'Serial' Subject Adnan Syed Might Fight for Bail, Lawyer Says

"He's not a flight risk and he is not a danger to the community," lawyer says.

July 1, 2016, 12:34 PM

— -- "Serial" podcast subject Adnan Syed, whose 2000 murder conviction was vacated Thursday, should be granted bail because he is neither a flight risk nor a danger to anyone, his lawyer told ABC News today.

"We are just starting to look into that and I think we have a very compelling case," Justin Brown said on “Good Morning America.”

"He's not a flight risk and he is not a danger to the community and therefore he should be allowed out on bail."

But whether they pursue a bail hearing is yet to be determined, Brown said, adding that he hadn't been able to reach his client as of this morning.

He said he’s positive, however, that the news has reached Syed in a Maryland prison.

Syed, now 35, has been incarcerated for more than half his life, sentenced to life in prison in 2000 for the murder of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. She was found buried in a shallow grave in Baltimore's Leakin Park.

A retired Baltimore judge issued a ruling Thursday granting Syed a new trial on the grounds that he received ineffective counsel from a defense attorney in 2000, who failed to cross examine a state cell expert witness on key evidence.

"The court finds that trial counsel's performance fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment when she failed to cross-examine the state's cell tower expert regarding a disclaimer obtained as part of pre-trial discovery," Judge Martin Welch wrote.

The ruling followed new evidence presented during a second post-conviction relief hearing in February, including testimony from alibi witness Asia McClain Chapman, who says she spoke with Syed at the time the state claims he killed Lee.

When asked this morning whether he is confident his client is innocent, Brown told “GMA," "I am. I have full confidence in his innocence."

PHOTO:Adnan Syed is pictured in an undated file photo.
Adnan Syed is pictured in an undated file photo.
The Adnan Syed Trust/Launch Good

Brown credited the 2014 hit podcast "Serial" that attracted millions of listeners, shattering records for the number of times a podcast has been streamed and downloaded.

"But for the podcast Serial, we would not be sitting here today," Brown said.

Brown also acknowledge the state might try to appeal the judge's ruling, and that the state has 30 days to decide its next steps. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General said late Thursday night in a written statement that they will continue to pursue justice for Lee and her family, adding that they will seek a win in an appellate court.

Lee's family issued a statement today expressing disappointment in the judge's decision.

"We do not speak as often or as loudly as those who support Adnan Syed, but we care just as much about this case," the statement read. "We continue to grieve. We continue to believe justice was done when Mr. Syed was convicted of killing Hae. While we continue to put our faith in the courts and hope the decision will be reversed, we are very disappointed by the Judge’s decision.

“We remain thankful to the many many people who have expressed their support for us, and to the State for standing by the true victims and for giving Hae Min Lee a voice. We thank you for respecting our privacy."

Brown said, "We might have to go up through the Maryland appellate courts and defend the opinion that was issued yesterday but we are pretty confident that the opinion is very solid and it’s based on the facts."

McClain Chapman's witness testimony was determined not to have compelled the judge in issuing his ruling.

McClain Chapman, who gave birth to a child two days ago, spoke with ABC Spokane, Washington, affiliate KXLY-TV Thursday night.

She told the station she was shocked when she read the news, saying she didn't think it was real and checked multiple sources to be sure, and that she’s excited in anticipation of what's going to happen next.

"A little bit of anxiety only because this is the next step in the process and even still, we don't know what this step means," McClain Chapman said.

PHOTO: Adnan Syed is shown in an undated photo provided by his brother, Yusuf Syed.
Adnan Syed is shown in an undated photo provided by his brother, Yusuf Syed.
Courtesy of Yusuf Syed/AP Photo

On the issue of failing to contact McClain Chapman, Judge Welch found that Syed's lawyer's performance "fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment," but that this error did not prejudice Syed's defense. Welch wrote that "trial counsel's failure to investigate McClain's alibi did not prejudice the defense because the crux of the State's case did not rest on the time of the murder," adding later, "The potential alibi witness, however, would not have undermined the crux of the State's case: that Petitioner buried the victim's body in Leakin Park at approximately 7 p.m. on January 13, 1999," the documents read.

Welch found that the cellphone tower evidence played a more crucial role in determining this latest twist in Syed's circuitous route through the Maryland court system.

"The cell towers is really just one small piece,” said Charles Ewing, professor at the University of Buffalo School of Law who spoke about whether Syed was a “psychopath” on the “Serial” podcast. “The State now has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt he is guilty, so this is great news for him.”

“It is much more difficult to prove after 15-plus years that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, especially because some of the evidence will no longer be available, some witnesses will no longer be available, evidence is stale when a case goes 15-plus years and people's memories are just not the same after that period of time,” Ewing said.

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