23 years behind bars for nothing: the Adnan Syed case

Released in September 2022, his innocence was proven by the podcast Serial.

This article is part of a series of four stories about social justice and wrongful convictions in the United States published in the LILA Gazette in January 2023.

By Flora Haberman – 10th grade.

Credit: “Serialhttps://serialpodcast.org

In 1999, when he was a senior in highschool, Adnan Syed was accused of murdering Hae Min lee, his ex-girlfriend, when she was found buried in Baltimore’s Leakin Park, dead by strangulation. Syed was convicted of the crime in 2000 and, until recently, has been serving a life sentence. On September 19th 2022, his conviction was vacated after the discovery of “significant reliability issues regarding the most critical pieces of evidence” surrounding the case, prosecutors said. After 23 years in prison, Syed was released and is now serving home detention.  

It is well known that the case’s retrial was prompted by further investigation done by Sarah Koenig in her podcast Serial, first released in 2014. Only efforts outside of the justice system, including the work of uncertified detectives and internet sleuths, worked to probe deeper into pre-existing details surrounding the case, finding, eventually, that certain evidence was insufficient and lacking in legitimacy. In fact, it was only acknowledged on September 14th, 2022 that two other suspects had potentially been involved in the murder, even though the podcast had raised the same doubts many years prior. It has become more and more evident that Serial is the only reason Syed’s case has been continuously looked into at all. 

“In the interests of justice and fairness”

Though Judge Melissa M. Phinn of Baltimore City Circuit Court, who ordered the overturning of Syed’s conviction, said that the decision was made “in the interests of justice and fairness” (in The New York Times), when examining the situation for what it is, “fairness” and “justice” can hardly be found at all. The only blazing fact brought to light is the Justice System’s continuous failure to properly carry out thorough and fair investigations and convictions. Criminal Law has been majorly mishandled in this country for years and, as a result, innocent individuals have had to suffer with the consequences. 

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