For those who haven’t got a clue of what I’m talking about, let me start over. Serial is a podcast which attracted millions of listeners during its first season, whose focus was on Adnan Syed’s story, a convicted murderer who serves his time in Maryland. His name is nationally recognized thanks to Sarah Koenig, a journalist who dug deep into the tragedy which happened 15 years ago.
Adnan is far from being a free man yet – he was given a lifetime conviction for killing his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee – but he now has a chance of presenting new evidence to fight the state’s case against him. Chief Judge Peter B. Krauser ruled in favor of his Application for Leave to Appeal, which allows Adnan’s attorney to file a brief by March 16. On the other side, state’s brief must be presented until April 16, with a new court session starting sometime in June.
Rabia Chaudry, a family friend who believes in Adnan’s innocence, was the one to contact Sarah Koenig, telling her all about her friend who was wrongfully convicted. Upon finding out about the judge’s ruling, Rabia tweeted this: “My heart is full. My heart is full. Adnan gets a new appeal. God is good. Alhamdulillah #FreeAdnan”.
To all who have heard Adnan’s story, the court’s decision is huge news, whether people think he’s innocent or not – since Serial, people all around the world have been trying to figure out his story. This new chance overturned Baltimore City Circuit Court’s “post conviction relief” denial, but it is not yet safe to assume that it will lead to the desired outcome.
Since his original lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, has passed away after Syed’s trial, his current attorney, C. Justin Brown, has the opportunity to go against the sentence on two counts: contesting the state’s murder charge based on the claim that it did not have enough information for conviction, and also by presenting evidence showing that his former lawyer provided incompetent legal defense.
Even though the court’s decision seems to be tightly related to Adnan’s being told by Sarah Koenig in Serial, the credit does not fall entirely on the wildly popular podcast. The motion to appeal was filed long before Serial even started, in January 2014. His current attorney has been working on Syed’s case for such a long time, that he likes to joke about the fact that, five years ago, when he was hired, he was a single man, and now he’s a married man, father of two children. This court ruling is a happy break, but it’s also the first step in a long and tiring process.
However, during her deep investigation for documenting the long-forgotten tragedy on Serial, Sarah Koenig might have uncovered some vital information for Syed’s case, and her podcast might prove more than just a channel for worldwide sympathy or fame.
She has brought back to daylight one of the most important pieces of evidence – Asia McClain’s new affidavit. McClain is one of Syed’s former high school colleagues, and Koenig has talked in her podcast about the letters she has sent Syed’s in prison in March 1999, claiming to have been with Syed during the timeframe of Lee’s murder.
McClain has filed her affidavit last month, stating the same information. She also talked about the time when she contacted the state’s prosecutor, Kevin Urick, in 2000, and stating her knowledge about the events from January 13, 1999. She says the prosecutor discouraged her from participating in the case, trying to persuade her to think that Syed is guilty of murder. Also, in spite of Urick’s claim that McClain has recanted her original account of the events, she stated in her new affidavit that this information is not true.
Answering the question that perhaps many listeners of Serial have asked at least once, McClain talked about her reason for deciding to come forward after 15 years of silence. She explains that the podcast came as a true shock to her, revealing information about Syed’s case that she never knew and, most importantly, finding out about Kevin Urick’s testimony. Listening to the podcast, week after week, McClain states that she came to realize her importance in Adnan’s case, and that maybe her testimony could really help him, even after 15 years. So she decided to make her story known.
Even though Syed’s case was officially closed, years of pursuing legal action have finally resulted in this one opportunity for Syed to be able to live the rest of his life outside the walls and gates of a Maryland correctional facility. Serial cannot receive all the glory for that, but if Adnan finally gets out of prison, he might owe Koenig at least a thank you note.
If you wish to find out more about Koenig’s podcast, all the Serial episodes are available on iTunes.
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