The Criminal Justice System: Adnan Syed Granted New Trial
Have you been following the case of Adnan Syed, which was chronicled in the podcast Serial? According to a recent report from NPR News, Syed was granted a hearing due to new evidence several months ago, and just last month he was granted a new trial. The reported quoted the Baltimore City Circuit Judge, Martin Welch, who vacated the conviction. In vacating that conviction, the judge indicated that Syed’s “attorney fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment” during the initial trial.
In case you have not been following the Serial podcast and the case of Adnan Syed, here is a quick recap: Syed was charged with and convicted of the first degree murder of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend and a Baltimore high school student. Lee was found strangled in early 1999, and Syed was convicted in 2000. He has maintained his innocence since then, and he has now served more than 15 years of his life prison sentence.
What Does This Mean for the Defendant?
The fact that the judge granted a new trial does not mean that Syed will get all of the post-conviction relief he requested. As the NPR News report makes clear, Judge Welch denied two specific requests for post-conviction relief. The two requests denied concern Syed’s “trial attorney’s failure to contact a potential alibi witness” and the trial lawyer’s “withholding potentially exculpatory evidence related to the reliability of cell tower location evidence.” What did the judge determine?
According to another article on the Syed case from Northeastern University News, the judge did determine that there was evidence of ineffective assistance of counsel in Syed’s case. As the article emphasizes, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel is often argued but is quite difficult to prove. Yet Judge Welch determined that Syed’s “attorney did provide ineffective assistance with respect to failing to adequately cross-examine the government’s cell phone tower expert.” As the judge made clear, “this behavior was deficient and prejudiced the defense in light of the centrality of the cell phone records in placing Syed at the location where the victim’s body was buried.”
It is important to note that simply having legal counsel that makes some mistakes is not always enough to prove ineffective assistance of counsel. Rather, as the article underscores, “the alleged inadequacy must be linked to an extremely meaningful moment of the case, as interpreted by the courts in hindsight.”
Now that Syed has been granted a new trial, will the new trial simply begin immediately?
What Are the Next Steps in Adnan Syed’s Trial Process?
The next steps in Syed’s trial process likely will come from prosecutors in the state of Maryland, who will be able to file a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of Judge Welch’s ruling on a new trial. If this happens, Syed’s case may end up in an appellate court, which will have to determine whether he should indeed have a new trial.
If Syed does proceed to a new trial, his lawyers will be able to present potentially exculpatory evidence and to properly cross-examine the cell-phone tower expert in an effort to prove Syed’s innocence.
Contact an Oakbrook Terrace Criminal Defense Lawyer
While Syed’s case is taking place in Maryland, it could have a significant impact on other post-conviction relief cases in which the defendant argues that she or he should be granted a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel. In addition, it may encourage other defendants who have been convicted of a crime but insist on their innocence to seek a new trial. Our dedicated Muslim Oakbrook Terrace criminal defense lawyers are following this case closely. If you have questions about criminal charges, do not hesitate to contact Farooqi & Husain Law Office. We are committed to assisting members of the Muslim community throughout DuPage County.