Appeals court refuses to intervene in ‘Serial’ ruling

A Maryland appeals court refused on Wednesday to intervene in a lower court’s decision to free a man who served over 20 years in prison for the killing of a high school student, a case chronicled by the groundbreaking “Serial” podcast.

The state Court of Special Appeals issued its order a day after prosecutors dropped charges against Adnan Syed in the 1999 killing of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee.

Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ruled last month that the state had violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have bolstered Syed’s defense. Phinn ordered Syed’s release from prison and gave prosecutors 30 days to decide whether to retry him or drop the charges.

Lee’s family asked the Court of Special Appeals — Maryland’s intermediate appellate court — to halt the case and suspend the deadline that Phinn set for prosecutors to decide whether to drop the charges. They argued that they didn’t get adequate notice of the hearing at which Phinn ruled. A lawyer for Lee’s family said they wanted the judge to hold another hearing that they could attend in person and address the court.

But a three-judge panel from the appeals court rejected the family’s request in a two-page order. The panel gave Lee’s family 15 days to argue why their appeal isn’t moot given that the case against Syed has been dropped.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office announced on Tuesday that additional DNA testing excluded Syed as a suspect in Lee’s killing. Syed was released from prison on home detention with GPS location monitoring, but those restrictions were lifted on Tuesday.

Syed was convicted of strangling Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park. Syed and Lee were students at a Baltimore County high school. Syed has always maintained his innocence.

The first season of the popular “Serial” podcast focused on the 18-year-old woman’s killing and raised doubts about some of the evidence prosecutors had used to secure Syed’s conviction. The podcast attracted millions of listeners.

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