Adnan Syed, the incarcerated man of the ubiquitous Serial podcast, filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals today. Syed was arrested for the alleged 1999 murder of his high school classmate Hae Min Lee.
Syed’s current attorney, C. Justin Brown, filed the 31-page briefing, arguing: “The errors by trial counsel were of such a fundamental nature that Syed must be given a new trial. The circumstances here are worse than the circumstances of any other case in which a court has found ineffective assistance of counsel relating to an alibi issue.”
As The Baltimore Sun reports, “The brief is the first step for Syed in his effort to overturn his life sentence since the Court of Special Appeals last month granted his request to reopen his appeal after two unsuccessful attempts in the last dozen years.”
The appeal presents two questions. The first: “Was Appellant’s [Syed] trial counsel [M. Christina Gutierrez] constitutionally ineffective when she failed to investigate a potential alibi witness, then told Apellant that ‘nothing came of’ the alibi witness?”
This part of Syed’s argument is that his former attorney, M. Christina Gutierrez, did not investigate an alibi witness (who Serial listeners will know as Asia McClain), who might have been able to prove his innocence.
The appeal also asks: “Was Appellant’s trial counsel constitutionally ineffective when Appellant asked her to seek a plea offer, but counsel failed to do so, and counsel falsely reported back to Appellant that the State refused to tender an offer?”
In plainspeak, this second question alleges that Gutierrez not only didn’t follow her client’s wishes by not looking into a plea deal, but that this decision on her part could have also cost Adnan his entire case.
An official response from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office is due on April 30, and Syed can reply to that response 20 days later.