The defendant featured in the breakout first season of Serial failed in his bid to get a new trial when Maryland’s highest court rejected the bid in a 4-3 decision handed down in March. Now attorneys for Adnan Syed have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the state court and order Maryland to give him a new trial.
Syed was convicted in 2000 of killing his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and burying her body in a Baltimore park. He’s currently serving a life sentence. Syed’s appeal is based on the argument that his trial attorney violated his constitutional right to counsel since she failed to contact an alibi witness.
“Syed’s case has inspired podcasts, a documentary, and countless news articles. This petition, however, is about a straightforward legal issue,” Syed’s lawyer Justin Brown wrote in a petition filed with the Supreme Court on Monday.
It was Serial’s investigation into Syed’s case that brought a fresh review of the trial and conviction. The 2014 podcast, hosted by Sarah Koenig, was also a break-out moment for podcasters everywhere as the medium suddenly attracted widespread attention and spurred the past five years of growth.
It has also spawned a television show. Last spring HBO aired a four-part documentary series about Syed’s case. “The Case Against Adnan Syed” was created by documentary filmmaker Amy Berg. She described herself as a “fanatical listener” to the Serial podcast. “I was very curious to know more at the end of that 11-hour experience,” she told the New York Post. “In the beginning, I spoke to Sarah Koenig to let her know what I was going to do, and she gave us her blessing. She was at the end of this journey, and we were just beginning.”
The power of podcasts was on display in June when the Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions of Curtis Flowers. The Mississippi man was the subject of the American Public Media podcast In the Dark. Flowers had faced the death penalty for allegedly murdering four people in a Winona, MS furniture store in 1996. But in a 7-2 decision, the Court said his constitutional rights had been violated since the district attorney in the case intentionally kept African Americans off Flowers’ jury. The case presented to the court included reporting from APM Reports, which uncovered a pattern of racist jury selection by the district attorney.