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Success of appeal looks unlikely for ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed

Can allies at the Innocence Project save Syed from life in prison?


Nayomi Reghay

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 15, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 6:31 pm CDT

The Maryland Appeals Court is reviewing Adnan Syed’s application for appeal, Time reported Wednesday. While the court has not formally responded to the application, the state did issue its response, and prospects do not look good for Syed,.

Syed was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee nearly 15 years ago; his case gained fame last year when it was featured by hit podcast Serial. He filed an application for appeal on the grounds that he did not receive adequate counsel from deceased defense attorney, Cristina Guttierez, who did not advise him to seek a plea deal. The application precedes the release of the now widely known podcast, which supporters of Syed argue has unearthed new information that could warrant an overturning of Syed’s conviction.

In response to Syed’s application for appeal, the state firmly argues to deny the appeal, based on the fact that Syed staunchly maintained his innocence throughout trial and beyond, citing the direct appeal Syed made following his conviction.

Prosecutor Kevin Urick spoke to the Intercept in defense of the guilty verdict. On the issue of Syed’s argument that he received ineffective counsel, Urick asserts that Gutierrez was still a top defense attorney at the time of Syed’s trial.

When questioned on her later disbarment, Urick is adamant that the issues leading to Gutierrez’s disbarment were not relevant at the time of Syed’s trial: “[S]he had serious health problems that caused her to be a little bit fast and loose with some things, and she ended up getting disbarred. But that was after this. At this time, she was a premier defense attorney, very aggressive, very hard-nosed.”

Syed may find hope, however, in his allies at the Innocence Project. Deirdre Enright, the director of the Innocence Project, appeared on Serial to discuss Syed’s case with podcast host Sarah Koenig and took interest in Syed’s case. Enright told Time in December that she would continue to petition for DNA testing in Syed’s case, regardless of the court’s ruling in his appeal.

H/T Time | Photo via Scott*/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jan 15, 2015, 2:26 am CST