Serial season one feels like a lifetime ago, but it actually came out just five years ago. I doubt you have, but in case you’ve forgotten: Adnan Syed was found guilty of the first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 2000, but the case only received national (and international) attention following Serial‘s coverage of the case in 2014.
Two years after Serial, a judge vacated Syed’s conviction and ordered a new trial. In 2018, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision to grant Syed a new trial.
Now, the Maryland Court of Appeals has announced that Syed will not be getting a second trial after all.
This is a reversal of the 2018 decision, when the Court of Special Appeals ruled that Syed’s “Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated” because of the failure to interview a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, who said she saw Syed in the school library at the time Lee was murdered.
According to Syed’s lawyer, the Court of Appeals decided that McClain’s testimony “would not have affected the outcome of the proceeding.” He added:
“Unfortunately we live in a binary criminal justice system in which you either win or you lose. Today we lost by a 4-3 vote.”
We will not give up. #FreeAdnan
— Justin Brown (@CJBrownLaw) March 8, 2019
Asia McClain took to Twitter to express herself following the decision. In the live video, she’s visibly emotional, and says she doesn’t “know how to process this right now, because it doesn’t make sense” to her. She says that the argument that her testimony wouldn’t have made a difference “makes no sense” , and calls the decision “such b.s.”.
— Asia McClain Chapman (@AsiaRChapman) March 8, 2019
Syed has served 19 years of a life sentence. A documentary on the case, called The Case Against Adnan Syed, will be premiering on HBO in the US this weekend.
In all of this, I worry that it’s easy to lose sight of Hae Min Lee and her family, who have consistently avoided the spotlight since Serial‘s release.
In a rare statement released in 2016, the family said:
“It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae.”
The director of the HBO documentary, Amy Berg, said that she felt it was important to incorporate Lee’s life into the documentary in ways Serial hadn’t.
“That was one of my first goals, to be honest: to bring the real Hae to life through her friend’s accountings, and hopefully, through the journal entries. I really wanted to make sure that she wasn’t just another victim. Hae was this beautiful young woman who had many things to look forward to in life. I wanted to make sure that we really, really felt her.”
Whatever happens next, remembering the victim at the heart of all of this is paramount.