ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- The Supreme Court of Maryland announced Wednesday it will hear an appeal from Adnan Syed, whose conviction for killing an ex-girlfriend was reinstated by a lower court after he was released from prison.
The court scheduled legal brief deadlines for August and oral arguments for Oct. 5. The court also said it will hear appeals from the victim’s family.
Syed, whose case was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial," was convicted in 2000 of killing Hae Min Lee. He was freed from prison last year after Baltimore prosecutors found flaws in the evidence presented at trial and a judge agreed to vacate his conviction.
However, Lee's relatives appealed the decision, contending they didn’t receive sufficient notice to attend the hearing that set Syed free. In March, the Maryland Appellate Court agreed and reinstated Syed’s conviction and ordered a redo of the hearing.
Syed's attorney, Erica Suter, then appealed that ruling to the state's highest court. She asked the seven justices to review whether former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to dismiss the charges against Syed last year made the family’s court challenge moot.
Last September, a judge denied to postpone the Maryland hearing that released Syed so that the victim’s brother, Young Lee, could travel from California, but did allow Lee to address the court via Zoom.
Suter also wants the justices to decide if the Zoom testimony satisfied the right of the victim’s representative to attend the hearing and whether the family had enough notice.
Syed’s lawyer is asking the Supreme Court of Maryland to consider whether the conviction should have been reinstated without showing that the hearing wouldn't have resulted in his release.
The Lee family filed their own petition asking the court to give victims an even larger role in hearings to vacate convictions — by allowing them to challenge evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
“The State of Maryland supports victims and their families with rights acknowledged by Maryland’s own state constitution and statutory scheme," said David Sanford, an attorney for the Lee family in a statement after the court announced it will hear the appeals. "We will urge the Maryland Supreme Court to recognize those rights by allowing Young Lee and his family the opportunity to challenge the state’s evidence, to the extent it has any evidence, suggesting Adnan Syed did not murder Young Lee’s sister 23 years ago.”
Maryland law grants victims the “right to speak” in certain proceedings, but allowing more active participation in conviction vacatur hearings would “create a sea change in Maryland courts” by effectively letting them play the role of third-party prosecutor, Syed’s attorneys wrote earlier this month. That is a question the state legislature should decide, not the courts, the attorneys argued.
As the case proceeds, Syed will remain free, but there is a chance he could ultimately return to prison, depending on the outcome.