Potential 'Serial' alibi witness cross examined

Posted at 6:26 PM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 06:49:09-05

Testimony will continue Friday morning as Adnan Syed of "Serial" fame tries to win a new trial.

He's serving a life sentence for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, but the podcast brought his case back into the public eye; 10s of millions of people listened to it.

RELATED: Adnan Syed appears in court for post-conviction hearing

Thursday, the woman who is Adnan Syed's alibi -- Asia McClain, spent her second day on the witness stand.

McClain (now Chapman) testified that she spent almost her entire day at the Woodlawn Public Library back on January 13th, 1999.

Around 2:15, Adnan Syed walked in.  She testified that they discussed his break-up with Lee, who was also a classmate at Woodlawn High School.

Then, McClain left, around 2:40.  It's during that time that the state believes Syed killed Lee.

So after his arrest, McClain wrote him two letters asking him, among other things, “Why didn't you tell anyone you talked to me?” and “How long did you stay at the library?"

During his cross-examination, Maryland Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah asked at least three times whether McClain had actually written the second letter much later than she claimed, whether Syed's friends told her to write it, and how she could know so many details about the crime.

At one point, McClain broke down in tears -- but she did not change her story.

On re-direct, Syed's attorney Justin Brown displayed two Baltimore Sun articles published before McClain wrote her letters -- and the articles referred to the same details about the case.

“I thought Asia McClain provided the court with some very important, necessary testimony that may result in a new trial for Adnan,” said University of Maryland law professor Doug Colbert.

The second argument made by Syed's defense team involves cell phone towers.

On the night of the murder, he received two phone calls.  Cell-tower technology placed him at Leakin Park, where Lee's body was eventually found.

But a fax cover sheet from the AT&T wireless company sent to prosecutors had clear instructions on it, which read "Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status.  Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location."
An expert on cell tower technology testified that prosecutors should have at least checked with the phone company to clarify that.

Colbert -- who was Adnan Syed's first attorney back in 1999 -- said without the cell tower evidence it would have been extremely difficult for prosecutors to convict him; their only other evidence, Colbert says, was testimony by Syed's alleged accomplice Jay Wilds.

“Their case depended on the cell tower phone records and jay wilds. I was present for jay wilds' testimony during the first trial and it was underwhelming to say the least,” Colbert said.

This post conviction hearing is only scheduled last one more day – through Friday.  It's not clear when Judge Martin Welch will rule on whether Adnan Syed should get a new trial.