Adnan Syed, who is currently serving a life sentence at a state prison in Western Maryland, will see his case—as recently made famous by Serial—decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in January. It will be the second appeals process for Syed, and what his lawyer C. Justin Brown calls his "last best chance at freedom."

Syed was convicted in 2000 of robbery, false imprisonment and first-degree murder, and the narrative of his crime is lurid: prosecutors said that he (then age 18) strangled his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee out of jealousy, then buried her body in a shallow grave in a public park. But, as noted exhaustively by Serial, there were no eye-witnesses to the crime, and Syed's attorney at the time did not interview a witness who placed Syed in the school library at the time of Lee's murder. Via the AP:

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals asked prosecutors to respond to the post-conviction appeal in September to see if they too believed Syed had ineffective counsel in a move Brown said is highly unusual. Ultimately, as millions of listeners try and parse the evidence for themselves, what happens next is up to the judges.

The appeals process has been in the works for five years now, and its final months will now dovetail with a widespread Serial obsession. Brown, Syed's lawyer, acknowledges the potential for special treatment but downplays the Serial influence:

"It's an unusual phenomenon," Brown said. "The Court of Special Appeals has shown some interest in the case and asked the state to respond to our application, which is more than they usually do in this procedural posture. But I truly think the appellate courts make their decisions based on the merits of the case, and not the popularity of a podcast."

In the meantime, the debate about race's role in Serial's reporting will continue to rage.

Image via Serial.