Family of murdered teen blast state attorney for Adnan Syed release

Family of Adnan Syed’s murdered girlfriend blast prosecutors for not giving ‘reasonable notice’ Serial star would be freed after 20 years – and say they’re desperate to know the truth

  • Adnan Syed was convicted in 2000 of strangling ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, 18, and burying her body in a shallow grave in Baltimore’s Leakin Park 
  • On Monday Syed was released after his conviction was vacated: he could face a new trial, but remains free until prosecutors decide their next steps
  • The Lee family on Wednesday accused the state attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, of failing to give them sufficient notice of the hearing
  • Their lawyer said ‘they were denied the reasonable notice that would have permitted them to have a meaningful voice in the proceedings’
  • The Lee family added that ‘no one has wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family’ 

The family of the 18-year-old whose murder sparked the hit podcast Serial has condemned the Baltimore City state attorney for failing to warn them her accused killer would be freed.

Adnan Syed, now 41, had his 2000 conviction for murdering Hae Min Lee vacated on Monday.

Lee’s family, through their lawyer, criticized the state attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, for failing to give them sufficient warning of Monday’s hearing.

‘For more than 20 years, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has told the family of Hae Min Lee that their beloved daughter and sister was murdered by Adnan Syed,’ the statement read.

‘One week ago, for the first time, the family was informed that, through a year-long investigation that is apparently still ongoing, the state had uncovered new facts and would be filing a motion to vacate Mr Syed’s conviction.’

Hae Min Lee, 18, was murdered in Baltimore in 1999. The man convicted for her killing, Adnan Syed (right) was released from prison on Monday in a hearing which the Lee family said was sprung on them with little warning

Marilyn Mosby, the state attorney for Baltimore City, was accused by the Lee family of not giving them sufficient time to prepare for Monday’s hearing

Steve Kelly, an attorney representing the Lee family, added: ‘For more than 20 years, no one has wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family.

‘The Lee family is deeply disappointed that today’s hearing happened so quickly and that they were denied the reasonable notice that would have permitted them to have a meaningful voice in the proceedings.’

On Tuesday, the creator of Serial – a true-crime podcast that helped free Syed – said that she feels a mix of emotions over how long it took authorities to act on evidence that has long been available.

The local prosecutor started a unit to review sentencing and a new Maryland law relating to juvenile sentencing provided a mechanism for reexamining the case – all after the Serial podcast in 2014 turned the details of the case into an obsession for countless amateur sleuths.

Syed is pictured in a photo from the time of Lee’s murder, when he was 17

Mosby immediately applauded the judge’s decision as a victory for justice, but Syed’s win came as a bittersweet reminder to those who had been aware of the gaps in the case for years. 

In a new episode of Serial released on Tuesday, host Sarah Koenig noted that most or all of the evidence cited in prosecutors’ motion to overturn the conviction was available since 1999.

‘Yesterday, there was a lot of talk about fairness, but most of what the state put in that motion to vacate, all the actual evidence, was either known or knowable to cops and prosecutors back in 1999,’ Koenig said. 

‘So even on a day when the government publicly recognizes its own mistakes, it’s hard to feel cheered about a triumph of fairness. 

‘Because we’ve built a system that takes more than 20 years to self-correct. And that’s just this one case.’

Koenig argued that the case against Syed involved ‘just about every chronic problem’ in the system, including unreliable witness testimony and evidence that was never shared with Syed’s defense team.

On Monday, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn in Baltimore ordered Syed’s release after overturning his conviction for the 1999 murder of Lee, a high school student and Syed’s ex-girlfriend. 

Syed has always maintained his innocence but in 2019 the state’s highest court had rejected his appeal for a new trial.

Syed, center, leaves the Cummings Courthouse on Monday after a judge ordered his release

At the behest of prosecutors who said they had recently uncovered new evidence, Phinn ruled that the state violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have bolstered Syed’s defense. 

The judge said the state must decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

Mosby, who entered office in 2015, filed a motion last week to vacate Syed’s conviction, a filing that Koenig described as a ‘firework’ coming from the same office that asked a jury to convict Syed years ago.

Key to Monday’s outcome was evidence uncovered by a unit that Mosby’s office launched to reexamine cases in which juvenile defendants were given life sentences. 

That worked in tandem with a 2021 Maryland law that enables someone convicted as a juvenile to seek a reduced sentence after serving at least 20 years. 

Syed was 17 when Lee was killed.

Prosecutor Becky Feldman led the unit and found notes written by one of her predecessors describing two phone calls in which people gave them information before Syed’s trial about someone with a motive to harm Lee. 

That information was not given to the defense at the time, according prosecutors – an omission that Phinn said violated Syed’s rights.

Koenig noted that she knew who these two new potential suspects were – and so did detectives who investigated Syed two decades ago – but declined to name them because they have not been charged.

‘One of (the suspects) was investigated at the time, submitted to a couple of polygraphs. The other was investigated also, but not with much vigor, as far as I can tell,’ she said.

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