State Balks at Serial Retrial

Maryland is appealing judge's ruling to give Adnan Syed a new trial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 3, 2016 4:33 AM CDT
State Balks at Serial Retrial
Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore on Feb. 3, 2016.   (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File) WASHINGTON EXAMINER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT /The Baltimore Sun via AP)

A Baltimore judge was wrong to consider "a novel standalone claim" about the reliability of cellphone tracking evidence in granting a new trial for a man whose murder conviction was re-examined in the Serial podcast, the Maryland attorney general's office says. Appealing the decision to retry Adnan Syed, attorneys for the state contend that retired Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch should not have ruled that his initial attorneys were constitutionally deficient because they failed to bring into evidence a warning from AT&T, noting "any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location." Defense attorneys said prosecutors improperly used unreliable tower data on incoming calls to place Syed's phone near the burial site of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, who was killed in 1999.

Welch agreed, ruling that Syed's attorney provided "ineffective assistance for the failure to cross-examine the state's cell tower expert," reports the AP. In its appeal filed Monday, the state counters that Syed's trial attorney "was far from ineffective" since "there is no consensus among experts in the forensic community that Syed's interpretation of the fax cover sheet is valid," says a deputy attorney general. The state also argues that Syed waived his right to raise the issue about the cross-examination failure now because he should have raised it in a prior proceeding. Welch ruled that Syed didn't "intelligently or knowingly" waive his right, noting he never completed high school. Welch made "the correct decision," says Syed's current attorney, C. Justin Brown. "We will respond to the state's arguments at the appropriate time." (More Adnan Syed stories.)

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