Culture

It Looks Like Serial’s Adnan Syed Is Getting A New Trial After All

And yes, it has something to do with cell tower location data and the Asia letters.

After an arduous battle, it looks like Adnan Syed will be getting the retrial that his supporters and many Serial listeners have hoped for. It’s been 17 years since Syed was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, and today it’s been announced that due to new evidence and the testimony of a potential alibi that was raised in a three-day hearing in February, this conviction will once again be contested in court.

For those who managed to dodge the Serial phenomenon, its first season delved into the inconsistencies in Syed’s 1999 murder conviction, with much of the case being based on what appeared to be unreliable testimony and sketchy cell phone location data. One sticking point for host Sarah Koenig, was the dismissal of an alibi called Asia McLain, who wrote an affidavit swearing she saw Syed in the school library at the time the murder was meant to have taken place. The ‘Asia Letters’ have often been cited as proof by Syed supporters of his innocence, except that McLain mysteriously retracted her statement at the time, so was never heard in court (she now says that she never actually retracted her alibi).

This new trial is also based on the failing of Adnan Syed’s original defense attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, to cross-examine a witness who testified about the reliability of cell phone data in confirming a person’s location, even though she knew that the data might not be accurate.

Serial definitely caused people to question the validity of Syed’s conviction, but it was in no way a definitive confirmation of his innocence. Even today, Sarah Koenig herself has said she is “surprised” about the retrial announcement and is still processing the change of events. It’ll be interesting to see how this new evidence will affect the trial and how much Serial‘s overwhelming popularity will help or hinder the verdict.