New Evidence Presents Major Break In The Case Against Adnan Syed

Photo: Courtesy of This American Life.
Adnan Syed's defense attorney filed a motion yesterday, citing a major piece of new evidence that could overturn the conviction against Syed.

The document in question is a fax cover sheet sent from AT&T, from back in 1999, when the company sent Syed's phone records for use as evidence in the trial. Under the instructions from AT&T, there is an explicit, underlined warning that, "Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information."

Adnan Syed has been in prison for the last 15 years, having been convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee — a crime for which he's always maintained his innocence. The cell tower records were one of the central pieces of evidence used against Syed, along with the testimony of Jay Wilds. However, it was indeed incoming calls which the prosecution pointed to in order to show Syed's location at the time of the murder.

But, it seems this part of the fine print was overlooked by Syed's first attorney, Cristina Gutierrez (now deceased), whose missteps were often cited during the first season of Serial, the hit podcast which brought the case to national attention. C. Justin Brown, Syed's current defense lawyer, noted in yesterday's motion that this was quite likely another oversight on her part. "She failed to cross-examine the state’s expert about it; and she failed to present the evidence to the jury," he writes in the motion. "There is no imaginable way this could have been a strategic choice. It was human error."

When Serial debuted, Syed was in the midst of seeking an appeal. Since the release of the podcast — and its conclusions that even if Syed is guilty, his trial was certainly riddled with errors and, more than likely, prejudice — there has been significant if incremental movement in the appeal process. Asia McClain came forward to reassert herself as an alibi, and Syed's family friend Rabia Chaudry continues to keep his case in the public eye with her own podcast, Undisclosed. But, perhaps more than anything, this rediscovered document may be the vital evidence that gets Syed's case back in court. Speaking to The Baltimore Sun, Brown said, "We feel that the fax cover sheet from AT&T is an extremely important piece of evidence, and we are bringing it to the court's attention as quickly as possible. We hope the court considers it."

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