Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was exhaustively explored in the first season of the hit podcast Serial, has asked a judge to release him on bail.
His lawyers said they filed the request in a Maryland court on Monday.
Syed is currently waiting to go to trial — again. This summer, a judge agreed that Syed’s defense attorney had mishandled his case during his murder trial in 2000, and granted a new trial.
“Syed has now served more than 17 years in prison based on an unconstitutional conviction for a crime he did not commit,” the motion for release states. “[If] released he would pose no danger to the community. He is also not a flight risk; it makes no sense that he would run from the case he has spent more than half his life trying to disprove.”
The motion argues that the state’s case against Syed is weak, and given that it may take years for the case to be resolved, he ought to be released on bail in the meantime.
Lawyers point to Syed’s lack of a violent history (he “has not been cited for a single violent act in 17 years” in prison, the release notes) and to his supportive family to suggest he poses no substantial danger to the community and is not a flight risk. Supporters of Syed have offered up about $1 million in bail money should the judge grant his release, the motion says.
For the non-Serial-obsessives in the audience, here’s our brief summary from earlier this year:
“Each season of Serial follows a single true story, told episode by episode.
“The first season investigated the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his former girlfriend more than 15 years ago. Host Sarah Koenig and her team uncovered inconsistencies in his case — including the fact that Asia McLean was an alibi witness. She said she’d seen Syed at the time Hae Min Lee’s murder occurred, but that testimony was never brought forth in court.
Justin Brown, the lawyer who filed Syed’s request to be released from prison, has previously told NPR’s David Folkenflik that — given all the sleuthing done not just by Koenig but also by the general public — this case might be the first-ever open-sourced appeals case.
“People were investigating this case all over the country,” Brown said. “I had essentially thousands of investigators working for me.”
And the motion to free Syed cites the significant media interest generated by Serial and third-party spinoffs as a factor in favor of Syed’s release.
“It would be disingenuous to suggest that there is any real probability that Syed would try to harm or intimidate a witness — when, because of the media attention this case has attracted, the whole world is watching him,” Brown writes in the motion.
As for being a flight risk, Syed is a recognizable figure now, his legal team argues, and has a strong incentive to prove his innocence through the proper legal process.
While much of the legal filing addresses Syed’s likely behavior if he were released on bail, there’s also a lengthy section dedicated to critiquing the state’s case against him — particularly the credibility of the state’s key witness, Jay Wilds.