It took 23 years for Adnan Syed to win his freedom. His story was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” which questioned whether Syed was really guilty of the horrific murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999 when the two were both teenagers. For many, his release last year after spending most of his life in prison felt like the end of a decades-long injustice. But on Tuesday, a Maryland appeals court ruled to reinstate his murder conviction, tossing the now-41-year-old Syed’s fate up in the air.
The reason for this decision has a lot more to do with technicalities, and it doesn’t mean that Syed will return to prison. The appeals court ruled that the original decision violated Hae Min Lee’s family’s right to be notified and attend the hearing where the charges were vacated. In a 2-1 decision, the appeals court ruled that there would be a new hearing on Syed’s charges, allowing Hae Min Lee’s brother, Young Lee, to attend in person. (He attended the original hearing over zoom.)
As we mentioned, this doesn’t necessarily mean Syed will be returning to prison. According to the New York Times, the court issued a 60-day stay on their ruling to reinstate the murder charges.
It’s an open question whether or not the fact that Young Lee went to the trial over Zoom indeed violated his right to attend the trial. And understandably, Syed’s legal team isn’t waiting around until the hearing. Erica J. Suter, Syed’s attorney, told the New York Times that they planned to appeal the decision to the Maryland Supreme Court.
“There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon,” Ms. Suter said in a statement to the New York Times. “For the time being, Adnan remains a free man.”