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‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed Will Get a New Trial 18 Years After Murder Conviction

He has served 16 years of a life sentence for killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.

Adnan Syed when he was in high school


The central character of “Serial” season one has had his murder conviction vacated 19 years after his arrest. Adnan Syed will receive a new trial for allegedly kidnapping and committing the first-degree murder of Hae Min Lee, 18, his ex-girlfriend and former classmate. Maryland Court of Special Appeals panel announced its ruling Thursday. Lee’s body was found a month after her January 1999 disappearance, in Baltimore’s Leakin Park.

According to the three-judge panel, Syed’s attorney during his original trial failed him by neglecting to call witness Asia McClain — a “Serial” source — to the stand. If true, McClain’s alibi “would have made it impossible for Syed to have murdered Hae.” Syed, now in his late 30s, served 16 years of a life sentence for the crime. Meanwhile, McClain published the memoir “Confessions of a Serial Alibi.”

Hosted by veteran “This American Life” producer Sarah Koening, the debut “Serial” arc aired for 12 episodes in 2014. “Serial” was the fastest podcast ever to reach 5 million downloads, and its installments have now been downloaded more than 175 million times. It was also the first podcast to win a Peabody Award, landing Koening a spot on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list (her entry was written by Ewan McGregor). Investigation Discovery also devoted a television special to the question, “Adnan Syed: Innocent or Guilty?”

A second season of “Serial” concluded in March 2016, focusing on ex-Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl, who avoided his own prison sentence this past November for deserting the Army. Last summer, “Serial” producer and “This American Life” host Ira Glass promised that season three, expected sometime this year, will be “huge and different,” and not focused on a court case.

In September 2015, Variety reported that “The Lego Movie” writer-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller will base a cable series around the making of “Serial.” Syed’s plight was never intended to be the subject of that series, planned for Fox 21 Television Studios. Fox’s main broadcast network currently airs “The Last Man on Earth,” executive produced by Lord and Miller.

A representative from the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City told IndieWire that it is reviewing the Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ opinion before determining a start date for Syed’s next trial.

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