Legal fund created to help Adnan Syed

A legal trust has been set up to help Adnan Syed, the subject of "Serial" with legal fees.

A group of lawyers supporting Adnan Syed has set up a legal trust and hired a private investigator to help him fight for a new trial.

The trust, which includes Baltimore attorney Dennis E. Robinson and Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and Syed family friend, was finalized Monday and will oversee the more than $91,000 that has been raised from 980 donors through a LaunchGood online fundraising drive.

Syed was convicted in 2000 of killing his ex-girlfriend and Woodlawn High School classmate Hae Min Lee on Jan. 13, 1999. He is serving a life sentence in a Western Maryland state prison.

In October, "Serial," a podcast series led by former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, began re-examining his conviction, raising questions about his defense and evidence used in the trial. The series, which included 12 episodes, became the world's most popular podcast last year and was downloaded more than 76 million times.

Syed is attempting to appeal his conviction for the third time, and on Monday his lawyer filed a 31-page brief with the Court of Special Appeals that says "ineffective counsel" plagued his defense.

C. Justin Brown, the attorney handling his appeal, wrote in the filing that his trial lawyer, M. Cristina Gutierrez, should have called a classmate who could have provided Syed with an alibi and also should have followed Syed's instructions and asked prosecutors for a plea deal. The filing alleges that Gutierrez failed to do either.

"I think we have two very strong issues in front of the court," Chaudry said this week. "I think we have a good chance, and there's a part of me that wishes the state would concede. ... There are clearly a lot of things that went wrong in this case that makes it clear there should be a new trial."

Syed's fundraising campaign is seeking to raise $250,000 to help cover his legal expenses, which now include a private investigator.

The investigator has started to look for new evidence, Chaudry said, but she declined to say whether anything new has been uncovered.

jgeorge@baltsun.com

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