‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed Denied New Trial

Decision comes two days before debut of HBO docuseries about the case

Last Updated: March 8, 2019 @ 3:56 PM

Maryland’s Court of Appeals has reinstated “Serial” podcast subject Adnan Syed’s conviction and will not grant him a new trial. The ruling comes two days before HBO will debut its new docuseries titled “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”

According to the ruling obtained by TheWrap, the Maryland Court of Appeals stated that Syed received “deficient performance” by his defense attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, but that the evidence still pointed towards Syed’s guilt.

The ruling stated that there was not “a significant or substantial possibility that the jury would have reached a different verdict had his trial counsel presented the alibi witness.” The court reinstated the conviction by a 4-3 vote.

Syed was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. He is currently serving a life sentence. His case was subject of 2014’s “Serial” podcast by host and producer Sarah Koenig. The podcast pointed out several holes in the case and Syed’s defense.

Last year, a Maryland appeals court granted Syed a new trial, but the state appealed. In 2016, a lower court judge vacated the conviction and ruled that Syed deserved a new trial because his original attorney failed to cross-examine a key witness. Maryland prosecutors appealed the ruling, but a three-judge panel upheld the grant for a retrial.

“We agree with the conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals that Mr. Syed’s trial counsel’s performance was deficient under the Strickland v. Washington standard in failing to investigate the alibi witness,” read the ruling. “We disagree, however, with that court’s conclusion that Mr. Syed was prejudiced by his trial counsel’s deficiency.”

On Twitter, Syed’s attorney Justin Brown wrote, “We are devastated by the Court of Appeals’ decision but we will not give up on Adnan Syed. Unfortunately we live in a binary criminal justice system in which you either win or you lose. Today we lost by a 4-3 vote. Our criminal justice system is desperately in need of reform. The obstacles to getting a new trial are simply too great. There was a credible alibi witness who was with Adnan at the precise time of the murder and now the Court of Appeals has said that witness would not have affected the outcome of the proceeding. We think just the opposite is true. From the perspective of the defendant, there is no stronger evidence than an alibi witness.”

“The Case Against Adnan Syed” will debut on HBO on Sunday.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.