Subject of Serial Podcast Gets Appeal Opportunity

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The podcast “Serial” took the world by storm this fall. Never had a podcast been so talked about, so obsessed over, or raised such fascinating questions about a 15-year-old murder conviction. The case involved a young man named Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Although he was convicted a decade and a half ago, Syed’s case will now be heard again in court.

For those of you who missed “Serial,” here are the CliffNotes. Don’t worry, I’ll stay away from too many spoilers. Essentially, in 1999, a Baltimore high school senior named Hae Min Lee went missing and was later found dead. After a police investigation, Syed, her ex-boyfriend who was also a high school senior, was found guilty of her murder.

Fast forward almost 15 years to present day. Journalist Sarah Koenig was approached by Syed’s friends with concerns about the way his case was handled, and all the inconsistencies in the evidence that was brought up in court. Koenig was intrigued, and started looking into the case. She ended up producing a podcast–a journalistic enterprise–exploring the facts of the case.

A Maryland court just ruled that it will hear arguments on Syed’s case, mostly based on the fact that his lawyer, Christina Guttierez, may not have done her job effectively. Syed and his lawyers are arguing that Guttierez didn’t follow up with a possible alibi witness whom Koenig spoke to in the “Serial” podcast. They also argue that Guttierez failed Syed by not exploring the possibility of a plea deal when she was given the option. Given that Guttierez has since died of a heart attack, it’s unclear why she made those choices. They could have been incompetence, like Syed’s attorneys are arguing, or they could have been a strategic move.

After a few different attempts at an appeal failed since Syed was convicted, this most recent appeal was brought to the Maryland Special Court of Appeals. It’s important to note that Syed hasn’t actually been granted an appeal–this is just a small step toward that. Basically, the Maryland Special Court of Appeals has agreed to listen to what Syed and the state have to say, and then decide whether or not to order a new trial, or send it back to the Circuit Court.

Koenig posted about the development on the “Serial” website, saying:

In Episode 10 of the podcast, I reported that this appeal was alive by a thread. Now, I’d say it’s more of a … well-made string, maybe. Like the nylon kind. Because it means that the Court of Special Appeals judges think the issues Adnan raised in his brief are worth considering. That’s a pretty big hurdle for any appellant to clear.

Whether or not Syed will actually end up getting a new trial is very uncertain at this point. That being said, it’s a case that touched a lot of people, or at the very least opened the doors to some unsettling realities of our justice system. I’m sure all “Serial” fans will be anxiously awaiting the next news in this saga.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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