The defense attorney for Adnan Syed has asked Maryland’s highest court to reconsider its decision to reject a new trial for the prisoner featured in the “Serial” podcast.
The Maryland Court of Appeals decided last month that Syed should not receive a new trial for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. His attorney, C. Justin Brown, asked the court Monday to reconsider, arguing the judges’ decision puts them at odds with courts around the country.
“The court now stands alone,” Brown wrote.
At issue is whether Syed had a sufficient defense at his trial nearly two decades ago. Syed was convicted of killing his former girlfriend and Woodlawn High School classmate. He has been serving a life sentence.
Many questions have been raised about Lee’s murder. The case attracted the attention of millions of people with the hit podcast “Serial.” It was revisited last month in the HBO documentary “The Case Against Adnan Syed.”
Syed had appealed his conviction on grounds that his previous attorney failed to call a key alibi witness. He also questioned the reliability of cellphone evidence used to place him at the spot where Lee's body was found.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals accepted only the argument that Syed’s attorney erred in not calling the witness. Last year the judges ordered his conviction be thrown out.
But prosecutors appealed to Maryland’s highest court, and last month the court reinstated his conviction. In the latest maneuver, Brown has asked the highest court to reconsider.
He filed a motion for reconsideration Monday, arguing that judges in other states have granted new trials to defendants when their attorneys neglect to call an alibi witness. Other courts have found such an omission causes prejudice to a case. That’s a legal standard meaning a defendant’s rights have been violated — in this case, the right to effective assistance of counsel.
Syed can demonstrate prejudice by showing a reasonable probability that the alibi witness could have raised doubt in the mind of one juror, Brown wrote.
“Every other court in the country to have considered the impact of trial counsel’s failure to contact this type of alibi witness has concluded that it was prejudicial,” he wrote.
He also argued that the Court of Appeals made a mistake by not following the trial facts. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Brown said he wants a chance to to further argue the matters.
“The prejudice issue was something that sort of fell under the radar,” he said. “One of the things we are asking the court to do is to allow the parties to brief this issue more thoroughly.”
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has defended Syed’s conviction during the appeals. A spokeswoman declined to comment.
The Court of Appeals is scheduled to meet next April 18. The seven-judge panel rarely grants reconsideration.