Adnan Syed, the subject behind the viral podcast Serial, is getting a new trial.
Retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch granted Syed a new trial Thursday, a result of Syed's petition for a new trial in May following new evidence that surfaced during a post-conviction hearing in January. Syed, 35, was convicted for murdering his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 2000 after her body was found buried in a shallow grave in a Baltimore park the year before. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Syed became a household name in 2014 when Serial creator and host Sarah Koenig made him the center of her true crime podcast. Syed's story captivated millions, setting new records for podcast streams and downloads. The Lego Movie creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller are also producing a television show based on Serial's first season. The success of the podcast started a nationwide movement to #FreeAdnan.
This was Syed's second attempt at getting a new trial. The first attempt, in 2014, hinged on the argument that Syed's original attorney Cristina Gutierrez failed to challenge cell-phone data that placed Syed at the scene of the crime or reach out to key witness Asia McClain Chapman, who offered an alibi for Syed at the time of the murder. Judge Welch ruled that the oversight was "reasonable trial strategy" rather than neglect, according to WBALTV.
Chapman turned out to be key to getting Syed a new trial, though, after Chapman came forward and said she wanted to testify in the 2014 hearing but was "misled and dissuaded" from doing so by prosecution. She also claims that prosecutor Kevin Urick "mischaracterized" their 2010 phone conversation, which she didn't realize until she listened to the Serial podcast.
The podcast prompted her to reach out to Syed's current attorney Justin Brown and offered to testify that she had spoken to Syed for about 15 minutes at the Woodlawn Library at the time Lee's murder was allegedly taking place. The new information helped convince Judge Welch to grant the new trial.
Information about Syed's new trial has not been yet been released.