A circuit court judge in Baltimore has denied bail to Adnan Syed, the man whose conviction for a 1999 murder was the subject of the podcast Serial. Syed will remain in jail while he awaits a new trial. Syed was convicted in 2000 in the killing of his high school girlfriend Hae Min Lee, and sentenced to life in prison. A judge vacated that conviction last June.
In an opinion released Thursday, Circuit Judge Martin Welch denied Syed’s motion for bail, citing the seriousness of the crime and the potential for Syed to flee, though he said Syed posed no danger to the community.
The judge suggested that despite new evidence, the potential for Syed to be convicted and sentenced to life in prison once again was cause to reject the motion:
“The circuit court finds that the nature and circumstances of the offenses are the most serious of nature and there is still compelling evidence against [Syed]. The circuit court also find that the nature of the evidence against [Syed] creates a greater risk of flight. The circuit court further finds that upon conviction, [Syed] still faces the potential sentence of life imprisonment plus thirty years.”
In the motion to release filed in October, Syed’s attorney had argued that his client has been a model prisoner and poses no threat:
“Syed has now served more than 17 years in prison based on an unconstitutional conviction for a crime he did not commit. He has no history of violence other than the State’s allegations in this case, and 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.”
Syed’s case gained prominence in 2014 when the first season of the podcast Serial delved deeply into Lee’s murder and Syed’s subsequent trial. Among the questions raised by the podcast: Why didn’t Syed’s attorney call for testimony from Asia McLean, who says she saw Syed in the library at the same time that the state argued Lee was being killed? And why didn’t his attorney cross-examine an expert witness about the reliability of evidence drawn from cellphone towers?
Such questions prompted Judge Welch last summer to grant Syed a new trial, having determined that Syed’s original defense attorney had mishandled his case.