Baltimore prosecutors on Tuesday dropped the charges against Adnan Syed, the man whose legal saga rose to international renown because of the hit podcast “Serial.”
The abrupt move from the city State’s Attorney’s Office comes after Syed’s murder conviction was overturned last month.
During a yearlong investigation conducted alongside Syed’s attorney, prosecutors said they discovered two alternative suspects in the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee, at least one of whom, they said, was not disclosed to Syed’s defense. Because of those revelations, prosecutors said they lost faith in his guilty verdict.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn gave prosecutors 30 days from the date Syed’s convictions were vacated on Sept. 19 to decide whether they’d drop his charges or retry him in his Woodlawn High School sweetheart’s death.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said last month that her decision on Syed’s case hinged on pending DNA testing being conducted on evidence of Lee’s killing. The analysis to date has yielded useless results, but it’s unclear if Mosby’s office has received more recent feedback from the forensics lab in California doing the tests.
Mosby has said she would be prepared to certify Syed’s innocence, making him eligible to apply for wrongful conviction compensation from the state, if the DNA testing came back inconclusive or pointed to another suspect. She maintained that her office would retry Syed if DNA implicated him in the killing.
A court date had been set for Oct. 19, a month after Phinn tossed Syed’s guilty finding. The hearing in reception court Tuesday morning was not docketed in online court records.
Mosby’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, who was in court Tuesday, confirmed prosecutors dropped her client’s charges but declined to comment further.
After Syed’s conviction was overturned, Lee’s family appealed, arguing Mosby’s office neglected to provide them adequate notice to attend the hearing. The family asked the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to pause the proceedings in Circuit Court while the court considered their appeal.
Just last week, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined Lee’s family in asking the state’s intermediate appellate court to put a hold on Syed’s case in the trial court.
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After his office represented the state for Syed’s repeated appeals, Frosh has been critical of Mosby’s recent handling of the case. Frosh has cast doubt on the basis city prosecutors presented in support of overturning Syed’s conviction.
It’s unclear what Tuesday’s development means for the family’s appeal.
Lee’s family’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Frosh’s office did not immediately comment Tuesday morning.
Lee, 18, was strangled to death and buried in a clandestine grave in Leakin Park. A man discovered her body about three weeks after she was last seen at the high school. At the time, police and prosecutors suspected Syed killed Lee because he was distraught over their breakup.
Syed stood trial in 1999 and 2000. The state’s case relied on witness testimony, cellphone call records and Syed’s own statements; little, if any, physical evidence connected him to the killing. A jury found him guilty of murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment after the second trial. The judge sentenced him to life plus 30 years in prison.
Arrested at 17, Syed had been behind bars for 23 years before being unshackled and walking out of the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse last month. He was placed on GPS monitoring pending prosecutors’ decision on how to proceed with his case.
This article will be updated.