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Maryland Court of Appeals reinstates Adnan Syed's murder conviction

Adnan Syed leaves courthouse after conviction vacated
Posted at 1:47 PM, Mar 28, 2023

ANNAPOLIS, Md — Maryland's Court of Appeals has reinstated Adnan Syed's murder conviction.

The court released its opinion Tuesday.

Because the circuit court violated Mr. Lee’s right to notice of, and his right to attend, the hearing on the State’s motion to vacate, in violation of CP § 8-301.1(d), this Court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy. We can do that, and accordingly, we vacate the circuit court’s order vacating Mr. Syed’s convictions, which results in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence. We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision.

Back in September a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge threw out Syed's life sentence for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, at the request of former Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

The following month Mosby declined to refile charges citing lack of evidence, making Syed a free man.

RELATED: Adnan Syed's life sentence vacated, given home detention pending new trial

Young Lee, the victim's brother, claimed the hasty decision violated his rights.

Lee, who lives in California, said the judge overseeing the case would not allow time for him to appear at the hearing in person.

His lawyers say Mosby's office gave only one business-day’s notice, leaving Lee no chance to properly review and challenge the state's new evidence.

Syed's defenders argued Mosby's decision made the case moot and therefore no appeal should be heard.

The Maryland Attorney General's Office sided with Lee's attorneys, calling the judge's decision "legally defective."

Both sides now have 60 days to decide on how to proceed.

"We will exercise our discretion to stay the effective date of the mandate for 60 days from the issuance of this opinion. That gives the parties time to assess how to proceed in response to this Court's decision," the majority wrote in their ruling.

Baltimore City State's Attorney Ivan Bates, who defeated Mosby in the July Primary Election, issued this response through a spokesperson.

“The posture of the case currently is that the Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Mr. Syed's conviction and sentence. This office is currently conducting a review of the decision. We must allow the appeals process to play itself out, Mr. Syed and his legal team may file for an appeal to the Maryland Supreme Court, and we must respect their rights to do so until those rights are either heard or that request is denied; we are in a holding pattern. Any further comment would be premature at this time.”

Erica Suter, Assistant Public Defender and counsel for Syed, provided the following statement in response to the Appellate Court's decision today:

It took over two decades for prosecutors to finally acknowledge what Adnan Syed and his loved ones have been saying since day one: he did not murder Hae Min Lee. The appeal was not about Adnan’s innocence but about notice and mootness. The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan’s convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms. Lee’s brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing. We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee’s attendance over Zoom was sufficient.

There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon. For the time being, Adnan remains a free man.

We remain optimistic that justice will be done. We intend to seek review in Maryland’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, and will continue to fight until Adnan’s convictions are fully vacated. Ensuring justice for Hae Min Lee does not require injustice for Adnan.

Mosby released a statement regarding Tuesday's ruling:

This decision sets a dangerous precedent over a prosecutor’s ability to reverse an injustice. We notified the victim’s family in line with Maryland law and best practices, and they attended virtually and spoke. To now send this case back to court prolongs the pain for the Lee family, and leaves a cloud hanging over a man who deserves to be free, Adnan Syed.
Marilyn Mosby