Adnan Syed Conviction in 'Serial' Case Stunningly Reinstated After Appeal

On Tuesday, a Maryland appellate court reinstated the conviction of Adnan Syed who has become a national sensation since he was featured on the first season of the Serial podcast. Syed was convicted of murder for the alleged murder of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, but has maintained his innocence and has cast doubt on some of the most prominent evidence. After years of fighting Syed's team got him exonerated in October of 2022, making the abrupt reinstatement on Tuesday a complete shock.

The appellate court reached a 2-1 ruling on Tuesday that the lower court had violated the rights of the victim's brother, Young Lee, to attend a key hearing in September when Syed's conviction was vacated, according to a report by CNN. Young Lee did attend the hearing via video chat, which was deemed acceptable at the time. As a result, the court decided it had "the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed's right to be free from double jeopardy." However, Syed's lawyers say he will not be returning to prison, and they seem confident that this is a minor stumbling block in his quest for freedom.

"There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon. For the time being, Adnan remains a free man," said Syed's attorney, Erica J. Suter in a statement to Deadline. She emphasized that this decision "was not about Adnan's innocence but about notice and mootness. The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan's convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms. Lee's brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing. We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee's attendance over Zoom was sufficient."

Young Lee has since complained that he was given less than one business day's notice of the fateful September hearing. He and his family have expressed disappointment in Syed's exoneration and joy in the reinstatement of his conviction. However, others are more doubtful than ever of Syed's guilt – including the prosecutors who said in the fall that they will not be pursuing the case against Syed any further.

The details of Lee's horrific murder and the case against Syed have been detailed at length in the Serial podcast, in an HBO documentary series and in other media. The prosecutors at the time relied heavily on cell phone records in a way that is no longer considered reliable. At the same time, advancements in DNA analysis technology have opened new routes to finding a more definitive answer to what happened to Lee in 1999. For now, there will be no further action on this case for at least 60 days.