The family of Hae Min Lee is asking the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to halt Adnan Syed’s circuit court case pending the family’s appeal of a Baltimore judge’s decision to vacate Syed’s murder conviction in Lee’s death.
In a six-page motion filed Sept. 29, Hae Min Lee’s brother Young Lee asked the appellate court to halt further proceedings in the case because the family was not given enough notice about the hearing to overturn Syed’s conviction.
“The Lee family is not seeking, through this motion or through the appeal, to impact Mr. Syed’s release from custody,” the family’s attorney Steve Kelly told the Sun in a statement. “If the wrong person has been behind bars for 23 years, the Lee family and the rest of the world want to understand what new evidence has led to that conclusion.”
Syed’s case became a matter of international intrigue following the 2014 release of the “Serial” podcast, which reexamined his now 22-year-old murder conviction.
Maryland law does not specifically say how much notice a victim’s family needs before a hearing, but it is inferred that they should be given a “reasonable” amount of time. Kelly filed notice of the Lee family’s appeal last week, on the grounds the family didn’t receive enough notice about Syed’s hearing.
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Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn overturned Syed’s conviction on Sept. 19 after prosecutors in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said they found evidence suggesting Syed’s innocence that had not previously been disclosed to defense attorneys in the case.
Prosecutors moved to vacate Syed’s conviction on Sept. 14, two days after notifying the Lee family and following a year-long investigation, the Lee family’s motion said. Then, on Sept. 16, Syed’s attorneys and prosecutors discussed the motion at a meeting in Phinn’s chambers, where the judge scheduled a hearing for on whether to vacate Syed’s conviction for the following Monday, Sept. 19 — less than one full business day.
“Mr. Lee was not notified of this proceeding, had no opportunity to attend or to be heard at the proceeding,” Kelly wrote in the motion.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office notified the Lee family Friday afternoon and did not receive a response until Sunday, the day before the hearing, Becky Feldman, chief of Mosby’s sentencing review unit, said in court.
According to the Lee family’s motion, Feldman did not tell Young Lee that he had a right to participate in the Sept. 19 hearing. Kelly argued unsuccessfully in court that the hearing should be postponed seven days to give Lee an opportunity to travel from California to appear in person.
A jury in 2000 convicted Syed of murdering Lee, his former high school girlfriend, and burying her in a shallow grave in Leakin Park. Syed, still charged with murder pending current prosecutors’ decision on whether to retry him or dismiss the charges, has always maintained his innocence.
Phinn ordered a new trial in the matter, but under Maryland law, prosecutors have 30 days to either dismiss the charges or to continue with a new trial.