We welcome Judge Melissa Phinn’s decision to vacate the conviction of Adnan Syed, grant a new trial, and order his immediate release. Mr. Syed, who is represented by Erica Suter of the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, has maintained his innocence throughout the 23 years of his wrongful imprisonment. The focus of the podcast “Serial” and HBO’s documentary “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” Mr. Syed was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his former high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. The court concluded that Mr. Syed’s trial was unfair because the State failed to disclose key exculpatory evidence.
Mr. Syed’s case is a stark example of how the concealment of exculpatory evidence — known as a Brady violation — leads to wrongful convictions. In the last three months alone, the exonerations of Innocence Project clients Mallory Nicholson, John Galvan and, just last week, Herman Williams, all revealed Brady violations that contributed to the conviction and imprisonment of innocent people. And we know these are not isolated examples. A 2020 report by the National Registry of Exonerations, Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent, covering the nation’s first 2,400 exoneration cases, found that the concealment of exculpatory evidence is the most common type of misconduct and it occurred in 44% of those exonerations.
The integrity of the legal system requires accountability for not only Mr. Syed’s wrongful conviction but also the pain the State’s unlawful conduct caused to Hae Min Lee’s family.