De­fense team to state: ‘Give Syed a fair trial’

‘Se­rial’ sub­ject’s at­tor­neys re­ject pros­e­cu­tors’ claims about cell­phone records

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Justin Fen­ton jfen­ton@balt­sun.com

At­tor­neys for Ad­nan Syed have a sim­ple re­sponse to pros­e­cu­tors’ ef­forts to block his new trial: If they be­lieve the case against the “Se­rial” pod­cast sub­ject is strong, try it again.

“Give Syed a fair trial and let a jury de­cide,” lead at­tor­ney C. Justin Brown said Thurs­day. “My client has spent more than17 years in prison based on an un­con­sti­tu­tional con­vic­tion for a crime he did not com­mit. The last thing this case needs right now is more de­lay.”

Ear­lier this year, a Bal­ti­more judge va­cated Syed’s mur­der con­vic­tion in the 1999 death of Wood­lawn High School class­mate and ex-girl­friend Hae Min Lee and or­dered a new trial.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Syed was con­victed on “over­whelm­ing” ev­i­dence. They are pur­su­ing an ap­peal of the ruling.

Syed was serv­ing a life sen­tence. “Se­rial” and its spinoffs probed ques­tions about the case, and Syed was given the op­por­tu­nity to con­vince Judge Martin Welch that his orig­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney was wrong to not call anal­ibi wit­ness to tes­tify at his 2000trial.

That wit­ness tes­ti­fied at a hear­ing in Fe­bru­ary, and Syed’s de­fense team also raised ques­tions about cell­phone records used to tie Syed to the area where Lee’s body was found.

Welch ruled in July that it was in the in­ter­est of jus­tice that Syed re­ceive a new trial. He said the de­ci­sion was based on ques­tions raised about the cell­phone records.

Since that ruling, pros­e­cu­tors have ar­gued in court fil­ings that Welch should not have al­lowed Syed’s at­tor­neys to present ar­gu­ments about the cell­phone records at the Fe­bru­ary hear­ing.

In a re­sponse filed Thurs­day, Syed’s at­tor­neys re­jected the claim.

Syed re­mains jailed and charged with mur­der pend­ing the out­come of the ap­peal, which his at­tor­neys said could take years to re­solve.

At the Fe­bru­ary hear­ing, Brown said Syed’s orig­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney should have raised a dis­claimer that was sent by AT&T with Syed’s cell­phone records in court. The dis­claimer, which ap­peared on a fax cover sheet, said lo­ca­tion data from cer­tain calls was not re­li­able.

The technician who tes­ti­fied at Syed’s 2000 trial did not ap­pear at the Fe­bru­ary hear­ing but said in an af­fi­davit that the cover sheet caused him to have con­cerns about his orig­i­nal tes­ti­mony.

Pros­e­cu­tors used the phone records in 2000 to bol­ster tes­ti­mony from the state’s star wit­ness, Syed’s al­leged ac­com­plice Jay Wilds, and an FBI ex­pert tes­ti­fied this year that the records were re­li­able and ac­cu­rate.

“The Cir­cuit Court prop­erly found that the AT&T dis­claimer, on its own, sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­mines the State’s prized cell phone lo­ca­tion ev­i­dence, cre­at­ing a sub­stan­tial pos­si­bil­ity that the re­sult of the trial was fun­da­men­tally un­re­li­able,” Syed’s at­tor­neys wrote in the fil­ing Thurs­day.

In a sep­a­rate fil­ing, the de­fense also re­jected new claims from two for­mer class­mates of al­ibi wit­ness Asia McClain.

The for­mer class­mates came for­ward af­ter the judge or­dered a new trial and told the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice that 17 years ago, McClain told them she would lie to help Syed avoid trou­ble. McClain has de­nied the claims.

DY­LAN SLAGLE/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

Bette Thomp­son and young Joseph Guerra of West­min­ster meet dur­ing a concert Thurs­day by Ba­gus Wiswakarma and Larry Wil­son fea­tur­ing the his­tory of the tango, part of the Third Thurs­day Concert se­ries at Brightview West­min­ster Ridge re­tire­ment com­mu­nity. Joseph was at­tend­ing the concert with his grand­fa­ther, Dan Young.

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