A Maryland circuit court judge has ordered that the state’s case against Adnan Syed, one of the subjects at the center of the zeitgeist-grabbing first season of podcast sensation Serial, be re-opened. The decision comes nine months after Syed was granted an appeal of his 2000 conviction for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee.
In an unsurprising development for anyone who listened to Sarah Koenig and her team’s massively popular experiment in long-form crime reporting, the new hearing will largely revolve around mistakes and misconduct alleged against Syed’s original lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez. Specifically, Gutierrez’s failure to pursue a possible alibi for her client, in the form of testimony from Syed’s schoolmate, Asia McClain, as well as her apparent unwillingness to attack the questionable reliability of the cell phone tower data that helped place Syed near the site where Lee’s body was hidden. (According to the court document, which you can read here if you’re so inclined, the court will also be considering claims of prosecutorial misconduct, both during the trail, and in the post-conviction proceedings.)
Judge W. Michel Pierson—who doesn’t have the luxury the rest of us do to throw up our hands and say, “Christ, I don’t know” after a year of thinking about this stuff—wrote in the decision that he considers it “in the interest of justice” to re-open the matter; that being said, there’s no guarantee that the new hearing will lead to a different outcome for Syed’s case. While the cell phone tower data has come under increasing fire of late, Syed and his attorneys will still have to make a convincing case that McClain’s 15-year-old alibi still holds credible weight, especially in light of all the attention the case has received since Serial started reporting on it last year.