolling to find out everything we know.
Who Is Adnan Syed?
Adnan Syed was a teenager from Baltimore, Maryland who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
Lee, who was last seen at school, went missing on January 13, 1999, right before a snowstorm. A month later, the 18-year-old’s body was found in Leakin Park in Baltimore and Syed, 17 at the time, became the prime suspect. Though he has maintained his innocence ever since, he was found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment and sentenced to life in 2000. A decade and a half later, in 2016, the Baltimore Sun reported that his conviction had been vacated and he would be granted a new trial based on his previous counsel’s failure to enter introduce certain pieces of evidence at his first trial. In March 2018, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld that ruling, but the Baltimore Sun says that Maryland’s highest court overturned it on March 8, 2019, which meant that he wouldn’t be getting a new trial after all. At that point, he had been in prison for over 20 years.
However, on September 19, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered that Syed’s conviction be vacated less than a week after Baltimore prosecutors filed a motion that supported Syed receiving a new trial. Judge Phinn also approved the release of Syed, who is now 41 years old, Associated Press reported.
How Did Adnan Syed Become Infamous?
In 2014, Syed’s case was covered on the first season of “Serial” a true crime podcast hosted by Sarah Koenig. Throughout the episodes, the host introduced listeners to Syed and the mystery of whether or not he was innocent. By the end of the series, she didn’t share a clear opinion either way, but she did reveal that the case against him didn’t seem like it should’ve been enough to convict him of the murder. The evidence that she helped to uncover and publicize included both an alibi and cell tower records that directly contradict the prosecution’s narrative of the crime. The podcast raised enough questions about Syed’s guilt that it set him on the path for a new trial — and changed the landscape of podcasts and media.
What Other Podcasts Has Adnan Syed’s Case Been Featured On?
“Serial” didn’t just inspire a whole explosion of true crime podcasts, it also generated an insane amount of interest in Syed himself. On “Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed,” they picked up where “Serial” had left off, shining light on information that hadn’t been covered by Koenig and that they believe definitively proved the innocence of the now 30-something. “Truth & Justice” also looked into Syed and Hae’s story in their first season, and “True Crime Obsessed” reexamined it in a series for their paid supporters. “Crime Writers On” has discussed Syed’s story and updates in his case in several episodes. On “Crime Junkie,” they dedicated a whole episode titled “ADNAN: What ‘Serial’ Didn’t Tell You,” to the case. Syed’s story has also now been featured in investigative and news coverage, including the HBO doc.
Who Killed Hae Min Lee?
Though Syed is still the main suspect in the case, podcasts and media investigations have pointed to a few other suspects. Jay Wilds, the man who claims to have been Syed’s accomplice and was the star witness for the prosecution in the case against him, is one target of much suspicion. Fans of “Serial” also suggest that a man named Don, Hae’s boyfriend at the time she went missing, was not as heavily investigated for the crime as he should have been. And further Internet sleuths have uncovered Roy S. Davis as a possibility, who was charged in 2003 with the sexual assault and murder of Jada Danita Lambert, another Baltimore 18-year-old whose bod in May 1998.
Who is Rabia Chaudry?
Rabia Chaudry is an attorney and author who helped bring national attention to Syed’s case. A childhood friend of his, she’s been involved with his story since the beginning — and she was the one who first introduced the case to Koenig for “Serial.” She’s also one of the Undisclosed hosts and has written several other articles on the subject, as well as her own book, Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial, which was published in 2016. She’s been a driving force behind getting media attention for Syed and hopefully helping him to be found not guilty of the crime.
“Adnan is my younger brother’s best friend and like a brother to me as well,” she wrote for The Guardian in 2016. “One way or the other Adnan is likely to come home soon, but I’ll continue to work with investigators until we make it clear to the world that he is innocent of this terrible crime. And then we must all challenge the state to reopen the investigation into the murder of Hae Min Lee.”
My book "Adnan's Story" is now available for preorder in paperback w a new afterword. It's a NY Times bestseller and is critically acclaimed, w starred reviews in @PublishersWkly & @KirkusReviews. Read it before the new HBO documentary airs!#FreeAdnan https://t.co/Lp5Yjdv9GR pic.twitter.com/W0wmtrvneh
— rabia O'chaudry (@rabiasquared) February 12, 2019
Will Adnan Syed Get Another Trial?
In September 2022, prosecutors in Baltimore asked a judge to vacate Syed’s conviction for the murder. They also asked for a new trial.
The new motion claims that prosecutors on the original case knew there was another suspect who threatened to kill Lee. The legal team allegedly neglected to disclose the information to defense attorneys.
Shockingly, on September 19, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered that Syed’s conviction be vacated and approved the release of Syed.
Following a year-long investigation conducted by prosecutors and Syed’s attorney, new evidence found that other suspects either engaged in serial rape and sexual assault or attacked Lee in a vehicle, according to documents obtained In Touch. The prosecutors’ motion also claimed that the victim’s vehicle was located near a home that is associated with one of the other suspects.
The office of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby does not claim that Syed is innocent in the filing, though the motion states that the prosecutors no longer trust his conviction.
“The State’s Brady violations robbed the Defendant of information that would have bolstered his investigation and argument that someone else was responsible for the victim’s death,” Becky Feldman, chief of the state’s attorney’s office’s Sentencing Review Unit, wrote in the motion.
Syed’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Erica Suter, supported the prosecutors’ motion in her own filing.
“Given the stunning lack of reliable evidence implicating Mr. Syed, coupled with increasing evidence pointing to other suspects, this unjust conviction cannot stand,” Suter said in a statement through the public defender’s office. “Mr. Syed is grateful that this information has finally seen the light of day and looks forward to his day in court.”
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