Adnan Syed's Case Will Return To Court

by Katherine Cusumano

As Serial Season 2 finds its groove, the saga of Season 1 continues. Adnan Syed, the man whose case was explored throughout the podcast's first season, will see a new day in court: His post-conviction hearing has been scheduled for February 3, 4, and 5, 2016, according to BuzzFeed News reporter Mike Hayes. In November last year, Adnan Syed's legal representatives announced his case would be reopened, and if this news is any indicator, the case looks to be gaining momentum.

New evidence has surfaced since the case was tried in 2000, including new witness testimony regarding Syed's alibi and new expert information about the reliability of the cell phone tower records that helped build the case against Syed, according to the New York Times. Syed's representative, C. Justin Brown of Brown and Nieto Law Firm in Baltimore, has been vying to reopen the case since Koenig's Serial investigation aired. In November, a judge finally agreed to hear the new evidence, as Brown posted on his office's website — so the announcement that a date for that hearing has finally been scheduled is a huge boon for Syed's defense.

Syed, 35, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Lee went missing in early 1999, and was found dead as a result of strangulation in Leakin Park in Baltimore about a month later. One arc in Serial's first season was the claim that Syed's representative for the case, Cristina Gutierrez, had provided — as Syed's current representative wrote in a court motion last August — "ineffective assistance" during the trial, according to People. By way of example, both Serial and Syed's representatives point to Asia McClain, a high school friend of Syed's that might have been able to provide an alibi at the alleged time of Lee's murder. Furthermore, a former AT&T engineer filed an affidavit in October that said he had not been shown a cover letter on the cell phone tower records disclaiming their reliability, according to the same New York Times story. The claim was that both pieces of evidence could have been material in Syed's defense.

The case for and against Syed formed the backbone of Season 1 of This American Life spin-off Serial, in which host Sarah Koenig investigated the evidence and potential biases that led to his conviction. The podcast was a viral hit — as of December 2014, when the season concluded, The Guardian reported that it had been downloaded more than 5 million times (that number has since risen to 100 million, according to the New York Times.) And that means millions of listeners not only following the series as told by Koenig and her production partner Dana Chivvis, but also tracking the real-life developments of the case, weighing in online and reaching out to the Serial team. And as the pair investigate Bowe Berghdal's case in Season 2, the events of Season 1 aren't behind them yet.