Adnan Syed is getting another shot at freedom. The subject of the first season of the widely popular podcast Serial was granted a new trial by a Baltimore judge on Thursday, June 30.
Syed’s lawyer C. Justin Brown announced the news on Twitter, confirming that Judge Martin P. Welch of the Baltimore City Circuit Court granted their motion.
“WE WON A NEW TRIAL FOR ADNAN SYED!!! #FreeAdnan,” Brown tweeted on Thursday.
Syed was convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 2000 and has spent the past 16 years serving his life sentence in prison. The now–35-year-old’s case gained worldwide attention after Serial dug into the case in 2014 and questioned whether Syed was wrongly accused and if he had received a fair trial.
The podcast was downloaded more than 100 million times, The New York Times reports, and won a Peabody Award.
During a news conference, his lawyer acknowledged the podcast for helping bring new attention to Syed’s case. “I don’t think so,” he said when asked if a new trial would have been possible without Serial.
“I’m feeling pretty confident right now,” Brown said of his client’s chance at freedom. “This was the biggest hurdle. It’s really hard to get a new trial.”
The decision comes after Syed’s legal team argued that he had received ineffective counsel during the original trial, and after presenting new evidence, including testimonies from alibi witnesses who may have previously been overlooked. Syed’s first request for a postconviction hearing in 2010 was denied.
According to The New York Times, Welch revealed in a memo his decision to grant the new trial also relied heavily on Syed’s original lawyer Maria Cristina Gutierrez’s failure to question state expert Abraham Waranowitz about cellphone tower evidence. Syed’s attorney Brown argued that the cell tower evidence presented at Syed’s original trial was misleading and unreliable.
But despite the good news Thursday, Brown is expecting that the state will appeal Welch’s decision.
“This is obviously an incredible victory,” he said during the press conference. “We know the state is not going to give up, and we’re ready.”