Defense team to state: ‘Give Syed a fair trial’
‘Serial’ subject’s attorneys reject prosecutors’ claims about cellphone records
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.
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.