Adnan Syed, subject of Serial podcast, granted a new trial

The Baltimore murder case that received international attention from the viral podcasts first season will be retried, marking a major victory for Syed

Adnan Syed, whose murder case received international attention through the viral podcast Serial, has been granted a new trial, marking a major victory for the Maryland prisoner.

Baltimore judge Martin Welch on Thursday granted Syeds request for a new trial after the record-setting podcast sent thousands of internet sleuths digging through the details of the murder of Hae Min Lee 17 years ago.

Syed, now 35, had argued in Baltimore court that Cristina Gutierrez, his lawyer in the original trial, had provided ineffective counsel and failed to investigate a crucial alibi.

In Welchs order, he disagreed that Gutierrez erred when she failed to contact Asia McClain Chapman, the key alibi featured on the podcast. The judge also disagreed with Syeds claims that prosecutors breached their duty by withholding exculpatory evidence.

But Welch did agree that Syeds attorney should have cross-examined a states expert witness about the reliability of cell tower data that placed him near the burial site.

Syed has been serving a life sentence since his conviction in 2000 for the murder of Lee, his ex-girlfriend from high school.

C Justin Brown, Syeds current lawyer, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that the judges order means the conviction is erased, its gone. As of this day, hes not convicted anymore.

Brown quoted Serial host Sarah Koenig, saying there was a time when this outcome seemed impossible.

An undated photo provided by Yusuf Syed shows an earlier photo of his brother, Adnan. Photograph: AP

She said this case is just hanging by a string. Statistically it was over. We have come back from that and we have incrementally won and won and won and gained more and more traction. This is us getting over the hill.

Brown said he expected the state to appeal the decision. Were prepared to fight. Our heels are dug in We know the states not going to give up and well be ready.

In February, Syeds mother, Shamim Syed, told the Guardian that she believed racism played a role in her sons arrest.

For me it was discrimination, she said. He was a 17-year-old Muslim. If his name was something else they wouldnt touch him but his name was Adnan Syed and his parents were from Pakistan and they forgot he was born and raised in America.

After the huge success of Serial, Rabia Chaudry, a family friend of Syed who brought the case to the radio producers, launched her own podcast called Undisclosed, which reported further crucial details.

Chaudrys podcast uncovered documents that raised questions about the evidence from cellphone towers.

Syeds current lawyers argued in court that the data linking his phone to the burial site on the day of Lees murder was misleading, because it lacked a cover sheet warning that incoming call data was not reliable.

Chaudry celebrated the news on Twitter Thursday afternoon, writing, I am shaking with joy, shaking!

Brown said he has been unable to reach Syed in prison, but expects he has received the news. The legal team will now be pushing for Syed to be released.

Im feeling pretty confident right now. This was the biggest hurdle. Its really hard to get a new trial.

In 2014, Serial became the fastest podcast to reach 5m downloads and streams in iTuness history with a huge following in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, and eventually reaching the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.

After the podcast ended, communities on Reddit, Facebook and other online forums continued to investigate the murder.

Lees family has maintained that Syed is guilty, releasing a statement in February saying the proceedings had reopened wounds few can imagine.

It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae, they wrote. She stood up for what was right, regardless of popular opinion.

The state attorney generals office did not respond to a request for comment.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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