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The Washington Post

Adnan Syed is free. Will Maryland prosecutors try and retry him?


Adnan Syed, the Maryland man whose case went viral on the hit true crime podcast “Serial,” has now tasted freedom after 23 years in jail. The subsequent 26 days will assist decide whether or not that may final.

Prosecutors have till mid-October to resolve whether or not they are going to retry Syed after a Baltimore choose vacated his conviction on Monday. Prosecutors have stopped in need of declaring him harmless, however requested the choose to launch him, citing deficiencies within the trial greater than twenty years in the past that discovered Syed responsible of killing his ex-girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee.

Baltimore Metropolis State’s Legal professional Marilyn Mosby mentioned the way forward for Syed’s case will rely, largely, on the outcomes of recent DNA testing. She mentioned she would “certify his innocence” if the evaluation comes again inconclusive, and would “think about” in search of a retrial if the exams pointed to Syed.

Erica Suter, Syed’s lawyer, mentioned Thursday that the state may attempt to set a trial date to offer them extra time to analyze the case.

“It’s like a placeholder in order that they have time to do what they really feel like they should do,” she mentioned. “I don’t assume that may have any actual predictive worth in regards to the state’s opinion in regards to the energy of the case.”

Attorneys and specialists acquainted with the saga anticipate Mosby’s workplace to finally drop the case towards Syed. They mentioned it could be difficult to satisfy the requirements essential to show guilt with previous proof and testimony, and there may be little indication new DNA evaluation will implicate Syed.

“There may be affordable doubt throughout this case,” mentioned Maneka Sinha, an affiliate regulation professor on the College of Maryland Francis King Carey College of Regulation. “I’d be extremely stunned if there’s a choice to retry him.”

Vanessa Potkin, director of particular litigation on the Innocence Undertaking, mentioned it is not uncommon observe for prosecutors to maneuver to overturn the conviction, after which take extra time to resolve find out how to proceed.

“However in instances the place there are important questions and/or new proof of innocence,” she added, “retrials are extraordinarily uncommon.”

Syed has maintained his innocence since he was arrested as a 17-year-old in 1999, and DNA proof has but to attach him to the killing. In 2018, the Maryland Workplace of the Legal professional Common oversaw DNA analysis that examined fingernail clippings and blood samples, amongst different proof from the automobile the place prosecutors alleged Syed had strangled Lee. That evaluation was largely inconclusive, and didn’t discover traces of Syed.

“Whereas these DNA outcomes don’t reveal the true killer, they do go a great distance in exhibiting that the mistaken individual is in jail,” mentioned C. Justin Brown, Syed’s former lawyer, in a 2019 email to The Baltimore Sun.

In March, there was renewed motion to check DNA within the case. Prosecutors signed on to a movement with Syed’s lawyer, asking a choose to order testing of Lee’s clothes with the most recent DNA expertise, which was not obtainable on the time of Syed’s earlier trial. The brand new expertise can hint DNA left behind when somebody touches a floor.

Authorities examined fingernails, hair, underwear, a bra and a shirt, amongst different proof, in accordance with the recent motion to vacate Syed’s conviction. Investigators discovered male DNA on swabs from Lee’s proper fingernail and shirt, however couldn’t match it to a person. Solely feminine DNA was discovered on hairs and different articles of clothes.

Prosecutors mentioned they’re ready for added outcomes on different gadgets. At that time, Mosby mentioned, they are going to decide on retrial.

Susan Simpson, an lawyer who co-hosts the podcast “Undisclosed,” which lined Syed’s case, mentioned she has no purpose to imagine that the DNA proof would level to Syed.

“It simply appears extraordinarily inconceivable to me,” Simpson mentioned. “Not one of the proof helps his guilt from what I’ve seen.”

There are additionally excellent questions on whether or not there may very well be a brand new trial with new suspects. In the midst of a year-long investigation that led to the choice to vacate Syed’s conviction, the state’s lawyer’s workplace uncovered proof that confirmed prosecutors had identified of two different potential suspects — together with a minimum of one who had a motive to kill Lee.

Authorities haven’t launched the names of the suspects and mentioned they’re nonetheless investigating the case.

David Jaros, a regulation professor on the College of Baltimore, mentioned prosecutors would possibly want extra time to pursue the brand new leads.

“This can be a arduous case to show 23 years later,” Jaros mentioned. “Prosecutors might have a concept about who truly did it, however whether or not they’ll have the proof that they assume can persuade a jury past an affordable doubt? That’s a troublesome one.”

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