A Baltimore judge on Monday overturned the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, the man whose murder conviction served as the subject for the popular Serial podcast. Syed has spent over two decades behind bars serving a life sentence after prosecutors accused him of strangling and murdering his ex-girlfriend when he was 17 years old.
Serial’s massive viewership and influence were credited in part for casting doubt on the murder charges and for renewing legal efforts to overrule his conviction. Now, 23 years later, Syed’s reportedly being released without bail.
According to The New York Times City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn was convinced of Syed’s wrongful conviction and moved to vacate charges of kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment levied against him, “in the interests of fairness and justice.”
“At this time, we will remove the shackles from Mr. Syed,” Phinn reportedly said during her announcement. Prosecutors have 30 days to decide whether they’ll seek a new trial or drop the charges altogether. During that time, Syed will be resigned to home detention.
Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals granted Syed a new trial in 2018 after his legal team argued he had received ineffective legal counsel. Syed’s new legal team argued his previous attorney failed to cross-examine an expert witness for the prosecution on the reliability of cell tower location data that was used to supposedly place Syed at the site where Hae Min Lee, his girlfriend, was buried.
Phinn, on Monday, ruled that state prosecutors violated their legal obligation to share evidence that could have aided Syed’s case. Last week, prosecutors reportedly filed a motion where they revealed an investigation conducted alongside the defense uncovered, “undisclosed and newly-developed information,” that potentially implicates two alternative subjects, according to Bloomberg. The prosecutors stopped short of admitting Syed’s innocence, but in a major shift, said they no longer held confidence, “in the integrity of the conviction.”