After 23-years of serving time for a crime he said he didn’t commit, Adnan Syed, the man whose legal case made international headlines because of the hit podcast “Serial,” is finally free. According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore prosecutors dropped Syed’s criminal case in connection to the 1999 killing of Hae Min Lee on Tuesday after DNA test results did not match that of Syed.
While Syed’s conviction was overturned last month, prosecutors had until Oct. 18 to decide whether or not to retry him for the murder, kidnapping, and robbery charges against him or drop them. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office noted Tuesday that the decision to drop the charges against Syed was based on never-before-tested DNA from Lee’s shoes.
“Finally, Adnan Syed is able to live as a free man,” Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney, said in a statement according to the Associated Press.
“Today’s the day that Adnan Syed and his loved ones have been waiting for 23 long years,” Suter added. “The results of the DNA testing excluded Adnan and confirm what Adnan and his supporters have always known: that Adnan Syed is innocent. The state of Maryland has dropped the charges. Adnan Syed is free.”
The DNA results come after a yearlong investigation in which, attorneys from the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law and city prosecutors discovered two people they now consider alternative suspectsin Lee’s death.
While both suspects were known to the authorities from the start, at least one was not disclosed to Syed’s defense.
“As the administrator of the criminal justice system, it’s my duty to ensure that justice is not delayed, justice is never denied, but justice be done,” Mosby said when announcing prosecutors’ decision to drop the case .
At this time the other two suspects have not been identified publicly. Outside of disclosing that homicide prosecutor Michael Dunty is assigned to the case, Mosby said she could not discuss any other details.
“We will continue to utilize every available resource to prosecute whoever is responsible for the death of Hae Min Lee,” Mosby said.
Last month when Mosby’s office urged to vacate Syed’s conviction, she said that her decision on whether or not to go ahead with charges was on pending DNA. Due to newly introduced evidence, the prosecutor said they lost faith in his guilty verdict. As a result Syed’d conviction was dismissed by Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn and he went home for the first time in 23 years on Sept. 19.
In addition to announcing the dropped charges, Mosby said she would be prepared to formally certify Syed’s innocence. According to the Baltimore Sun, this would make him eligible to apply for wrongful conviction compensation from the state— if the DNA testing came back inconclusive or found a different suspect.
Syed would also be entitled to financial benefits from the state for being wrongfully incarcerated for more than two decades. According to state law, in addition to financial benefits the state would also owe him five years of health care, housing and free tuition.
While the Lee family prepared to appeal the order that vacated Syed’s conviction, prosecutors took action to dismiss the case before the appeals court could have a chance.
“I’ve utilized my power and discretion to dismiss the case. There’s no more appeal. It’s moot … The case is over,” Mosby said Tuesday.
Despite DNA evidence supporting Mosby’s decision the Lee family attorney criticized Mosby for dismissing the case.
“The family received no notice and their attorney was offered no opportunity to be present at the proceeding,” attorney Steve Kelly told the Baltimore Sun. “By rushing to dismiss the criminal charges, the State’s Attorney’s Office sought to silence Hae Min Lee’s family and to prevent the family and the public from understanding why the State so abruptly changed its position of more than 20 years. All this family ever wanted was answers and a voice. Today’s actions robbed them of both.”
Now 41, Syed was found guilty in 2000, but he has always maintained his innocence.
Across the country, people are celebrating Syed’s win and acknowledging the patience he had for justice during the two decades he spent in prison.
Syed’s long-time friend and author of “Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial,” Rabia Chaudry took to Twitter to celebrate the decision.
“For decades now my prayer and the prayers of people who love Adnan have been not only that he is released from prison, but that he returns home with his dignity and reputation restored, his record cleared, and the killer of Hae Min Lee brought to justice. We prayed for all these things and God has granted nearly every prayer …. My final prayer is that the killer is soon arrested and I believe with my entire heart this will happen. Finally I want to say to Adnan that I love you little brother, and I can’t wait for the world to get to know you. You deserve everything good in this life and the next.”