The family of an 18-year-old girl whose murder was sparked by the hit podcast Serial has blasted the Baltimore City District Attorney’s Office for failing to warn them that her accused killer would be released.
Adnan Syed, now 41, had his 2000 conviction for Hae Min Lee’s murder overturned on Monday.
Through their attorney, Lee’s family criticized Baltimore City Attorney Marilyn Mosby for not giving them enough notice of Monday’s hearing.
“For over 20 years, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office told the family of Hae Min Lee that their beloved daughter and sister was murdered by Adnan Syed,” the statement read.
“One week ago, the family was notified for the first time that the state had discovered new facts in the year-long investigation, which is apparently ongoing, and would file a motion to overturn Mr. Syed’s conviction.”
Hae Min Lee, 18, was murdered in Baltimore in 1999. The man convicted of her murder, Adnan Syed (right), was released from prison Monday in a hearing that Lee’s family said was received without warning .
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby accused the Lee family of not giving them enough time to prepare for Monday’s hearing.
Steve Kelly, a lawyer representing the Lee family, added: “For more than 20 years, no one wanted to know the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee more than her family.
“The Lee family is deeply disappointed that today’s hearing was moved so quickly and that they were denied reasonable notice that would have allowed them to play an important role in the proceedings.”
On Tuesday, the creator of Serial — the true-crime podcast that helped free Syed — said she had mixed emotions about how long it took authorities to act on evidence that has long been available.
A local prosecutor created a conviction review unit, and Maryland’s new juvenile sentencing law provided a mechanism to reexamine the case — all after the Serial podcast turned the details of the case into the obsession of countless amateur sleuths in 2014.
Syed is shown in a photograph from the time of Lee’s murder, when he was 17 years old
Mosby immediately hailed the judge’s decision as a victory for justice, but Syed’s victory was a bitter reminder to those who had been aware of loopholes in the case for years.
In a new episode of Serial released Tuesday, host Sarah Koenig noted that most or all of the evidence cited in the prosecution’s motion to overturn the conviction has been available since 1999.
“There was a lot of talk yesterday about justice, but most of what the state put into this motion to vacate, all of the actual evidence, was either known or known to the police and prosecutors in 1999,” Koenig said.
“So even on a day when the government publicly admits its own mistakes, it’s hard to be impressed by the triumph of honesty.
‘Because we built a system that takes over 20 years to repair itself. And that’s just this case.”
Koenig argued that the case against Syed involved “almost every chronic problem” in the system, including unreliable witness testimony and evidence that was never provided to Syed’s defense team.
On Monday, Baltimore County District Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered Syed’s release after overturning his conviction for the 1999 murder of Lee, a high school student and Syed’s ex-girlfriend.
Syed has always maintained his innocence, but in 2019 the country’s highest court rejected his appeal for a new trial.
Syed, center, leaves the Cummings courthouse Monday after a judge ordered his release
At the behest of prosecutors, who said they recently discovered new evidence, Phinn ruled that the state violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could bolster Syed’s defense.
The judge said the state has 30 days to decide whether to request a new trial date or dismiss the case.
Mosby, who took office in 2015, filed a motion last week to overturn Syed’s conviction, a filing that Koenig described as “fireworks” coming from the same office that years ago asked a jury to convict Syed.
Key to Monday’s outcome was evidence uncovered by a unit Mosby’s office established to reexamine cases in which juvenile defendants were sentenced to life in prison.
That worked in conjunction with a 2021 Maryland law that allows someone convicted as a juvenile to ask for a reduced sentence after serving at least 20 years.
Syed was 17 when Lee was killed.
Prosecutor Becky Feldman led the unit and found memos written by one of her predecessors describing two phone calls in which people gave them information before Syed’s trial about someone with a motive to harm Lee.
According to prosecutors, that information was not shared with the defense at the time — an omission that Phinn said violated Syed’s rights.
Koenig noted that she knew who these new potential suspects were — and so did the detectives who investigated Syed two decades ago — but declined to name them because they have not been charged.
One of the (suspects) was investigated at the time, he was subjected to several polygraphs. The other one was investigated as well, but as far as I can tell, not as heavily,” she said.