What The ‘Serial’ Podcast Didn’t Tell You About Adnan Syed’s Murder Trial

"Serial set fire to Adnan’s story, to some extent deliberately, and has never apologized or made amends."

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A Baltimore judge has ordered the release of Adnan Syed after ruling that his 2000 conviction for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee be vacated.

Syed — now 41 — has spent more than two decades behind bars as part of a life sentence for Lee’s murder, despite always maintaining his innocence. The case was made famous by the hit podcast Serial, but there is more to Syed’s story and the case’s eventual vacation than the 2014 podcast revealed.

After a lengthy investigation into the case, prosecutors filed a motion last week stating that new evidence — including new possible suspects — could undermine Syed’s conviction.

“I understand how difficult this is, but we need to make sure we hold the correct person accountable,” assistant state’s attorney Becky Feldman told the judge, noting that new evidence and questionable details from the original trial — including a potentially biased detective and issues with witness testimony — could undermine the conviction.

Is Syed Innocent?

While Syed will walk free from prison today, prosecutors are not asserting that he is innocent — rather, the “integrity of the conviction” has been questioned.

Ultimately, the judge ruled that the state violated its obligation to share exculpatory evidence with Syed’s legal team and ordered the conviction be vacated. The state now has 30 days to decide whether to seek a new trial for Syed or to dismiss the case. Syed will be freed from prison but remain in home detention until that decision is made.

“All right Mr Syed, you’re free to join your family,” court judge Melissa Phinn said as the hearing ended.

What Did The Investigation Reveal?

According to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the lengthy investigation into Lee’s murder  “revealed undisclosed and newly-developed information regarding two alternative suspects, as well as unreliable cell phone tower data”, which could potentially undermine Syed’s conviction.

The two suspects — who have not been named for legal reasons — were known to police during the original investigation, but weren’t adequately ruled out of the investigation, or disclosed to Syed’s defence attorneys.

We do, however, know that both of the suspects have criminal records — one of which is convicted of attacking a woman in her car, while the other is convicted of serial rape and sexual assault — according to court documents.

Court documents also allege that one of the two new suspects threatened to kill Lee before her death in 1999.

“He would make [Lee] disappear. He would kill her,” the documents state.

Prosecutors have not ruled out the possibility that the two could both be involved, stating that they “may be involved individually or may be involved together”.

A Lawyer Who Has Known Syed Since Before Lee’s Murder Questions Serial’s Impact

While Serial — a 12-part true crime podcast created by former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig — brought attention to the case, lawyer and long-time friend of Syed, Rabia Chaudry, has questioned the credit the podcast has received for his freedom.

“Imagine you ask someone to help renovate your house. Instead, they set fire to it. The story about the fire brings thousands to your aid that rebuild your house,” said Chaudry on Twitter in an analogy for the podcast’s input last week. “Serial set fire to Adnan’s story, to some extent deliberately, and has never apologised or made amends. Should I be grateful? I find it hard to be.

“But I am grateful to the thousands that responded to the fire to help rebuild this house.”

What Did Serial Miss?

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Chaudry — who wrote a New York Times best-selling book on Syed’s story with contributions from Syed himself — detailed elements of the case that weren’t discussed in the podcast.

For starters, Lee’s license plates were run by local police multiple times after her disappearance.

Additionally, police never took DNA evidence from the man who found her body, despite him failing his first polygraph test (although, polygraph tests are notoriously unreliable).

Multiple witnesses also changed their testimony between the time of Lee’s death and the trial.

The podcast also did not mention the results of the autopsy, which Chaudry claims contradict the official timeline.

Chaudry has also accused the podcast of lying about witness testimony, despite allegedly having documents that told a different story. She also alleges that Jay — the witness in question — “all but admitted” to getting the police cash reward.

Throughout the lengthy thread, Chaudry also questions Lee’s then-boyfriend Don.

Despite ongoing criticism from Chaudry, Serial has confirmed on Tuesday that it will release another episode of the hugely popular podcast on Wednesday.

What Have Hae Min Lee’s Family Said?

Despite Chaudry publicly declaring that “every piece of forensic evidence collected pointed to Adnan’s innocence”,  Lee’s family have repeatedly voiced their opinion that he is guilty.

“It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae,” the family said in 2016 when a judge said Syed should receive a new trial.

Her family did not appear in court on Tuesday due to not having enough time to travel from their home on the West Coast to the court. However, her brother Young Lee patched in virtually to express his feelings of betrayal in the prosecution’s decision.

“This is not a podcast for me. This is real life,” Young Lee told Phinn. “Every day when I think it’s over… it always comes back… it’s killing me.”