Baltimore prosecutors on Tuesday dropped all charges against Adnan Syed, the man who spent over two decades behind bars for the killing of his ex-girlfriend and whose murder case was featured in the landmark podcast “Serial.”
The charges were dropped at a virtual hearing Tuesday morning, according to Emily Witty, public information officer for Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.
The decision to drop charges comes 23 years after the disappearance of Hae Min Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend and high school classmate. Her strangled body was discovered in a city forest three weeks later.
Syed, who was 17 at the time of her death, was charged with her killing, convicted in 2000 of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment and sentenced to life in prison.
Yet he has long maintained his innocence, and his story was featured in the “Serial” podcast that raised questions about the conviction and his legal representation. The podcast reached a huge audience and set off a true-crime podcasting boom as well as further examinations of the case, including the HBO docuseries, “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”
Last month, prosecutors without warning filed a motion to vacate Syed’s murder conviction following a nearly yearlong investigation. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said prosecutors were “not asserting, at this time, that Mr. Syed is innocent” but that the state “lacks confidence in the integrity of the conviction” and that Syed should get a new trial.
The reinvestigation of the case revealed evidence about the possible involvement of two suspects other than Syed that was not properly turned over to defense attorneys, prosecutors said. The reinvestigation also raised questions about the reliability of cell phone data records, which were used to corroborate testimony of a witness who said he helped Syed dig a hole for the victim’s body.
Based on the prosecution’s motion, a judge last month vacated the conviction and freed Syed, who walked out of the courthouse to cheers and applause from supporters. He was ordered to wear an ankle monitor with tracking, according to Becky Feldman, chief of the Sentencing Review Unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors had 30 days to decide whether to pursue a new trial and were waiting on DNA analysis to determine their next steps.
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