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.