This is not another one of those situations where Adnan Syed’s attorneys ask for a new trial, or activists/relatives/friends interested in the case dig up new information. According to the Wall Street Journal, prosecutors — the lawyers who work for the State — are asking a circuit court to vacate Syed’s conviction in the murder of Hae Min Lee and give him a new trial.
The prosecutors are not conceding Syed’s innocence — they still want to retry him — but they are asking that he be released pending the new trial because they no longer have “confidence in the integrity of the conviction.” This comes after they spent nearly a year reinvestigating the case, during which time new evidence and two other potential suspects came to light.
Prosecutors do not identify the other suspects, although one suspect had a motive, and that information was not given to the defense at the time of the original trial.
In their reinvestigation, prosecutors found a document in the state’s trial file detailing one person’s statement, saying that one of the suspects had motive to kill Ms. Lee and had threatened her in the presence of another person. The suspect said “he would make her [Ms. Lee] disappear. He would kill her,” according to the court filing.
That information was never given to the defense, the filing said. Prosecutors are required by law to give defense counsel exculpatory evidence upon request.
Moreover, the grassy area where Hae Min Lee’s car was found was behind the house of a relative of another suspect. Additionally, since Syed’s conviction, one of the suspects attacked a woman in her vehicle, and another was convicted of rape and sexual assault. The validity of cellphone records and data is also called into question.
“We believe that keeping him detained as we continue to investigate the case with everything that we know now, and when we do not have confidence in results of the first trial, would be unjust,” wrote one of the prosecutors.
A prosecutor’s motion is not a guarantee that a judge will release and retry Syed, but it’s very likely. I don’t know whether Adnan Syed is guilty or innocent, but I have long believed that there was not enough evidence to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt. The new evidence is all the more reason.