After 23 years in prison, the public prosecutor cleared up Adnan Syed on Tuesday (11 October) in the killing of an 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. Throughout his detention, Adnan maintained that he did not kill his high school ex-girlfriend in 1999. According to the Associated Press, Baltimore prosecutors dropped the charges against Adnan after additional DNA testing in the case.
“This case is closed. No more appeals are needed,” Baltimore District Attorney Marilyn Mosby said at a news conference.
DNA testing using modernized methods ruled out Adnan as the person who strangled Hae Min Lee, prosecutors said. Her office received the test results on Friday (October 7). Experts tested Hae’s skirt, tights, jacket and shoes. They found some DNA on Hae’s shoes but none on the items. However, according to Mosby, Adnan’s “DNA has been ruled out”.
Despite Adnan’s expulsion, Mosby announced that her office “will continue to use all available resources to prosecute whoever is responsible for the death of Hae Min Lee.”
“It’s still an open and pending case, but as far as Adnan Syed is concerned, the case is closed,” Mosby said.
What happened to Hae Min Lee?
Adnan and Hae Min Lee maintained an ongoing relationship while attending Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County. Hae Min Lee was last seen alive on January 13, 1999. About four weeks later, her body was found buried in a park in Baltimore. An autopsy later revealed that the high school student was manually choked to death.
In 2000, a jury convicted 17-year-old Syed of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment, according to The New York Times. In the years since, Adnan has made several appeals.
Syed’s unwavering claim of innocence has inspired coverage on multiple media fronts over the years. His case swept the nation when Sarah Koenig chronicled and investigated it in the premiere season of the podcast Serial in 2014. The Story of Adnan and Hae Min Lee topped the podcast on iTunes prior to its debut and for a few weeks afterward. In 2015 Serial won a Peabody Award.
Judge reversed conviction last month; Hae’s family appealed
On September 19, Judge Melissa M. Phinn reversed Adnan’s 2000 conviction. She ruled that the state of Maryland had violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have helped Adnan’s defense.
The Baltimore City Circuit Court judge also gave prosecutors 30 days to decide whether to retry Adnan or drop the charges. Meanwhile, she placed Adnan under house arrest with GPS location monitoring. That restriction was lifted on Tuesday.
Hae Min Lee’s family, however, were not happy with last month’s verdict. They asked the Court of Appeals for another hearing so that they could be present in person and speak in court. According to the AP, due to the last-minute announcement, Hae’s younger brother Young Lee was the only person able to attend the previous hearing via video.
Although Mosby says the family’s appeal does not affect Tuesday’s decision to drop the charges, the appeals court has not yet dismissed the motion. Syed’s defense team is awaiting their decision. Tuesday’s news shocked the family, who say they learned of Mosby’s decision through news outlets.
“The family received no notification and their attorney was not offered an opportunity to be present at the trial,” said attorney Steve Kelly. “By hastily dismissing the charges, prosecutors sought to silence Hae Min Lee’s family and prevent the family and the public from understanding why the state so abruptly changed its position of more than 20 years. All this family ever wanted was answers and a vote. Today’s actions have robbed them of both.”
However, prosecutor Mosby said she notified Steve Kelly Tuesday morning. She said at the press conference that Kelly did not respond. However, she apologized to the families of Hae and Adnan Syed.
“The foundations of the criminal justice system should be based on fair and just prosecution,” Mosby said. She added, “And the whole point is that we’re standing here today because that wasn’t done 23 years ago.”
Adnan’s reaction to his freedom and what’s next for the case
Although prosecutor Mosby said Adnan was “wrongly convicted,” his defense team must plead his innocence and have him certified. His attorney, Erica J. Suter, spoke at a news conference Tuesday. She announced that they would be filing for a certificate of innocence “as soon as possible.”
However, Erica said it was too early to reveal whether Adnan would seek compensation for the wrongful conviction. He is reportedly planning to continue his bachelor’s degree, which he started in prison. At the moment is Adnan “elated”, “joyful”, but “still in progress”.
“I think he’s just really happy to be able to enjoy the small, quiet joys of freedom in everyday life that many of us take for granted,” said prosecutor Suter.
Meanwhile, prosecutors’ investigations uncovered evidence pointing to two alternative suspects. According to the AP, the two suspects may have been involved in the assassination of Hae Min Lee together or individually. Prosecutors also said the two suspects were known at the time of the original investigation but had not been adequately ruled out.
Both suspects have a criminal history. One had previously been convicted of assaulting a woman in her car, while the other had been convicted of serial rape and sexual assault. However, it is unclear whether these offenses took place before or after Hae Min Lee’s assassination.
Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges against Adnan Syed in the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee after additional DNA testing ruled him out as a suspect in a case chronicled by hit podcast Serial.
Syed spent 23 years in prison. https://t.co/lQmJArPjKv pic.twitter.com/ZB1Y8v1Wcg
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 11, 2022