Maryland 'Serial' murder hearing resumes in Baltimore

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 08, 2016 10:16 AM

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - A Maryland court hearing on a retrial request in a 1999 murder made famous by the podcast "Serial" resumed on Monday as the family of the murdered victim said the proceedings reopened old wounds.

Adnan Syed, 35, is serving a life sentence for the 1999 strangulation of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, 18. Syed's lawyers seek a new trial based on new evidence amid questions about the fairness of the case that were raised by the podcast in late 2014.

In three days of hearings last week, Syed's lawyers argued before Judge Martin Welch that the verdict was unfair, based on inadequate legal counsel, cell phone records and other issues.

FBI Special Agent Chad Fitzgerald, who had testified in Baltimore City Circuit Court about cell phone evidence, is expected to take the stand again on Monday.

In testimony for the prosecution, Fitzgerald said on Friday he believed that previous analysis of cell phone tower records was accurate in placing Syed at Baltimore's Leakin Park. Lee's body was found there in February 2000.

Syed's defense team has argued that the cellphone evidence was flawed. One witness, Asia McClain Chapman, testified last week that she had spoken with Syed the day that Lee disappeared but was never contacted by his lawyers about a possible alibi.

In a statement released through the Maryland Attorney General's Office on Sunday, Lee's family said: "The events of this past week have reopened wounds few can imagine."

It added, "For those of us who saw the trials and heard the evidence, it is more clear than ever that Adnan is guilty and that his lawyer did the best job she could have for him."

Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah, who is overseeing the prosecution in the Syed hearing, said in a separate statement that Syed had received a dogged defense from some of Maryland's best lawyers.

Cristina Gutierrez, who led Syed's defense team at his trial, was in private practice and died in 2004.

The three-day hearing had been scheduled to end on Friday, but Welch extended it to Monday for more testimony.

The "Serial" podcast produced by Chicago public radio station WBEZ has been downloaded tens of millions of times.

(Editing by Ian Simpson and W Simon)