Judge Martin P. Welch has just vacated the conviction of Adnan Syed of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, The Baltimore Sun reports, and a new trial has been ordered.
This has been a long road for Syed and his supporters: Syed was convicted to a life sentence in 2000, when he was 19. He was granted an appeal in February 2015, after a judge heard five days of testimony—including the testimony of Asia McClain, who Serial podcast listeners will remember as the acquaintance who allegedly saw Syed in the library around the time that Lee would have gone missing. McClain was never called to testify in Syed’s original trial.
The original trial hinged in part on records from cell-phone towers, which would have placed Syed in the vicinity of Lee’s murder. But AT&T, the service provider, specifically indicated to the state of Maryland that this information could not be deemed reliable:
(A PDF of the fax cover sheet is available here.) Syed’s defense team claimed that this warning was never made known at the time of the trial, which was one of the earliest trials to admit cell-phone tower evidence into the courtroom.
The Serial podcast, a spin-off of This American Life that was hosted by Sarah Koenig, won a huge audience in its first season, and spun off a number of other podcasts (including The A.V. Club’s own The Serial Serial as well as Undisclosed, which was hosted by Syed family friend Rabia Chaudry and attorneys Susan Simpson and Colin Miller). We assume there’ll be follow-up episode from Koenig and company to discuss this development.
The judge’s order is available to read here as a PDF.