Baltimore prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges against Adnan Syed, the man whose legal saga gained international acclaim due to the tap the “Series” podcast.
The abrupt move from the city attorney’s office comes after Syed’s murder conviction was overturned last month.
During a year-long investigation alongside Syed’s lawyer, prosecutors said they uncovered two alternate suspects in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, at least one of which they said was withheld from Syed’s defense. Because of these revelations, prosecutors said they had lost faith in his guilty verdict.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn gave prosecutors 30 days from the date Syed’s convictions were overturned on September 19 to decide whether to drop his charges or retry him in the death of his sweetheart Woodlawn High School.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said last month that his decision on Syed’s case was based on pending DNA tests are conducted on evidence of Lee’s murder. The analysis to date has yielded unhelpful results, but it’s unclear if Mosby’s office has received any more recent comments from the California forensic lab performing the tests.
Mosby said she would be prepared to certify Syed’s innocence, making him eligible to seek compensation for wrongful conviction from the state, should the DNA test prove inconclusive or point to another suspect. She maintained that her office would try Syed again if the DNA implicated him in the murder.
A court date had been set for October 19, a month after Phinn threw out Syed’s guilty verdict. The hearing in the reception court on Tuesday morning has not been recorded 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 on Tuesday, confirmed that prosecutors had dropped her client’s charges, but declined to comment further.
After Syed’s conviction was overturned, Lee’s family appealed, arguing that Mosby’s office failed to provide them with sufficient notice to attend the hearing. The family asked the Maryland Special Court of Appeals to stay proceedings in the Circuit Court while the court considers their appeal.
Just last week, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined Lee’s family asking the state’s intermediate appeals court to stay Syed’s case in the trial court.
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After his office represented the state for Syed’s repeated appeals, Frosh criticized Mosby’s recent handling of the case. Frosh questioned the basis presented by city prosecutors to overturn Syed’s conviction.
It’s unclear what Tuesday’s development means for the family appeal.
Lee’s family 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 in high school. At the time, police and prosecutors suspected that Syed killed Lee because he was upset about their breakup.
Syed was tried in 1999 and 2000. The state case relied on testimony, phone call recordings, and Syed’s own statements; little to no physical evidence linked him to the murder. A jury found him guilty of murder, kidnapping, robbery and forcible confinement 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 released and leaving the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse last month. He was placed under GPS surveillance pending the decision of the prosecutors on the follow-up to be given to his case.
This article will be updated.