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Maryland Supreme Court holds off on reinstating Adnan Syed convictions as appeal continues

Alex Mann, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE — The Supreme Court of Maryland on Thursday decided to hold off on reinstating Adnan Syed’s convictions from the 1999 killing of his ex-girlfriend while it considers his latest appeal.

The order comes a day after Syed asked the state’s highest court to overrule the Appellate Court of Maryland’s opinion that would have restored his guilty findings and life sentence.

Syed, 43, has been free since September after serving 23 years behind bars for the killing of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. He has always maintained he is innocent.

Baltimore prosecutors last year identified issues in his decades-old convictions and presented them to a city Circuit Court judge, who agreed and withdrew his guilty findings and released him from prison. Then-State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby dismissed his charges in October, but Lee’s brother, Young Lee, had already appealed, saying his rights as a crime victim representative had been trampled on.

Allowing the appeal to go forward, the appellate court in March found that prosecutors and Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn neglected to give Young Lee enough notice of the Sept. 19 hearing that set Syed free, ordering a do-over of that proceeding. A California resident at the time, Young Lee spoke at the September hearing via video call, but the appellate court said he should’ve been able to attend in person.


The appellate court’s order would’ve seen Syed’s convictions and life sentence reinstated Tuesday, May 30, 60 days after the opinion was issued.

When Syed’s lawyers asked the state Supreme Court to overrule the appellate court’s ruling Wednesday, they also requested that the court hold off on reimposing his convictions and sentence until Syed’s appeal played out. Young Lee’s lawyers and the state Office of the Attorney General, which represents prosecutors in appeals, consented to that request, according to Syed’s filing.

The Supreme Court’s one-page order Thursday says Syed’s conviction will not be reinstated while it considers whether to accept Syed’s appeal and, if it does, while the appeal progresses.

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