- Chelsea Bailey
- BBC News, Washington
In 1999, Adnan Syed, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland, was convicted of strangling and killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
The case, in which prosecutors described Syed, then 19, as a violent and jealous ex-lover who brutally killed a bright and talented young woman, made national news.
On Monday, a Maryland judge overturned his conviction and set a deadline for a new trial.
For almost 25 years, Syed has maintained his innocence. And his case got a huge boost from an unlikely source: a podcast called “Serial.”
More than a decade after Syed was sent to prison, Rabia Chaudry, a Baltimore attorney and friend of the Syed family, emailed a journalist named Sarah Koenig and asked her to investigate Lee’s murder.
that email helped launch the first season of the podcast “Serial“.
The show premiered in the fall of 2014, and each episode tried to piece together a timeline of what happened the night Lee was killed.
“For the past year, I’ve spent every workday trying to figure out where a high school kid was for an hour after school one day in 1999,” Koenig declares in the first episode.
But by then, the “guys” he had interviewed were all grown up and some of their stories had changed.
As each episode revealed new details – and potential new suspects – internet investigators and amateur sleuths sprang into action, discussing their theories on social media.
Within months, discussions of Syed’s case finally led to his being able to obtain a new trial.
two. Why was the show so popular?
“Serial” helped launch the popularity of podcasts. Koenig’s trademark confessional style, as well as the true crime theme, kept listeners coming back each week and downloading the show.
The first season of “Serial” has been downloaded more than 300 million times and the show is widely cited as one of the most popular podcasts in the world.
Although later seasons of the show were less popular, in many ways, Koenig and his team helped create the formula. for a podcast impossible to stop listening to.
3. But did the podcast really help Syed?
In 2015, Syed was granted a new trial based, in part, on new evidence uncovered while “Serial” was being made.
But a judge too denied his request for bail. And he remained jailed for years while his legal team advocated for a new trial and attempted to appeal his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court.
In 2019, HBO premiered a four-part documentary series produced by Chaudry called “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”
The series argued that Syed, who is Muslim, was convicted, in part, because of racial bias.
In the end, he revealed that forensic analysis had found no trace of his DNA on Lee’s body at the time of the murder.
Four. What happened to Lee and his family?
The Lee family refused to participate in “Serial” and have always maintained that Syed was rightfully convicted and that justice was served during the original trial.
In 2016, when Syed was granted a new trial, the Lee family told reporters that the podcast had “reopened wounds few can imagine,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
They also said they believed the podcast had misinformed people and lamented that “very few [estuvieran] willing to speak for Hae.”
Before the judge delivered her ruling on Monday, Young Lee, the victim’s brother, made an emotional statement in court on behalf of the family.
“For meYo this is not a podcast. This is real life an endless nightmare for more than 20 years”.
With Syed’s conviction overturned, prosecutors have the next 30 days to decide whether to start a new trial or drop the charges against him.
If the investigation into Lee’s murder is reopened, the new evidence could help exonerate Syed.
It might also finally give the bereaved Lee family some much-needed closure.
Prosecutors say they have identified two possible “alternate” suspects, neither of whom have been named or charged in the case.
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