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The Maryland Supreme Court this week said it would review the case of Adnan Syed, who had charges dropped against him in October after spending more than 20 years in prison for the murder of his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
After being released from prison and having his conviction vacated in September, Syed abruptly had his conviction reinstated after Young Lee, the victim’s brother, argued that he and his family weren’t properly notified of the September 19, 2022, hearing that resulted in Syed’s release and only received an email about the hearing three days before it took place. Young Lee told NBC News that he was not able to travel to Maryland on such short notice as he lived and worked in California. In February, the Lee family asked an appellate court to reinstate the murder conviction against Syed.
That appellate court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that a lower court had violated the victim’s family’s right to attend a critical hearing about vacating Syed’s conviction, The Washington Post reported. The appellate court ordered the hearing be held again, which “results in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence,” the court wrote.
The Maryland Supreme Court will now review the appellate panel’s decision, The Washington Post reported.
“We respect and we honor the fact that Hae’s family suffers so much, and we just wished that they could get the answers that they can have,” Syed told the outlet. “We just hope that the court also recognizes that our family suffers, too.”
An attorney for Syed, Erica Suter, also stated that Lee’s family didn’t have the right to play any kind of active role in the hearing that led to Syed’s release.
“What the victim has is a right of information and a right to not be caught off-guard as to what is happening,” Suter told judges. “This is not an environment in which their impact should be influencing the court’s decision.”
Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn decided to overturn Syed’s murder conviction in September after the popular “Serial” podcast raised doubts about his guilt. Prosecutors had revealed there were other suspects, as well as concerns about the evidence used against him. A year-long investigation involving prosecutors and Suter, Syed’s attorney, discovered that authorities knew of at least one alternate suspect prior to Syed’s trial but withheld the information from his defense. This, the prosecutors and Suter argued, was known as a Brady violation.
Hae Min Lee was 18 years old when she was found strangled to death and buried in Leakin Park near Baltimore, Maryland, the Sun reported. Syed, Lee’s ex-boyfriend who was 17 at the time of her killing, allegedly argued with her in a car before strangling her to death. Prosecutors alleged Syed committed the murder because he couldn’t handle Lee breaking up with him.
Syed, however, has always maintained his innocence, and his attorney argued that he may not have spent 23 years in prison if prosecutors hadn’t withheld evidence.
“If that evidence had been disclosed, perhaps Adnan would not have missed his high school graduation, or his pre-med plans, or 23 years of birthdays, holidays, family gatherings, community events, and everyday moments of joy,” Suter said.
The appellate court panel ruled that its decision wouldn’t go into effect for 60 days to allow both parties “time to assess how to proceed in response to this Court’s decision.”