Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man whose 2000 murder conviction is the subject of the popular Serial podcast from This American Life, might get another day in court. His attorney, C. Justin Brown, tells the Associated Press that an appeal hearing has been scheduled for January to see if Syed qualifies and deserves post-conviction relief. The appeal depends not on reconsidering Syed’s guilt or innocence, but on whether his trial attorney, the late Cristina Gutierrez, provided an ineffective defense when she failed to question an alibi witness—classmate Asia McClain—who claimed she spoke with Syed in the local library at the time when the prosecution argued he was murdering his ex-girlfriend, 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. Brown calls the court date Syed’s “last best chance” for release.
Brown also argues in his filing that Gutierrez never approached the prosecution with a plea deal or presented that to Syed as an option. Back in September, before the first Serial podcast debuted, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals renewed its interest in the case, and asked the state to review Syed’s claims that he’d received ineffective counsel. Prosecutors have until Jan. 14 to answer those claims.
“It’s been a lengthy process,” said Brown. “There are three parts to the legal process: a trial, then an appeal, then you have post-conviction relief. This is the last step.”
Serial‘s weekly podcast re-investigation of the 1999 murder has become a sensation, with more than 1.5 million listeners per episode. Narrated by former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig, each podcast includes recorded conversations with Syed, now 34 and serving time in a western Maryland prison, as well as interviews with old high school friends who try to piece together the crime. The addictive series has cast some doubt on the prosecution’s version of events, but many listeners find themselves going back and forth on the answer to the question: Did Adnan do it?