Adnan Syed of 'Serial' Podcast Out of Prison After Judge Vacates Murder Conviction

Syed long said he was innocent in the murder of former girlfriend Hae Min Lee. A new episode of the podcast is out.

Imad Khan Senior Reporter
Imad is a senior reporter covering Google and internet culture. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with The New York Times, The Washington Post, ESPN, Tom's Guide and Wired, among others.
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Imad Khan
3 min read

Adnan Syed in handcuffs in 2016.

Baltimore Sun/Getty Images

Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the blockbuster Serial podcast, was released from prison on Monday after a judge vacated his 2000 conviction for the murder of former high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Syed, 41, had been serving a life sentence and has maintained his innocence throughout his 23 years behind bars. 

The court concluded that the trial was flawed because the state failed to disclose key evidence. Prosecutors failed to properly turn over evidence that could have allowed for "substantial and significant probability that the result would have been different," Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn said, according to NBC News.

In Phinn's ruling, the judge vacated the murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment convictions against Syed, and the judge ordered him released without bail, NBC News said. Last week, prosecutors asked that the conviction be vacated and a new trial be set. Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide whether to move forward with a new trial or drop the charges.

Syed was flung into national prominence when he became the subject of the first season of Serial in 2014. The podcast unearthed the case, dug into key details and called into question the case that prosecutors made against Syed. The podcast was downloaded more than 100 million times and won a Peabody Award. It also led to a 2019 four-part documentary series on HBO titled The Case Against Adnan Syed

Following Phinn's ruling, the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City said in a press release that "Judge Phinn's motion acknowledges that the State has proven that there was a Brady violation in Mr. Syed's case and that new evidence has come to light." The Brady rule requires prosecutors to disclose certain evidence to the defense. 

"Mr. Syed deserves a new trial where he can be adequately represented and the latest evidence can be presented," the State's Attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, said in the release. During a reinvestigation of the case, evidence was revealed "regarding the possible involvement of two alternative suspects," according to the release. 

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh also released a statement after the ruling, pushing back against the Baltimore prosecutors. "Among the other serious problems with the motion to vacate, the allegations related to Brady violations are incorrect," the statement said. "Neither State's Attorney Mosby nor anyone from her office bothered to consult with either the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case or with anyone in my office regarding these alleged violations. The file in this case was made available on several occasions to the defense."

Syed attorney Erica Suter spoke of both Syed and the victim's family. When evidence isn't disclosed as it should be, Suter said, "the result can be that innocent people, like Adnan, lose decades of their lives for crimes they did not commit. Equally tragic, the family of the victim in this case, Hae Min Lee, recently had to learn that justice, in fact, has not yet been done for their daughter."

Serial host Sarah Koenig attended court Monday to see the conviction vacated. On Tuesday, a new episode of the podcast was published about the latest turn of events.

The new episode of Serial is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcasting services.