By BRIAN WITTE, AP
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Adnan Syed will not return to jail and his murder conviction is on hold, for now, as Maryland's Supreme Court decides whether to hear his appeal.
The state's highest court issued an order on Thursday that prevents the reinstatement of Syed's murder conviction by a lower court.
Syed's legal case began more than two decades ago, and gained international attention from the hit podcast “Serial." He regained his freedom in September from a judge after Baltimore prosecutors moved to vacate his conviction, saying they reviewed the case and found alternative suspects as well as unreliable evidence used at trial.
But the victim’s family said they received insufficient notice to attend the September hearing before the judge in person, which violated their right to be “treated with dignity and respect,” and the state’s intermediate appellate court agreed. In a 2-1 decision in March that was stayed for 60 days, the judges reinstated Syed’s conviction and ordered a redo of the hearing in question.
With the 60 days nearing an end, Syed's lawyer, Erica Suter, asked the Supreme Court of Maryland on Wednesday to issue a stay in the case to prevent her client from potentially being incarcerated while the court considers whether to hear an appeal.
Justice Shirley Watts noted in her order, which was approved with a majority of the court's seven justices, that the victim's family and the office of the state's attorney general have consented to the stay of the lower court's mandate while the Supreme Court considers whether to hear the appeal and during the pendency of an appeal.
Suter is asking the court to review several legal issues, including whether former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to dismiss the charges against Syed last year made the family’s court challenge moot.
Syed, who has always maintained his innocence, was 17 when his high school ex-girlfriend and classmate, Hae Min Lee, was found strangled to death and buried in a makeshift grave in 1999. He was arrested weeks later and ultimately convicted of murder in 2000.
In Wednesday’s court filing, Syed’s counsel noted he has been employed since December, working as a Program Associate at Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.
The filing also noted that Syed has been caring for his elderly parents. His father suffers from dementia and his mother has been diagnosed with leukemia.
“Mr. Syed’s return has meant a better quality of life for his loved ones as he is able to assist with the day-to-day management of his parents’ health, transport them to doctor’s appointments, and generally be of service to them,” the court filing said.
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