Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch granted Adnan Syed, the subject of the first season of the hit podcast “Serial,” a new trial after spending 16 years in prison for the murder of his former girlfriend in 1999.
Syed’s lawyer, C. Justin Brown, announced the news Thursday afternoon in a tweet stating “WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!!,” with the hashtag #FreeAdnan.
Syed was convicted of Hae Min Lee’s murder in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison. He maintained his innocence, however.
Welch ruled Syed deserved another trial because his attorney failed to cross-examine a cell tower expert about the reliability of data that placed Syed’s cellphone near the burial site.
Syed’s defense challenged the testimony of an AT&T engineer whose sworn statements on cellphone data were used to link Syed to the park where Lee’s body was buried. The engineer, Abraham Waranowitz, said he was not shown a crucial disclaimer about cell tower data that would have affected his testimony in the murder trial.
“Serial” led to speculation about Syed’s guilt and whether he had received a fair trial. The podcast was downloaded more than 100 million times and won a Peabody Award for its role in illuminating flaws in the criminal justice system.
When asked if he thought the retrial could have come about without “Serial,” Brown said at a press conference in Baltimore on Thursday afternoon, “I don’t think so.”
“I’m feeling pretty confident right now,” Brown added on the possibility of Syed’s release. “This was the biggest hurdle. It’s really hard to get a new trial.”
“Serial” recently ended its second season about U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.