Adnan Syed case: Family of Hae Min Lee plans to appeal tossed murder conviction

BALTIMORE — The family of Hae Min Lee, the Baltimore-area teen murdered in 1999, has notified the court that they plan to appeal the release of the man accused of killing her.

Lawyers for Lee’s brother, Young Lee, filed a notice Wednesday stating that they plan to appeal Adnan Syed’s release to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Syed, 41, was released earlier this month after a judge vacated his 2000 conviction and ordered that he be given a new trial.

Attorney Steven Kelly told The Associated Press that the family is not challenging Syed’s release but asking that a second hearing be held so the family can be there to address the court. Young Lee, who said he was not notified of Syed’s Sept. 19 hearing, was only able to attend via videoconference.

“We’re not challenging the ruling but asking for the hearing to be redone in accordance with the law,” Kelly said.

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Maryland victims’ rights laws give the families of victims the right to participate in all criminal justice proceedings. The night before Syed’s hearing, Kelly filed a motion asking that the proceedings be postponed for a week so Lee could attend in person.

Lee had earlier that day indicated he would attend virtually, the AP reported.

Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn denied the motion to stay the proceedings but delayed the hearing for more than 30 minutes to allow Lee, who was at work, to be present on video.

Watch an interview with Hae Lee’s family below, courtesy of WMAR-2 News.

Lee expressed disappointment in the prosecution during the call.

“This is not a podcast for me. This is real life,” Lee said.

The murder of Lee’s sister and Syed’s subsequent arrest and conviction were the subject of the first season of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast. The production stirred interest in the case, throughout which Syed has adamantly denied killing Hae Lee, who was his classmate and former girlfriend.

Following Syed’s release, Serial host and executive producer Sarah Koenig released a new episode on the case.

Syed’s defense has tried for more than two decades to clear his name. One attempt included a witness who said she saw Syed at the public library in the time frame in which authorities alleged that he killed Lee.

Syed’s latest bid for a new trial was initiated by Assistant State’s Attorney Becky Feldman, who was reexamining the case when she found notes in the file written by her predecessor. The notes detailed phone calls from multiple people who told prosecutors about two potential suspects who had motive to harm Lee.

Those alternate suspects were never fully considered before Syed was charged in Lee’s death, Feldman argued.

>> Related story: ‘Serial’ subject Adnan Syed to be released after judge tosses 2000 conviction

Kelly told the AP that prosecutors shut Lee’s family out of the legal process.

“The family is disappointed with the way that they were treated,” Kelly said. “They’re disappointed with the process.

“They want more than anybody to have the person who killed Hae Min Lee brought to justice. If that is not Mr. Syed, then they’re open to the possibility of anybody else who actually did it being prosecuted.”

Syed has served more than 23 years for killing Lee, who vanished Jan. 13, 1999, after leaving their high school to pick up her 6-year-old cousin and then go to work. She never made it to either place.

The popular scholar and athlete was found nearly a month later in a shallow grave in Baltimore’s Leakin Park. She had been strangled.

Syed was charged based on the testimony of a friend, Jay Wilds, who told police he had helped Syed get rid of Lee’s body after the murder.

The investigation by Feldman and her office’s Sentencing Review Unit, in collaboration with the defense, produced information about evidence that was known to prosecutors in 2000 but withheld from Syed’s trial lawyer. That included the existence of alternate suspects.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has said her office is awaiting results of DNA analysis on evidence in the case before determining whether to retry Syed for murder.