Baltimore prosecutors have filed a motion to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, which could result in the now-42-year-old Syed — the focus of the hit true crime podcast Serial — either receiving a new trial or being released from his life prison sentence entirely.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the motion was filed on behalf of the the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office following a year-long investigation — conducted alongside the defense — that uncovered new evidence and opened the possibility that two other suspects were perhaps involved in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend.
However, prosecutors haven’t deemed Syed innocent in the killing, but instead “for all the reasons set forth below, the State no longer has confidence in the integrity of the conviction,” the motion stated. Pending further investigation, prosecutors are seeking a new trial against Syed, who would be released from prison on his own recognizance after spending more than 20 years in prison following his conviction.
Prosecutors previously alleged that Syed strangled Lee in his car after she broke up with him; Lee was later found dead in Baltimore’s Leakin Park. Syed maintained his innocence in the Serial podcast in 2014, where it was also revealed that a witness who saw Syed at the school library at the time of Lee’s disappearance seemingly corroborated his version of the events.
That witness’ account was not called to the stand at Syed’s murder trial, resulting in numerous appeals where Syed asked for a new trial because his previous lawyer failed to provide him with competent representation. (She has since died.) Syed was twice granted a new trial following Serial, only to have the state supreme court uphold the murder trial conviction; the U.S. Supreme Court also declined to review the case.
However, new advances in DNA forensic testing allowed investigators to reexamine blood and fingernail evidence; none of the samples tested as a positive match to Syed, CBS News reports.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the two unnamed suspects in Lee’s killing were previously known to authorities during the initial investigation and not properly ruled out. In the over 20 years since Lee’s death, additional information has emerged, including the fact that Lee’s car was later found in a grassy lot owned by one of the suspects’ relative. Additionally, one of the suspects was accused and convicted of rape and sexual assault following Syed’s conviction.
While neither suspect has been charged in Lee’s murder, their mere existence is grounds for at least a new trial. “This information was not available to the Defendant in his trial in 2000, and the State believes it would have provided persuasive support substantiating the defense that another person was responsible for the victim’s death,” prosecutors said in the filing.
“After reviewing the evidence and the new information about alternative suspects, it is our duty to ensure that justice is done,” Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Wednesday. “We believe that keeping him detained as we continue to investigate the case with everything that we know now, and when we do not have confidence in results of the first trial, would be unjust.”