By Wayne Chan
BALTIMORE, MD — Adnan Syed, convicted of murder in 1999, was sentenced to life plus 30 years, but this week Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Chief of the Review Unit of the sentencing (SRU), Becky Feldman, have filed a motion to have the conviction set aside.
A new trial is being sought based on a recent investigation that found new and undisclosed information as well as unreliable cellphone tower data, and identified two alternate suspects.
Erica Suter, Syed’s defense attorney and director of the Innocence Project Clinic in conjunction with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Innocence Project, initially brought the case to the SRU after passage of the Juvenile Restoration Act in April 2021.
The law allows for review of sentences if the person was convicted as a minor and has served at least 20 years. However, upon review of the sentence, new evidence emerged that warranted further investigation.
The state stressed that it was not claiming Adnan Syed’s innocence, only the uncertainty of conviction in light of new evidence, requiring a new trial.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said that “since the inception of my administration, my prosecutors have sworn not only to advocate aggressively on behalf of victims of crime, but also in the pursuit of justice – when evidence exists – to right past wrongs where doubt is evident.
“(A) After nearly a year of investigation into the facts of this case, Syed deserves a new trial where he is adequately represented and where the final evidence can be presented. As stewards of the court, we are obligated to maintain trust in the integrity of convictions and to do our part to correct where that standard has been compromised.
Mosby added, “We have spoken with the family of Ms. Hae Min Lee and fully understand that the person responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable…keep Mr. Syed detained as we continue to investigate the matter with all what we know now. , while we have no confidence in the results of the first trial, would be unfair.
March 10, 2022. Chief Feldman and the defense requested that the victim’s clothing be tested for tactile DNA, which was not available at the time of trial. At the time, the Baltimore City Police Lab tested some items for DNA as part of an agreement between the attorney general’s office and the defendant’s former attorney. Items currently tested were not tested in 2018, with the exception of the victim’s fingernail clippings.
After consulting with DNA experts, the team tested the fingernails, nail clippers, pubic hair, underwear, bra and shirt as well as the rape kit for the presence of DNA. These items were supposed to most likely yield results.
The team said that on the victim’s right fingernail swabs, right fingernail clipper swabs and victim’s shirt swabs, trace DNA was detected. The shirt and fingernail swabs were analyzed with a genotyping kit that targets STR DNA from male Y chromosomes, but nothing useful was found.
Another shirt swab and the nail clipper on the right were not analyzed because the amount of male DNA detected was too small to yield results, the team noted.
On pubic hair, left hand nail swabs, left hand nail clipper swabs, anal swabs, vaginal swabs, bra swabs and underwear swabs, single l female DNA has been recovered. The remaining items are being tested further, the unit said.
The new investigation uncovered, authorities said, two undisclosed alternate suspects who may be involved together or individually. Both individuals were known to the initial investigation and were neither excluded nor disclosed to the defense.
The state said it could not release their names. However, according to the trial file, one of them had said: “He would do it[the victim] vanish. He would kill her.
The investigation also found a document from the original case file in which someone relayed information that could be considered a motive for the same suspect. The undisclosed information could have been used by the defense but was never revealed at trial or to defense counsel after conviction.
In addition, according to officials, it was also found that one of the suspects was convicted of assaulting a woman in her vehicle and one of the suspects was convicted of serial rape and assault. sexual.
The victim’s car was also directly behind the home of one of the suspect’s family members. Some of this information was available at the time of the trial; some of the events happened after the trial, the team said.
Mobile phone data records played a crucial role in the original trial, the investigation team said. The data corroborated Jay Wilds’ testimony of Syed’s location throughout the day. However, the notice on the records specifically warned that billing locations for incoming calls “would not be considered reliable location information”.
Yet the prosecution did exactly what the notice advised against and used the data as a means to reliably locate Syed. Most significant to the state’s case were incoming calls allegedly received in the Leakin Park area at 7:09 p.m. and 7:16 p.m. Eleven of the 32 calls on January 13 were incoming calls.
The parties consulted with Gerald Grant, Jr., a digital forensics investigator who specializes in computer forensics, mobile forensics, and historical cell site analysis. Grant explained that incoming calls to a mobile device are unreliable because the communication signal can be sent to multiple towers in an area – the network has no way of knowing the exact tower the device is listening on.
Based on the technology of the time, it was possible for an incoming call to be recorded at the last recorded tower and not the current one when the signal is sent to multiple towers.
If the motion is granted, Syed will effectively be placed in a new trial status. The case will remain pending but his convictions will be overturned. The outcome of the ongoing investigation will determine whether the state pursues a trial in this case or dismisses the charges.
The state said it is asking Syed to be released on his own recognizance or on bail pending investigation if the court grants the pending motion.