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Syed's attorney says cellphone expert's affidavit bolsters case for appeal

A cell phone expert who testified for the prosecution in Adnan Syed's murder trial says new disclosure could h

A cellphone expert who testified for the prosecution in the murder trial of Adnan Syed, the "Serial" podcast subject, said a new disclosure in the case could have changed his testimony.

Abraham Waranowitz, a former AT&T engineer, said in a sworn affidavit that he was handed only one page of cellphone information before taking the stand in 2000 to explain how Syed's cellphone was linked to where the victim's body was found. He said he did not know of a disclaimer on a different page that might have cast doubt on the reliability of the data.

"I consider the existence of the disclaimer about incoming calls to have been critical information for me to address," Waranowitz said in an affidavit that was included in a new court filing Tuesday. "I do not know why this information was not pointed out to me."

C. Justin Brown, Syed's attorney, said the expert's new comments bolster the case for a post-conviction hearing, during which the defense also wants to put forward a new alibi witness for Syed.

The disclosure is the latest development in attempts to reopen the 1999 murder case, which gained worldwide attention from "Serial," the 12-episode podcast offshoot of the "This American Life" public radio program that revisited the evidence and Syed's defense in the case.

Syed was convicted in 2000 of murder in the death of his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. He is serving a life sentence.

The Maryland attorney general's office has argued against Syed's requests for a new hearing, saying the claims are "meritless." Last month, Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah said reopening the proceedings would be "inconsequential theater and not in the interest of justice."

On Tuesday, David Nitkin, a spokesman for Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said, "We are reviewing the latest submission and will file a response if warranted."

In the latest motion, Brown said the original prosecutors withheld evidence pertaining to the phone records, and he accused the office of the attorney general of trying to win arguments rather than "uphold its duty to seek the truth."

In a filing in August, Brown said prosecutors used incoming calls to Syed's cellphone to place him in Leakin Park when authorities believe the body of his ex-girlfriend was buried. But on a fax cover sheet to Baltimore police, Brown said, AT&T warned about the accuracy of such cell tower data.

Vignarajah wrote that the fax sheet actually referred to an entirely different set of documents.

Brown said in Tuesday's filing that his interpretation of the documents was correct, and added the comments of the former phone company technician to bolster his argument.

The Court of Special Appeals agreed in February to hear Syed's appeal of a lower court ruling that denied his request for a new trial. That appellate ruling allowed Syed to make new written arguments to the court, but the judge overseeing the case has yet to grant a hearing on those arguments.

Syed believes he should be granted a new trial because he received poor representation from his prior attorney. The attorney did not call a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, who says she saw Syed in a public library at the time prosecutors say that Lee was killed.

"It would be in the interest of justice that Syed be allowed to put on his alibi witness and related evidence," Brown wrote in Tuesday's filing. "This would serve the goal that all parties to this case should share: the goal to find the truth."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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