Lawyer for Adnan Syed, whose case was featured in 'Serial,' argues for new trial

Posted at 1:29 PM, Mar 23, 2015
and last updated 2016-06-30 17:40:33-04

The lawyer for the defendant at the center of the popular Serial podcast has filed a brief with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, arguing the court should grant him a new trial.

C. Justin Brown, attorney for Adnan Syed of Woodlawn, filed his arguments with Maryland’s second-highest court Monday. In his 30-page brief, he argued Syed’s attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, was ineffective for failing to interview a witness who could have provided an alibi for Syed.

Syed is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The case drew renewed attention last fall after the release of Serial, in which journalist Sarah Koenig re-examined the case and probed inconsistencies in the investigation.   

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After the trial, Gutierrez was disbarred for reasons unrelated to Syed’s case. She died in 2004.

In his brief, Brown wrote that “the entire trial depended on whether Syed could prove where he was at the time of the murder.”

RELATED: Maryland court to consider appeal in case featured in Serial podcast

Much of the case against Syed hinged upon testimony from acquaintance Jay Wilds, who said he helped Syed bury Lee’s body.

“Meanwhile, a credible witness – an honors student who had no obvious bias in favor of Syed—had come forward unsolicited with a recollection that she had been with Syed around the time of the murder,” Brown wrote. “She wrote two credible letters to Syed, in which she specifically requested to speak to Syed’s lawyer. Syed then relayed this information to his lawyer—as we know from the notes found in Gutierrez’ file—and specifically asked her to interview the witness. Yet the lawyer did absolutely nothing.”

Brown also argues Gutierrez never spoke to prosecutors about a possible plea deal, and told Syed instead that the prosecution wasn’t willing to offer one.

“His lawyer effectively stopped representing him,” Brown wrote.