Appealing to 'Serial' fans, friends of Adnan Syed launch legal fund drive

Friends launch legal defense fundraiser for Adnan Syed of "Serial."

Friends of Adnan Syed -- and fans of "Serial" -- have raised nearly $25,000 through an online fund drive to help with his legal defense.

Syed is serving a life plus 30-year sentence for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Both were seniors at Woodlawn High School when Lee's body was discovered in Leakin Park.

Lee's murder, and Syed's case, were the subject of "Serial," a breakaway podcast hit created by "This American Life" producer, Sarah Koenig. The series, which ended last week, became the most popular podcast ever.

The legal defense fund was launched by Rabia Chaudry, an attorney and family friend of the Syeds, and Baltimore attorney Dennis Robinson.

Chaudry hopes to raise as much as $250,000 to cover the cost of a possible appeal.

The state's second-highest court is currently weighing whether Syed received effective legal counsel.

His attorney, M. Christina Gutierrez, had been highly regarded, but was "disbarred with consent" the year following Syed's trial, after it was determined that clients' money went missing from a trust fund she was required to maintain. She died in 2004.

Syed contends that Gutierrez failed to contact a potential alibi witness, a classmate named Asia McClain who had written a letter saying she saw Syed in the library at the time the murder is believed to have occurred.

He also says that Gutierrez did not properly advise him about a potential plea deal.

According to this story by The Sun's Justin George, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has given prosecutors until Jan. 14 to weigh in on whether they believe Syed received effective legal counsel.

On the fundraising site, Chaudry and Robinson note that Syed has been imprisoned for 14 years and cannot pay for his own defense.

"He needs help to pay the legal fees, to follow-up on the tips and find the witnesses. He needs financial help in order to fund the chance to win back his freedom," they write. 

If Syed does not need all the funds raised -- if he is acquitted, exonerated or released without retrial, or if he runs out of appeals,  "the remaining money be held in trust for Adnan to use or to donate as he wishes," they write. 


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