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Appeals court refuses to reconsider Adnan Syed’s sentence


A Maryland appeals court has denied a request by Adnan Syed’s attorney to reconsider his recent decision to reinstate his murder conviction


A Maryland appeals court on Tuesday denied a request by Adnan Syed’s attorney to reconsider his recent decision to reinstate his murder conviction. Her attorney said she would appeal to the Supreme Court of Maryland.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction in March in a ruling that upheld the victim’s family’s arguments that a lower court violated their rights.

E. Gregory Wells, the chief appeals court judge, signed a brief order saying that the three-judge panel that made the original decision denied Syed’s motion, “because it is based on a argument that had not been raised before”.

Syed’s lawyers say the appeals judges broke with court precedent by not asking the victim’s family to prove that the outcome of the September hearing would have been different had they been given more notice and appeared in person. The motion also questions whether the court intends to give victims of crime and their representatives “special treatment that is not even available to defendants.”

Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney, said she would appeal to the state’s highest court.

“Appeals courts regularly assess whether an error impacted the underlying process,” Suter said in a statement. “We are appalled that the Maryland Court of Appeals chose not to do so here. We will seek review from the Supreme Court of Maryland.”

Syed – whose long-running court case drew international attention in 2014 since the first season of the hit ‘Serial’ podcast – regained his freedom last year when Baltimore prosecutors decided to overturn his conviction, saying that ‘they had looked into the case and found other suspects and unreliable evidence used in the trial.

But the victim’s family said they were given insufficient notice to attend the September vacatur hearing in person, which violated their right to be “treated with dignity and respect”, and the Intermediate Appeals Court of the state accepted. In a 2-1 decision that was suspended for 60 days, the judges restored Syed’s conviction and ordered a resumption of the hearing in question.

Syed was 17 when his ex-girlfriend and high school classmate Hae Min Lee was found strangled to death and buried in a makeshift grave in 1999. He was arrested weeks later and eventually convicted of murder. He received life in prison plus 30 years.

Syed has remained free while the case continues.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.