Tuesday 15 October 2019

'Serial' podcast killer loses fight for retrial

Adnan Syed's case was previously the subject of the popular Serial podcast (Sky)
Adnan Syed's case was previously the subject of the popular Serial podcast (Sky)
Scott Harry Richardson, 27, had his conviction for the alleged 2015 attack quashed last year after an appeal court heard new DNA evidence had come to light.

Rod Sterner

The highest court in the US state of Maryland has denied a new trial for a man whose murder conviction was chronicled in the hit podcast Serial.

In a 4-3 opinion, the court of appeals agreed with a lower court that Adnan Syed's counsel was deficient in failing to investigate an alibi witness, but disagreed that the deficiency prejudiced the case. The court said Syed waived his ineffective counsel claim.

The court reversed a court of special appeals judgment, sending the case back to that court with directions to reverse a Baltimore circuit court judgment granting a new trial.

Syed was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in 2000 of strangling 17-year-old Hae Min Lee and burying her body in a Baltimore park. More than a decade later, the popular Serial podcast brought Syed's case to millions of listeners. The 2014 show revealed little-known evidence and attracted millions of listeners, shattering podcast-streaming and downloading records.

In 2016, a lower court ordered a retrial on the grounds Syed's attorney, who died in 2004, did not contact an alibi witness and provided ineffective counsel. The state appealed. The special appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling last year and the state appealed that decision too.

In the new majority opinion, the judge concluded "there is not a significant or substantial possibility that the verdict would have been different" if Syed's lawyer had presented the alibi witness, Asia McClain, who said she saw Syed at a library in Woodlawn around the time the state said Syed killed Lee on January 13, 1999.

"Ms McClain would have been an alibi witness who contradicted the defendant's own statements, which were themselves already internally inconsistent; thus Ms McClain's proffered testimony could have further undermined Mr Syed's credibility," the court wrote.

Syed's attorney said they were "devastated" by the decision "but we will not give up on Adnan Syed".

"Our criminal justice system is desperately in need of reform. The obstacles to getting a new trial are simply too great," he said.

© Associated Press

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