Prosecutors have officially dropped all charges against Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man made famous after being featured in the first season of popular podcast “Serial.”
The decision comes three weeks after Syed — who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 2000 — had his murder conviction overturned by Judge Melissa Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court. In her ruling, which came after prosecutors filed a motion to vacate the conviction, Phinn said the decision came after she determined that the prosecutors on the initial trial failed to turn in evidence to the court that pointed to two additional suspects and would have significantly helped Syed’s case.
Immediately following the ruling, Syed was released from prison after serving 23 years, since he was 18. Although prosecutors recommended that Syed be given a new trial in their initial motion, the dropping of charges ensures that Syed will not undergo another trial.
Syed’s case received heavy public attention 14 years after his conviction, when it served as the subject for the smash-hit debut season of investigative journalism podcast “Serial.” Hosted by Sarah Koenig and spun off from NPR’s “This American Life,” the podcast featured interviews with then-imprisoned Syed and many other people involved with the case, raising doubts about the validity of the conviction.
The podcast was an unprecedented success in its medium, breaking records as the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads on iTunes. Following its success, other podcasts and documentaries were released that further questioned the validity of Syed’s charges, including “Undisclosed,” hosted by Syed’s family friend Rabia Chaudry, and the 2018 HBO docuseries “The Case Against Adnan Syed.” Serial released a follow-up podcast to its original season the day after Syed’s release, while HBO has announced plans to release a followup episode to “The Case Against Adnan Syed” next year.
Syed spent years attempting to appeal his conviction. After appeals failed in 2003 and 2010, Syed applied for a new trial in 2015 and the Baltimore Court and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld his request. However, after the prosecution appealed, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied Syed’s request in 2019, followed by the Supreme Court that same year.