Prosecutors in Maryland renewed their call to block Adnan Syed from reopening his murder case, which sparked the wildly popular “Serial” podcast in 2014.
Syed, 34, is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his high school ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. In papers filed in Baltimore circuit court on Wednesday, prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office attempted to discredit the defense’s arguments, which are familiar to listeners of the 12-episode series.
Syed’s defense has sought to hear testimony from Asia McClain, an acquaintance who said she saw Syed in the library at the same time prosecutors claim he strangled Lee, 18, in a parking lot and stuffed her body into her car’s trunk.
“Reopening the post-conviction proceeding to now hear from Asia McClain would be inconsequential theater and not in the interest of justice,” the attorney general’s office wrote.
Prosecutors aren’t arguing about what McClain has to say; rather, they’re arguing that Syed has no reason to let her testify now. Regardless of any alibi McClain might provide, the prosecution says there are no grounds to hear from her, because Syed’s original attorney, Christina Gutierrez, had done a sufficient job based on what she knew at the time of Syed’s first trial in 2000.
Gutierrez’s performance came under scrutiny on “Serial.” She was disbarred in 2001 after clients’ money went missing, and she died in 2004. Syed’s current attorney, C. Justin Brown, has highlighted several instances in which Gutierrez allegedly shirked her duty — for example, by failing to even contact McClain, let alone call her to testify.
The attorney general’s office wrote that Gutierrez “was not deficient” for not calling McClain as a witness in the documents it filed on Wednesday.
Yet there’s another reason to let McClain testify, Brown argues. She declined to testify in Syed’s defense during his 2009 appeal, allegedly after speaking with the original prosecutor, Kevin Urick. Syed’s lawyers claim this was prosecutorial interference, but the attorney general’s office says Urick was no longer prosecuting the case when this conversation took place.
“This allegation is simply without merit,” the prosecutors wrote.
Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed’s who is now an attorney, tweeted her displeasure about the attorney general’s filing.
Fans of “Serial” will remember how the series examined prosecutors’ use of cell phone evidence to claim that Syed had been near the large park where Lee’s body was found in a shallow grave. As part of the attempt to get Syed a new trial, Brown disputed the evidence and said the prosecution had ignored AT&T’s written warning on a fax cover sheet questioning the accuracy of the call data.
The attorney general’s office claimed that the warning on the cover sheet applied to other material never used in the case, and said that the cell phone evidence was totally sound. Unlike Syed’s defense, however, they provided no affidavit or outside expert to back up this claim.
Jockeying between the defense and prosecution began in February, after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed to hear arguments for reopening Syed’s case. In May, the appeals court remanded the case to Baltimore Circuit Court, which is expected to rule on the arguments about McClain and the cell phone data.
Citing the ongoing nature of the case, Syed’s attorney declined to answer most of The Huffington Post’s questions.
“We are reviewing their brief and will potentially file a reply,” Brown said.