The family of a murder victim wants the conviction reinstated against the man previously believed to have committed the crime, NBC News reported Thursday.
Adnan Syed was released from prison in September 2022 and eventually had all charges against him relating to the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, dropped.
But now, Lee’s family is asking appellate judges to reinstate the murder conviction against Syed, arguing that their rights were ignored when Syed was released after 23 years in prison. Lee’s death and Syed’s subsequent conviction were the subject of the popular “Serial” podcast’s first season, which raised doubts about Syed’s guilt and helped lead to his release.
Now, Lee’s family have argued that they 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. Lee’s brother, Young, told NBC News that he was not able to travel to Maryland with such short notice, as he lived and worked in California. On Thursday, the Lee family asked an appellate court to reinstate the murder conviction against Syed.
Syed told NBC that while he sympathizes with the family of the victim, his murder conviction shouldn’t be reinstated.
“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 yearlong 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.
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, was alleged to have 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.