State calls Adnan Syed's request to reopen proceedings 'meritless'

Md. attorneys say Adnan Syed's appeal is 'meritless'

Recent requests by "Serial" podcast subject Adnan Syed to have post-conviction proceedings in his 15-year-old murder case reopened in Baltimore Circuit Court — in part so that a new alibi witness can testify on his behalf — are "meritless" and should be denied, according to attorneys for the state.

In a 34-page motion filed with the court Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Thiruvendran Vignarajah argued that reopening the proceedings so the court can hear from Asia McClain, the alleged witness, would be "inconsequential theater and not in the interest of justice."

Syed was convicted in 2000 of murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and is serving a life sentence. His case gained worldwide attention because of "Serial," a 12-episode podcast and offshoot of the "This American Life" public radio program that revisited the evidence and Syed's defense in the case.

Vignarajah said in the filing that McClain's testimony would have no bearing on Syed's claim — still pending before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals — that he should be granted a new trial because of poor representation by his prior attorney. Vignarajah also wrote that allegations that one of the original prosecutors improperly dissuaded McClain from testifying are "preposterous."

In addition, Vignarajah challenged as "misleading" a contention by Syed's new attorney, C. Justin Brown, that his previous attorney, M Cristina Gutierrez, failed to properly challenge phone records from cellular carrier AT&T that prosecutors relied upon to place Syed at Leakin Park when authorities believe Lee's body was buried in 1999.

Lee and McClain were Syed's Woodlawn High School classmates.

Brown said in a filing last month that prosecutors used incoming calls to Syed's cellphone even though AT&T warned about the accuracy of cell tower data on a fax cover sheet to Baltimore police. Vignarajah wrote that the fax sheet actually referred to an entirely different set of documents.

Brown said he hadn't seen the state's motion as of Wednesday night but would be "reviewing it and considering our next step."

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.

krector@baltsun.com

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