The Maryland Attorney General’s Office is asking to pause court proceedings related to Adnan Syed, whose conviction in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee was vacated last month.
In a new filing before Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals, the Attorney General’s Office took the unusual step of joining an opposing party, in this case Lee’s family, to ask for a stay in Syed’s case.
Baltimore prosecutors asked to vacate Syed’s conviction in Lee’s killing last month, citing a host of new concerns with the original evidence in the case. Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa M. Phinn granted the request and gave the State’s Attorney’s Office 30 days to decide whether to retry Syed for Lee’s murder or drop the charges against him.
Now, both Lee’s family and the Attorney General’s Office are asking to put that 30-day window on hold.
Lee’s brother, Young Lee, is appealing Phinn’s handling of the case. Phinn declined to delay a hearing on the motion to vacate Syed’s conviction when Young Lee said he had not received enough notice and wished to fly in from California to address the court in person.
“Mr. Lee has the right to appeal the State’s Attorneys’ Office’s failure to provide him reasonable notice of the motion to vacate and their failure to comply with the Maryland Declaration of Rights’ mandate to treat victims with ‘dignity, respect, and sensitivity,'” the Attorney General’s Office wrote in Friday’s filing.
Crime victims have the right to be notified of postconviction proceedings, the right to attend court hearings where the defendant appears, and the right to be heard in court under some circumstances. They can also appeal when those rights are not recognized, though they cannot “challenge the merits of the underlying criminal proceeding,” the Attorney General’s Office wrote.
The office also claims Syed is not a party to the appeal and cannot respond to the Lee family’s request for a stay.
“This appeal concerns only the propriety of the State’s notice to Mr. Lee,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Carrie J. Williams.
City prosecutors’ request to vacate Syed’s conviction centered on two handwritten documents that were said to reveal an alternative suspect who had reportedly said he would kill Lee. The documents were never turned over to the defense, prosecutors said, creating a Brady violation that raised questions about the legitimacy of Syed’s conviction in Lee’s murder.
Prosecutors also said they had lost faith in the reliability of cellphone location data used in the case and a key eyewitness who told police Syed took him to Lee’s body.