After twenty-three years in prison, Adnan Syed, the main character of the first season of the hit podcast “Serial”, saw the beginning of freedom on Monday September 19. While dozens of people waiting for him when he left the court in Baltimore (in the northeastern United States), the man, who is now 41 years old, did not say a word, but we saw a wide grin on his face as he walked up the stairs. courthouse, to cheers, before getting into the back of a waiting car. “He said he couldn’t believe it”explained his lawyer Erica Suter.
Adnan Syed was sentenced in February 2000 to life in prison for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend, who was found dead and buried in a Baltimore park, nearly a month after her disappearance on January 13, 1999. .to kill.
Judge Melissa Phinn said she overturned the conviction “in the interest of justice and equity”. Adnan Syed was not exonerated, however, and he is not yet completely free. Prosecutors have “thirty days to decide whether to ask for a new trial or drop the charges”, explain it New York Times. Meanwhile, Mr. Syed remains under house arrest.
Linked to the testimony of one of his friends, who accused him of killing Hae Min Lee and asking him to help her bury her, Adnan Syed was arrested, then sentenced at the end of a trial in which many leads seemed no. which is followed.
“Serial”, fourteen years ago
It took fourteen years for the case to take on an international dimension. Former journalist of the podcast “This American Life”, a reference in the United States, Sarah Koenig started a counter-investigation with her co-producer, Julie Snyder. Their podcast, “Serial”, which serializes their investigation at the rate of a weekly episode, is a sensation: within a few weeks, the twelve episodes have been downloaded five million times. In 2018, different revealed that the first two seasons (the second dedicated to a former American soldier who became a hostage in Afghanistan), have been downloaded more than 340 million times.
The podcast highlighted the many gray areas weighing on the verdict and the poor defense of Adnan Syed’s lawyer at the time. “Serial” also prompted thousands of people around the world to take the survey as well.
Adnan Syed has exhausted almost every appeal, including the US Supreme Court. Then came September 15, 2022, when two prosecutors asked to overturn his conviction due to the discovery of new material in the investigation. “which would undermine Syed’s conviction”. The two justices, Marilyn Mosby and Becky Feldman, were not convinced “the fairness of his conviction”.
This twist started a year ago. It all starts with the adoption of a new law in October 2021, the “Juvenile Restoration Act”, says journalist Sarah Koenig in a new episode of “Serial” broadcast the day after Adnan’s release Syed. This law allows people who have spent more than twenty years in prison for a crime committed when they were minors to ask the courts to reduce the length of their sentence, or even to be released. Or Adnan Syed was 17 at the time of his arrest and his attorney, Erica Suter, decided to ask the Baltimore district attorney’s office to re-examine the case.
Two new suspects
In June 2022, Becky Feldman decided to examine the archives stored in the offices of the Attorney General. In the middle of seventeen boxes of documents, he found handwritten notes, which awakened another suspect.
According to the prosecutor, this suspect has “a motive, opportunity and means to commit a crime”, explained Sarah Koenig. But these notes were never submitted to Adnan Syed and his lawyers, in violation of the Brady rule, which requires that elements that allow a defendant to be deposed must be given to the defense. “That’s what alarmed Becky Feldman. The defense never heard the calls made to the prosecutor’s office [dans lesquels une personne accuse notamment un suspect d’avoir dit qu’il allait tuer Hae Min Lee]. That alone will take away Adnan’s conviction.” said Sarah Koenig.
Among these new elements, he discovers that another person is suspected of being the author of the murder. These two suspects could have acted together or separately, write prosecutors in their motion calling for the annulment of Adnan Syed’s conviction.
This document also combines many other elements (such as doubts about the reliability of the evidence presented during the trial and the discovery of new information that was not available during the trial) that question the conviction of Mr. Syed. If they feel they want to continue pursuing new leads, prosecutors wrote that pending the end of their investigation, “The imprisonment of the accused, because of the above information, would be a miscarriage of justice”.
According to Sarah Koenig, “Baltimore police have informed the prosecutors handling the case that they will put someone in this case. Someone will try to talk to the two suspects identified by Becky Feldman in the motion. I do not predict about what But I know that the chances of Adnan being tried again are, at best, slim. When asked by CBS, Baltimore City Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she is still waiting for new DNA test results: “If they don’t come to a conclusion, I will certify that Adnan Syed is innocent. »
“A system that took more than twenty years to correct itself”
These changes are not easy for everyone. “For me, it’s not a podcast”Young Lee, Hae Min Lee’s younger brother, testified during Monday’s hearing, when his sister’s murder was nearly unsolved. “It’s been an endless nightmare for twenty years. When I think it’s over, it keeps coming back. It’s killing me and it’s killing my mother.”. In her latest episode, Sarah Koenig however claims that Mr. Lee said the same “that he has faith in the justice system, that he is not against a new investigation and that he told the judge to make the right decision”.
“Adnan’s case covers almost every chronic problem our system can have”concluded Sarah Koenig. “So even when the government acknowledges the mistakes of the public, it is difficult to rejoice in the victory of justice. Because we built a system that took more than twenty years to correct itself. And we are only talking about case.”
Because if “Serial” has inspired many copies, still few of them have been able to change the course of a case. The BBC says, however, the role played by the three podcasts, which makes it possible to relaunch the three investigations. The first of them “In The Dark”, is interested in the case of Curtis Flowers, a man who was tried six times for the same four murders by the same prosecutor and whose death sentence was canceled by the Supreme Court, in 2019, in the court is not yet. The charges were finally dropped a year later. Like Adnan Syed, Curtis Flowers spent twenty-three years in prison.