'Serial': Maryland Attorney General Appeals Adnan Syed Retrial

State argues new cell phone evidence does not deter from 2000 conviction

The Maryland Attorney General's Office appealed the ruling that vacated Serial subject Adnan Syed's conviction and granted his petition for a retrial. Credit: Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Attorney General's Office formally appealed the ruling that vacated Serial subject Adnan Syed's conviction and granted his petition for a new trial. In an appeal filed on Monday, the Attorney General's Office stated that the judge overseeing Syed's appeal should not have allowed new arguments based around recently unearthed cell phone evidence, the Baltimore Sun reports.

"Maryland's courts have imposed few limits on what qualifies as in the 'interests of justice,' but limits remains," Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah wrote in the appeal. Vignarajah also argued that Syed should not be granted a new trial "because the prosecution presented to a jury of his peers overwhelming evidence of him strangling and burying in a shallow grave his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee."

In June, the charges against Syed, who was convicted on murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, were vacated after the judge overseeing his appeal granted Syed a new trial in light of new evidence. Syed was convicted of first degree murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment and robbery in 2000. He was sentenced to life in prison. Despite the vacated charges, Syed remains behind bars pending the retrial.

As part of the retrial, Judge Martin Welch ordered that the testimony of Asia McClain, a classmate of Syed's who played a prominent role and possible alibi on the podcast, be re-transmitted to the Maryland Court of Appeal. McClain claims she spoke with Syed inside a school library at the time prosecutors' claimed he committed the crime.

The Attorney General's Office also downplayed the importance of a fax cover sheet to cell phone records used as evidence in the initial trial; while the cell phone technician who testified in Syed's murder trial admitted the cover sheet gave him concerns about testimony, an FBI phone expert said the analysis of the cell phone records remains unchanged despite the cover letter.

"There is no consensus among experts in the forensic community that Syed's interpretation of the fax cover sheet is valid," Vignarajah wrote in his appeal, adding that a retrial shouldn't take place because "no new evidence, no change in law, no material link to the original justification for remand, and no reason why the claim could not have been raised at numerous prior proceedings."