‘Se­rial’ al­ibi wit­ness hits back at claims ques­tion­ing her cred­i­bil­ity

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By Justin Fenton jfen­ton@balt­sun.com

Asia McClain, who has of­fered al­ibi wit­ness tes­ti­mony in the ef­fort to ex­on­er­ate “Se­rial” pod­cast sub­ject Ad­nan Syed, has hit back at new allegations from two former class­mates that she is ly­ing.

In a blog post on her web­site, McClain called the allegations “aw­ful and un­true.”

“I have never wa­vered in my rec­ol­lec­tion of the events sur­round­ing the mur­der of Ms. [Hae Min] Lee,” McClain wrote.

Syed was con­victed by a jury in 2000 for the killing of ex-girl­friend Lee and sen­tenced to life in prison. In 2014, the “Se­rial” pod­cast raised ques­tions about his case and helped re­vive his ef­forts for a new trial. In June, Judge Martin Welch over­turned his con­vic­tion and or­dered a new trial.

The judge’s rul­ing came months af­ter a hear­ing in which McClain tes­ti­fied that she had seen Syed in a li­brary dur­ing a time when pros­e­cu­tors have said Lee’s mur­der was tak­ing place.

The Mary­land at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice has ap­pealed the judge’s rul­ing. In a fil­ing this week, the of­fice said that one week af­ter Welch’s rul­ing, it re­ceived an un­so­licited let­ter from two former class­mates of Syed and McClain who said they had got­ten into a heated ar­gu­ment with McClain at Wood- lawn High School in 1999.

McClain’s “story about see­ing Ad­nan in the li­brary the day Hae was killed is a lie,” the let­ter said.

One of the class­mates said she re­mem­bered that in a con­ver­sa­tion in a co­op­er­a­tive ed­u­ca­tion class, McClain said “she be­lieved so much in Ad­nan’s in­no­cence that she would make up a lie to prove he couldn’t have done it.”

“Both my sis­ter and I (more so my sis­ter) ar­gued with Asia about how se­ri­ous this sit­u­a­tion was. She just said that it wouldn’t hurt any­thing — that if he was truly guilty, then he would be con­victed. I’m not sure what can come of this in­for­ma­tion but I felt I had to let some­one know.”

Both sis­ters sub­mit­ted sworn af­fi­davits, but their iden­ti­ties are be­ing with­held by the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice.

McClain ques­tioned the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice for us­ing the class­mates’ claims. “I highly en­cour­age the pub­lic to con­tinue to scru­ti­nize th­ese types of prac­tices. This is af­ter all, sup­posed to be a search for the truth,” she said.

McClain wrote on her blog Wed­nes­day that while writ­ing a memoir, “Con­fes­sions of a Se­rial Al­ibi,” she had con­tacted the sis­ters to con­firm in­for­ma­tion about the co-op class, send­ing a class photo. She said one of the sis­ters was un­sure of the teacher in the pho­to­graph, and the other didn’t know which class the photo was for.

Months later, af­ter her tes­ti­mony, the sis­ters con­tacted her on Face­book and said they vividly re­mem­bered the ar­gu­ment about help­ing Syed that took place in the class.

McClain also ques­tioned why the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice has not taken her up on an of­fer to meet to dis­cuss the case.

“In­stead, they choose to pub­lish th­ese hurt­ful un­truths with­out giv­ing me a chance to con­tex­tu­al­ize the allegations and demon­strate their fal­sity,” McClain wrote. “The pros­e­cu­tion should ex­plain why they have never had time to meet with me, but will gladly take the op­por­tu­nity to meet with, pub­lish, and lend cre­dence to my de­trac­tors.”

The de­bate about McClain’s tes­ti­mony may end up mat­ter­ing more in the court of pub­lic opin­ion than a trial court. Though McClain tes­ti­fied at Syed’s post-con­vic­tion hear­ing ear­lier this year, Welch or­dered a new trial based on ques­tions raised about cell­phone tower ev­i­dence.

The at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice says it pub­licly raised the class­mates’ claims be­cause the de­fense has filed cross-ap­peal to be able to use McClain.

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