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Syed opposes state’s request for high-court review of new trial order

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)

Attorneys for Adnan Syed asked Maryland’s high court Tuesday to let stand the Court of Special Appeals’ decision awarding him a new trial.

Attorneys for Syed, whose case was the subject of the podcast “Serial,” claim the state’s request earlier this month the Court of Appeals review and reverse the ruling is “unwarranted” and the state “identifies no legal issue of broad import.”

Syed also asks the court to grant his conditional cross-petition if it does take up the state’s appeal.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled in March the failure of Syed’s now-deceased attorney to investigate a potential alibi witness violated his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel.

But Attorney General Brian E. Frosh argued in the state’s petition for a writ of certiorari the Constitution does not require attorneys to chase down all potential alibis in defending their clients.

He said the court’s reported opinion “threatens to mint a new rule creating a broad obligation to investigate, essentially disregarding the presumption that a defense attorney’s decisions are sound and instead shifting the burden to the state to establish affirmatively that there were valid strategic reasons for a particular investigative decision or oversight.”

But Syed’s attorneys, in their filing Tuesday, claim certiorari is only granted for issues of public importance, not where the outcome is only of interest to the litigants. In this case, “the Court of Special Appeals did not create some novel, burdensome, and broadly-applicable test,” the motion states.

The state’s petition is also “fact-bound,” they added, and seeks to relitigate facts.

The conditional cross-petition challenges the Court of Special Appeals’ ruling on Syed’s right to effective assistance of counsel as it relates to his attorney’s failure to challenge cell-tower location data, which formed the basis of a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge’s decision to award a new trial in July 2016. The Court of Special Appeals determined Syed had waived his allegation of ineffective assistance based on that argument.

The case is State of Maryland v. Adnan Syed, No. 126, September Term 2018.

Daily Record Legal Affairs Writers Anamika Roy and Steve Lash contributed to this report.


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