Appellate Court of Maryland Reinstates Murder Conviction of Adnan Syed Due to Violations Made By a Lower Court

On Tuesday, the Appellate Court of Maryland ruled 2-1 in favor of reinstating the 2000 first-degree murder conviction of Adnan Syed – who was accused of killing his then-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Syed spent more than 22 years in prison but was exonerated in October 2022 and had his charges dropped.

The motion to have his conviction reinstated comes after Lee’s family argued they weren’t given proper notice to attend the 2022 hearing that resulted in Syed being a free man. Lee’s brother, Young Lee, was only given one day’s notice to attend the hearing in person and was forced to attend remotely as a result.

“Because the circuit court violated Mr. Lee’s right to notice of, and his right to attend, the hearing on the State’s motion to vacate … this Court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy,” the Appellate Court said. 

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While Adnan Syed is technically a convicted murderer on paper, he remains a free man and will not be taken into custody – given the DNA evidence that cleared him of the murder just a few months ago. The reinstatement is more of a technicality until a new hearing – which will allow Young Lee to be present. 

“We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision,” the Court said.

Lee’s family attorney, David Sanford, announced his satisfaction with the Appellate Court’s recent ruling in a statement obtained by CNN. He explained the need for ‘a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court’s decision will be based on evidence for the world to see.’ 

With that said, it’s believed that Adnan Syed will officially have his conviction exonerated once a new hearing commences – which won’t be much different than the previous one, except for the fact that Mr. Lee will be present. It’s unclear when that new hearing will take place, but it likely won’t be too long. 

Adnan Syed and His Attorney Disagree With the Motion

Adnan Syed and his legal team disagree with the recent motion and believe that Young Lee being present via a Zoom call during last year’s hearing were sufficient – adding that his physical presence at the court wasn’t needed due to his remote presence. Nonetheless, they look forward to an official exoneration. 

“We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee’s attendance over Zoom was sufficient,” said Erica Suter – the Assistant Public Defender for Syed. She believes there is no reason to re-traumatize Syed with a new hearing and ‘return him to the status of a convicted felon.’ 

They will continue their fight to have him remain a free man for the rest of his life – as he has been for the past few months. The evidence that has been brought to light in recent years is and has been enough to remove any suspicion of him being the suspect behind Hae Min Lee’s tragic death back in 1999. 

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Adnan Syed was initially convicted of first-degree murder in 2000, one year after Lee’s disappearance and death. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years and spent more than 22 years behind bars until his exoneration a few months ago. He has maintained his innocence from the very beginning.

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