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Timeline: Adnan Syed's 23-year journey to freedom

Posted: 4:05 PM, Oct 12, 2022
Updated: 2022-10-13 18:34:20-04
Adnan Syed leaves courthouse after conviction vacated

BALTIMORE — After more than two decades, Adnan Syed is a free man.

In February of 1999, the body of his ex-girlfriend and Woodlawn High School classmate, Hae Min Lee, was discovered in a shallow grave in Leakin Park.

About three-weeks later, Syed was arrested and charged for her murder.

After an initial mistrial, Syed was convicted the following year. A judge then sentenced him to life behind bars.

Much of Syed’s trial hinged on cell phone data records. Prosecutors contended that dozens of calls were received placing Syed at the Park on the date and time of Lee's murder.

One witness even testified that he helped Syed dig a hole for Lee's body. Syed though claimed he was at the library.

Asia McClain offered to back up his story during trial, but Syed's attorney didn't pursue her testimony.

Prosecutors argued that McClain's statements conflicted with what Syed told police regarding his whereabouts that day.

MORE: Attorneys argue Adnan Syed alibi in Court of Appeals

The case gained national attention in 2014 when it was featured on the podcast Serial, which questioned Syed's guilt.

Throughout the years, Syed's defense team continued to appeal his conviction challenging the reliability of cellphone tower evidence used in trial.

In June 2016 a circuit court judge threw out Syed's conviction. Nearly three-years later, that ruling was overturned by Maryland's Court of Appeals.

The case ended up going all the way to the United States Supreme Court, who refused to vacate Syed's sentence.

It appeared that all hope had been lost.

That was until September of 2022, when Baltimore City Prosecutors found previously undisclosed material that suggested two other unnamed suspects could have potentially been responsible for Lee's murder.

City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the original prosecutors knew of the alternate suspects at the time Syed was charged, but accused them of withholding that information during trial.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has disputed those claims.

The newly uncovered evidence was enough for Mosby's office to file a motion in circuit court to have Syed's conviction vacated.

Prosecutors told judge Melissa Phinn that the cell phone data records used to convict Syed were flawed and no longer reliable.

They also questioned the credibility of the witness who testified against Syed, and the Baltimore Police detective who had originally worked on the case.

Phinn agreed to vacate Syed's conviction and have him released from prison under home detention, pending a new trial.

On October 11 Mosby's office decided not to retry Syed, opting instead to drop all charges.

In justifying her decision, Mosby cited a second round of testing which failed to show Syed's DNA on Lee's clothing from the night she was killed.

An attorney for the Lee family said they were caught off guard by the announcement, as they were in the process of appealing Phinn's ruling. An appeals court has since given the family 15 days to argue why charges against Syed should be reinstated.

Meanwhile, Syed's attorneys say they plan to file for full exoneration as soon as possible.