A Baltimore judge has denied bail for Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular Serial podcast who was granted a retrial after his murder conviction was vacated in June, according to court papers filed Wednesday.
Syed sought release from a Maryland prison as he awaits his new trial in the 1999 killing of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.
The state of Maryland is fighting the retrial and the case is now in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
“This is obviously a setback, but in the bigger picture we are looking toward a new trial and proving his innocence,” Syed’s lead defense attorney, C. Justin Brown, tells PEOPLE.
“If the appeals court rules in our favor,” Brown says, “we will be revisiting the bail issue.”
Brown has not yet been able to tell Syed the news, he says.
In 2000, Syed was convicted of murdering Lee, a classmate at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, and sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison.
Years later, after Serial and other works brought national attention to the case, Judge Martin P. Welch of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City ruled to vacate Syed’s murder conviction. He cited cell phone tower data in his ruling — specifically Syed’s former attorney’s “failure to cross-examine the state’s cell tower expert about the reliability of cell tower location evidence” that was a centerpiece of the prosecution’s case.
In his denial of Syed’s request for bail this week, however, Judge Welch cited the ongoing appeal by the state.
Brown, who has said it can take up to a year for the appeals process to play out, doesn’t have a sense of when the appeals court will issue its ruling. “It could be tomorrow it could be four months,” he says.
Welch also denied Syed’s request for a hearing, according to court papers.
In their request for bail, Syed’s attorneys argued that he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community. He had no history of violence before his 1999 arrest for the murder of Lee and has been a model prisoner, they said.
Their motion also argued that the state’s case against Syed “had crumbled,” and that there are severe credibility issues with the prosecution’s star witness, Jay Wilds.