Sarah Koenig, who more than a decade ago brought the story of Adnan Syed to mainstream audiences on Serialsurprised by his decision to free Syed after overturning his conviction for the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee.
Talk to New York Times After Syed was released on Monday, Koenig said, “I was shocked. I don’t see this happening at all. One of the first things I did was call Adnan’s brother and then his mother – they told me they didn’t know either. It appears that prosecutors have filed a motion to release him. ”
After more than two decades behind bars, Syed was released, aged 41, after Judge Melissa Phinn of the Circuit Court in Baltimore overturned his sentence for the murder of Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend. , on the grounds that the state violated a legal obligation to share. explanatory evidence with Syed’s defense. At the time of his murder, Syed was 17 years old; he has maintained his chastity.
Syed, who has been placed under house arrest with GPS monitoring, now faces a new trial or the dismissal of the case, a decision the state will issue within 30 days.
Koenig, a former Baltimore Sun journalist, who covered the case during the premiere season of the hit true-crime podcast Serial in 2014 with 12 episodes catapulted Syed’s story and the popularity of serialized podcasts into fervor. On Tuesday, she released a new podcast on development, episode 13, that begins with the Baltimore prosecutor’s office filing last week to have Syed’s conviction cleared.
“Prosecutors today are not saying Adnan is innocent,” Koenig, the showrunner and executive producer, said of the episode. “They don’t stop making excuses. Instead, they say ‘back in 1999, we didn’t investigate this case thoroughly enough. We relied on evidence we shouldn’t have, and we broke the rules when we prosecuted. This is not an honest accusation. ‘”
When talking to New York Times, Koenig notes that what the state is saying must feel like “déjà vu” to the defense, citing familiar arguments such as unreliable witness testimony, cell phone evidence unreliable and unconvincing crime times. But the main revelation, she said, was that “the state did not provide information on an alternative suspect who could have committed the crime. It’s a bit of a bomb. ”
Koenig said that two unidentified suspects were known at the time, but were not shared with the defense. At least one of the suspects has a criminal record, and one has family ties to the location where Lee’s car was found.
“But the most damning thing,” she said, “at the time, several people told the prosecutor’s office that one of the suspects had a motive to kill Hae, and even threatened to do so. And that information was never communicated to the defense. Only that – not handing over vital evidence – can be the basis for overturning the murder conviction.”
Noting that the list of systemic problems that led to Syed’s conviction is “nothing new” in the US justice system, Koenig said the whole goal of her podcast was to highlight that an 18-year-old young man sentenced to life in prison based on a story. that is “incorrect.” She said, “That’s what we want people to think: Even questioning Adnan’s guilt or innocence, do we agree with such a working system?”
After drawing national attention, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller opted for the right to bring Syed’s case to television in 2015, following a bidding war. Although that series has yet to materialize, the third installment of Serial is being developed into a limited series at HBO, with executive producer Koenig producing alongside LeBron James and his SpringHill banner.