Lawyers representing Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular true-crime podcastSerial, have filed the first documents in a lengthy ongoing effort to overturn his conviction for murder.
Syed is currently serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend.
But the podcast, presented by This American Life producer Sarah Koenig, raised doubts about whether Syed was effectively defended in his first two trials in 2000 by his lawyer, Christina Gutierrez.
In the brief, which was filed on Monday in the Maryland court of special appeals, Syed’s lawyers take up the same argument as Koenig, saying that Gutierrez had failed both times to raise the possibility of a plea bargain.
If Syed’s lawyers are successful, the case would be remanded for a new trial.
The 35-page brief also said that Gutierrez failed to properly investigate Syed’s possible alibi, a woman named Asia McClain, who said at the time and maintains to this day, that she saw Syed at the public library at exactly the time when prosecutors contended the murder took place.
“The errors committed by trial counsel were of such a fundamental nature that Syed must be given a new trial,” the brief argues. “Not only did Gutierrez entirely ignore Syed’s best defense, his alibi, but she failed to fulfill the fundamental task of asking the prosecutor for a plea offer.”
“Making matters worse,” it continues, “rather than tell her client the truth about his case and counsel him, Gutierrez repeatedly lied to Syed, a 17-year-old who had never been in trouble before.”
Gutierrez was disbarred a year after Syed was convicted and died of a heart attack in 2003.