By The Vanguard Staff
BALTIMORE, MD — When a judge Monday vacated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed after 23 years in prison, the Innocence Project called it a “stark example of how the concealment of exculpatory evidence…leads to wrongful convictions.”
City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn, according to news reports, claimed prosecutors made a compelling argument that Syed’s conviction was flawed and that he should go free immediately. Phinn gave the state 30 days to decide to seek a new trial or end the case.
Syed was convicted of killing his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee, but years later the podcast “Serial” detailed his case and cast doubt on his role in the 1999 slaying.
The judge said trial prosecutors did not “properly” turn over evidence to defense lawyers that could have helped them show someone else killed Lee, and evidence uncovered since the original trial would have added “substantial and significant probability that the result would have been different.”
Phinn vacated the murder, robbery, false imprisonment and kidnapping conviction and he was given supervised no bail release with GPS monitoring. She ordered his shackles removed in court, leading to loud cheers, said observers.
“Mr. Syed’s case is a stark example of how the concealment of exculpatory evidence — known as a Brady violation — leads to wrongful convictions,” said the Innocence Project in a statement.
The project added, “In the last three months alone, the exonerations of Innocence Project clients Mallory Nicholson, John Galvan and, just last week, Herman Williams, all revealed Brady violations that contributed to the conviction and imprisonment of innocent people. And we know these are not isolated examples.
“A 2020 report by the National Registry of Exonerations, Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent, covering the nation’s first 2,400 exoneration cases, found that the concealment of exculpatory evidence is the most common type of misconduct and it occurred in 44 percent of those exonerations.
“The integrity of the legal system requires accountability for not only Mr. Syed’s wrongful conviction but also the pain the State’s unlawful conduct caused to Hae Min Lee’s family,” said the project.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said to reporters, “We’re not yet declaring Adnan Syed’s innocence. We are declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice, he is entitled to a new trial.”
Prosecutor Becky Feldman said “justice and fairness” had won the day after “[t]he state has lost confidence in the integrity of this conviction and believes that it is in the interest of justice and fairness that his convictions be vacated.”
Syed is represented by Erica Suter of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, and has maintained his innocence for 23 years, and was the focus of the podcast “Serial” and HBO’s documentary “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”