State files opposition to Adnan Syed's request for bail hearing

State opposes "Serial" podcast subject Adnan Syed's request for bail hearing.

Lawyers for the state are arguing that "Serial" podcast subject Adnan Syed shouldn't be eligible for release on bail, saying he remains a convicted murderer with his new trial ruling on hold in the appellate courts.

Syed's attorneys last month said the appeals process could take years to resolve and that Syed has proven over the past 17 years in prison to be a good candidate for release pending a new trial.

But the Attorney General's Office on Monday filed a motion in opposition, claiming the defense had missed its chance to oppose a judge's order that stayed the new trial ruling and should have sought bail at that time.

Syed "remains a convicted murderer and kidnapper and continues to serve his sentence of life in prison," wrote Assistant Attorney General Charlton Howard. "Because of the stay, he is not in a pretrial posture awaiting trial nor is he cloaked in the presumption of innocence."

The court has yet to respond to Syed's request for a bail hearing.

Syed's lead defense attorney, C. Justin Brown, told The Sun Thursday that the defense "look[s] forward to having a bail hearing and having the opportunity to prove that Syed is neither a danger to the community nor a flight risk."

"Syed has spent 17 years in prison based on an unconstitutional conviction for a crime he did not commit. It is unconscionable that he is still in prison," Brown said in a statement.

Syed was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison for the killing of ex-girlfriend and Woodlawn High School classmate Hae Min Lee. Syed's case became the focus on the popular "Serial" podcast, helping raise questions that prompted a new hearing in his case. This summer, Baltimore Judge Martin Welch ordered a new trial.

In his request for a bail hearing, Syed's attorneys wrote that Maryland's Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act does allow for a circuit court judge to set bail for the defendant even while staying the order pending the appeal.

The state counters that even if given the chance, "there is no reason why Syed's bail should be different" from his original no-bail status after being charged. They say that is the "normal outcome" in bail hearings in Baltimore City for a person charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping.

Syed's attorneys, in their petition for a new bail hearing, said he has "strong personal incentive to prove his innocence" after receiving recent favorable outcomes in court. "Nothing would run more to the contrary to that desire than fleeing justice," they said.

Their petition also raised new allegations against Syed's convicted accomplice, Jay Wilds, unearthing new information about his criminal record since the trial.

Howard, the assistant attorney general, wrote that the defense was attempting to conduct a "mini-trial."

"Although the weight of the evidence prior to trial is not germane to bail review, Syed's conviction was then, and continues to be today, supported by overwhelming evidence of guilt," Howard wrote.

 

jfenton@baltsun.com

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