Adnan Syed Of 'Serial' Fame Denied New Trial, Maryland Court Upholds Conviction

Adnan Syed continues to serve life for the 1999 murder of his high school ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

March 11, 2019
Adnan Syed [ABC News/screenshot]

Photo by: Adnan Syed [ABC News/screenshot]

Adnan Syed [ABC News/screenshot]

By: Mike McPadden

BALTIMORE, MD — Adnan Syed was denied a new trial last Friday in a 4-3 decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The new ruling upheld Syed’s conviction in the 1999 murder of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

Friday’s vote overturned last year's court decision that vacated Syed’s original conviction, which would have cleared the way for a new trial.

Syed has been serving a life term since 2000. He has always maintained his innocence.

The Hae Min Lee murder case and Syed’s subsequent conviction became famous after being the subject of the popular 2014 podcast Serial.

The Maryland Court’s 2018 ruling was based on the argument that Syed’s defense attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to do her job by not contacting Asia McClain Chapman, a potential alibi witness. Chapman maintains she was at a library with Syed at the exact time that prosecutors claim he murdered Lee.

On Friday, the Court of Appeals ruled that Gutierrez’s failure to call Chapman was “deficient,” but not to the degree that it “prejudiced” against Syed, citing what it believed was other strong evidence against the defendant.

Judge Clayton Greene Jr., writing for the majority, stated: “Given the totality of the evidence the jury heard, we conclude that there is not a significant or substantial possibility that the verdict would have been different had trial counsel presented [Chapman as a witness].”

In a concurring opinion, Judge Shirley Watts noted the presence of, “several obvious indications that McClain’s version of events was false” and added, “Syed’s trial counsel was not required to call McClain as a witness just because there was a chance, however slight, that the jury would have viewed her testimony as exculpatory. No reasonable criminal defense lawyer would advocate that, in every case, the defense should, to use a colloquialism, ‘throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.’”

Justin Brown, the head of Syed’s defense team, wrote in a blog statement, “We are devastated by the Court of Appeals’ decision, but we will not give up on Adnan Syed. Our criminal justice system is desperately in need of reform. The obstacles to getting a new trial are simply too great.”

Brown added that the team would be exploring “at least three other avenues of relief,” but he did not specifically name them.

Asia McClain Chapman addressed the court’s ruling in an interview posted to Twitter on Friday.

Chapman called the decision “not acceptable” and added, “I don’t even know how to process this right now. It doesn’t make sense to me. But to say that you think that I’m credible and you acknowledge this act that wasn’t done by the book. And that [Syed’s attorney] was wrong for not contacting me. But then to say that you don’t think it would make a difference, makes no sense… The whole case is a mess.”

For more on this case, watch Investigation Discovery's Adnan Syed: Innocent or Guilty? on ID GO now!

Next Up

Baltimore Prosecutors Drop All Charges Against ‘Serial’s’ Adnan Syed

After spending over two decades behind bars for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee, Balitmore prosecutors have released Syed from prison and dropped all charges against him.

‘I Was Sitting There Defending A Guilty Person’: Woman Receives Devastating Package From Incarcerated Partner

“I thought, I’ve got to fix this, I’ve got to make it right. They’ve got the wrong person.”

Judge Orders New DNA Testing In Adnan Syed Case From 'Serial' Podcast

In a move applauded by Kim Kardashian, evidence collected from the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee will be tested using modern DNA technology that was not available at the time Syed’s 2000 murder trial.

UPDATE: U.S. Marshals Nab "In Pursuit with John Walsh" Convicted Killer In Alabama

The U.S. Marshals closed in on Maurice Nesbitt in Birmingham, Alabama. The arrest makes the 25th fugitive featured and captured from "In Pursuit with John Walsh."

True Crime News Roundup: Body of Hannah Choi Found In Maryland, Ex-Boyfriend Remains At Large

Plus: Elderly Ohio man shoots teenager intruder; Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten parole blocked; ex-cop Amber Guyger’s murder conviction upheld; and scandal continues to roil megachurch Hillsong.

Actress Who Starred In 'Charm City Kings' Charged With Girlfriend’s New Year's Day Stabbing Death

“It was a domestic situation where cooler heads didn’t prevail,” a Baltimore police spokesman said.

The Search Continues To Find Hanna Choi's Killer As Her Family Raises Reward Money

Police in Virginia believe that 35-year-old Hannah Choi is dead and that her ex-boyfriend Joel Mosso Merino is behind her murder.

Loved Ones Of Ex-Marine Convicted Of Murder Fight To Clear His Name

The family of an Iraq war veteran is asking retired detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Fatima Silva of Reasonable Doubt to re-examine Tim Wright Jr.’s 2008 murder conviction.

Judge Accused Of Recording Children On Bathroom Hidden Camera Kills Himself

During an FBI search, Jonathan Gray Newell allegedly ate a memory card that may have contained evidence.

Grieving Grandmother Desperate For Answers In 12-Year-Old Grandson’s Murder

Glenda Mack says she has no idea who would hurt the young boy she had been raising since he was a newborn.