It has been months since Adnan Syed was granted his Post Conviction Relief hearing and everyone has been waiting anxiously for Judge Welch’s opinion. Last week, Welch released his opinion in which he granted Syed a new trial and attorney Justin Brown tweeted in all-caps: “WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!!”
Baltimore City Circuit Judge Martin Welch has vacated Syed’s conviction citing that his attorney, Christina Gutierrez, “fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment” in handling his case.
However, despite winning a new trial, Judge Welch as denied two requests for post-conviction relief. The two parts he denied where also two of the biggest parts of the hearing. One of the denied requests was the claim that Gutierrez has failed “to contact a potential alibi witness”; the other was the claim that the state had with held “potentially exculpatory evidence related to the reliability of cell tower location evidence.”
In the hearing, Welch heard from Asia McClain, an alibi witness who was never contacted during the original trial who says she saw Syed in the library during the time of the murder. He also heard testimony regarding the cell phone tower evidence which was taken back by the state’s witness from 1999 as well as new evidence including the fax cover sheet showing that incoming calls were not reliable for determining location.
Welch was careful to acknowledge the existence of “Serial” the podcast that brought Syed’s case to the mainstream. He pointed out that both parties had repeatedly directed him to the 12-part “episodic internet audio program,” and that regardless of that public interest, he had done his best to handle Syed’s petition on its merits as he would any other case.
Adnan Syed was convicted of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee. He has been serving a life sentence since the conviction at age 17. He has maintained his innocence.