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Appellate court grants state appeal in Syed case

FILE - In a Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing. The hearing, scheduled to last three days before Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch, is meant to determine whether Syed's conviction will be overturned and case retried. After spending 16 years in prison, Syed, convicted of murder, who was at the center of the podcast "Serial" has won a new trial in Baltimore. Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch ruled Thursday, June 30, 2016, that Syed deserves another trial because his attorney failed to cross-examine a cell tower expert about the reliability of data. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File) WASHINGTON EXAMINER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT /The Baltimore Sun via AP) WASHINGTON EXAMINER OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

FILE – In a Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 file photo, Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/The Baltimore Sun via AP, File)

The state’s appeal of a new trial granted to Adnan Syed will be heard by the Court of Special Appeals along with Syed’s conditional cross-appeal, according to a court order issued Wednesday.

Syed, whose first-degree murder conviction gained fame after it was the subject of the popular “Serial” podcast, was granted a new trial in June by retired Baltimore City Circuit Judge Martin P. Welch. The state appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals, which granted applications for leave to appeal Wednesday, spelling out which issues the judges will consider.

“We’re disappointed this will get dragged out longer,” C. Justin Brown, Syed’s lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday. “But we’re confident Adnan will eventually get the new trial he deserves.”

Arguments will be scheduled for June, with the state’s brief due Feb. 27 and responses due March 29, according to the appellate court order.

Syed is serving a life sentence plus 30 years and has been in custody for 17 years. Though his conviction was vacated, that decision was stayed while the appeal is pending, and Welch denied a request for bail last month.

Welch based his June 30 decision on evidence that cast doubt on the reliability of cellphone records that prosecutors used to support their theory that Syed killed his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 1999.

The state contends on appeal that Welch should not have considered that evidence because post-conviction proceedings were reopened based on an affidavit from alibi witness Asia McClain, who said she spoke with Syed around the time prosecutors alleged he murdered Lee and was not asked to testify at trial despite reaching out to the defense team.

The state’s lawyers added the trial court “abused the discretion it was accorded by this Court when it allowed Syed to present a novel standalone claim in reopened proceedings that were supposed to be predicated on the newly-available affidavit of Asia McClain.”

On their cross-appeal, Syed’s attorneys argued Welch did not find that McClain’s testimony would have materially impacted the outcome of the case or that it constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.


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