An American at the heart of the “Serial” podcast released after 23 years in prison

He was once again presumed innocent. A US judge on Monday overturned the conviction of an American jailed for 23 years for a murder he has always denied, a case at the heart of a worldwide hit podcast. Serial.

Adnan Syed, 42, was sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, on the east coast of the United States. In an unexpected twist, city prosecutor Marilyn Mosby filed a motion last week to set aside the verdict, saying she had doubts about Adnan’s guilt. Syed, and asked to release him. He explained that he discovered the existence of “two alternative suspects”, important information that was poorly exploited at the time and which, above all, had not been communicated to the defense before the trial.

On Monday, a judge overruled the prosecutor’s request, during a hearing in a crowded courtroom in Baltimore. “In the interests of justice and fairness, the motion is granted and the defendant will be released” and equipped with an electronic bracelet, Judge Melissa Phinn said. The agents removed Adnan Syed’s handcuffs, while part of the room applauded before being called to order. Full beard, and head covered with a hat, he showed no reaction.

“He has a hard time believing this is true” and “now wants to spend time with his family”, his lawyer Erica Suter told the court, as his client hurriedly got into a car without done.

30 days to request a new trial or drop the charges

Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby insisted that justice “has not yet declared Adnan Syed innocent” and that she would await the results of further DNA analysis before deciding whether to drop the charges against him or organize a trial. new test.

He has 30 days to do it. Regardless of his decision, he promised to continue the investigation “to make sure that Hae Min Lee’s family knows the reason for sure”.

During the trial, the young woman’s brother, Young Lee, took the floor by phone to explain his grief. Saying that he “lives in a nightmare that never ends”, he confides in feeling “deceived” by the prosecutors who continued for years to maintain good cause, before finally changing his mind .


The case began in February 1999, when police found the body of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee half-buried in the woods in Baltimore. Arrested at the age of 17, Adnan Syed was sentenced to life imprisonment a year later. According to the prosecution, he did not support that the woman left him for someone else and strangled him. He has always proclaimed his innocence, claiming to be a victim of anti-Muslim prejudice.

In 2014, a group of journalists conducted a counter-investigation, told in twelve episodes of the first season of Serial. A precursor to the era of podcasts, this radio soap opera, according to its producers, has been downloaded more than 300 million times. It also inspired an HBO documentary.


The investigation of reporters from “Serial” showed that Adnan Syed’s lawyer ignored a mobile phone skill favorable to the accused, as well as the testimony of a girl who offered him a potential alibi.

Their work led to the reopening of the case and, in March 2018, the Maryland appeals court ordered a new trial, finding that the lawyer provided “ineffective assistance” to his client.

In March 2019, the Supreme Court of Maryland recognized that the lawyer made a mistake in not presenting certain elements, but estimated that “given the total evidence”, the verdict would not have been different if he had included them. So he denied the organization a new trial.

Adnan Syed’s defense then turned to the United States Supreme Court. In 2019, he refused to intervene, seemingly ending his hopes of release. But the Baltimore prosecutor, with a service dedicated to correcting miscarriages of justice, reopened the file, which ultimately led to this latest judicial change.

A new episode of Serial will air on Tuesday morning, the podcast announced on his Twitter account on Monday.

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