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Why Adnan Syed's 'Serial' Case Is An Issue In The State's Attorney For Baltimore Race

Ivan Bates, who is challenging incumbent Marilyn Mosby, says he would not retry Adnan Syed if elected. 

By Will Huntsberry
Adnan Syed

The popular podcast "Serial" is now raising the stakes in the State's Attorney for Baltimore race.

Ivan Bates, who is challenging incumbent Marilyn Mosby, says he would not retry Adnan Syed — whose alleged wrongful conviction is the focus of "Serial" — for the 1999 murder of his high school ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

Mosby has not said whether she would retry Syed, who now has a national movement of supporters saying he was wrongly convicted. Another challenger in the race, Thiru Vignarajah, has worked as the lead prosecutor against Syed in a series of appeals that would keep him in prison.

Bates told Rolling Stone he wouldn't retry Syed because central points of the state's case have been shown "to not be reliable." 

He pointed to cellphone tower data that was used in court to prove Syed was near the murder site. In "Serial," reporter Sarah Koenig laid out how that type of data has been proven unreliable, in years since the trial, for determing a person's location.

Bates also pointed to the prosecution's key witness, Jay Wilds, changing his story, in an interiew with The Intercept in 2014 after "Serial" was released. Wilds had originally testified he helped Syed bury Lee's body.  

Bates’ declaration could force Mosby to stake out a position on whether she would attempt a retrial. The office told Oxygen.com, "This is an open and pending matter within the discretion and jurisdiction of the Attorney General of Maryland."

Vignarajah has not said if he would retry Syed either, but he has been handling the state’s case since 2016.

Vignarajah even managed to hold onto the case after he went into private practice last year with one of the biggest law firm in the country, DLA Piper. He is named as a “Special Assistant Attorney General” in court filings.

Syed’s conviction was overturned in 2016 by a judge due to witness testimony, first unearthed by "Serial," that Syed was at a library when the murder was supposed to have happened. But Syed was not released from prison at the time, because prosecutors appealed the decision. The appeal process could stay tied up for at least another year and a half, according to Rolling Stone.

But if the courts uphold the overturned charge it will be up to the State’s Attorney of Baltimore to decide whether to let Syed stand trial again. 

Since "Serial" put the case on the map, Syed has co-authored a memoir called "Adnan’s Story" and HBO is set to air a four-part documentary series, which does not yet have an air date. 

[Photo: Getty]

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