Adnan Syed has moved forward with pleading his case for a new trial. In a 31-page briefing filed today in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, his attorney C. Justin Brown cites the incompetence of Syed's former lawyer M. Christina Gutierrez, who died 12 years ago.
The Serial podcast subject is currently serving life in prison for the murder of Hae Min Lee. In the briefing, Brown argues that "the errors by trial counsel were of such a fundamental nature that Syed must be given a new trial" and that "the circumstances here are worse than the circumstances of any other case in which a court has found ineffective assistance of counsel relating to an alibi issue."
The Baltimore Sun reports:
The brief is the first step for Syed in his effort to overturn his life sentence since the Court of Special Appeals last month granted his request to reopen his appeal after two unsuccessful attempts in the last dozen years.
Syed's main argument was that his attorney in 2000, M. Christina Gutierrez, was ineffective because she failed to investigate an alibi witness that could have cleared him. Syed also argues that Gutierrez didn't look into a plea deal, which he said he could have considered knowing that his lawyer was ignoring his strongest defense — the alibi.
The filing refers to Gutierrez's trial proceedings as "not an innocent mistake":
"...it was a complete failure to follow her client's wishes, a decision to lie, and a decision that any reasonable attorney would know could very well cost the defendant his case — precisely what happened."
"There are several examples of cases where trial counsel's failure to investigate or call alibi witnesses were far less egregious than this case" and judges granted those cases new trials, Syed's court filing said.
With the paperwork now in motion, it's on the Maryland Attorney General's Office to respond by April 30. The case could head to appeals court in June:
The Maryland Attorney General's Office, which is fighting Syed's appeal, declined to comment on Monday, a spokesman said. But its attorneys have written in court records that Syed's claim of ineffective counsel is moot because there is no evidence that prosecutors would have given him a plea deal. State attorneys also say Syed has so staunchly defended his innocence before and after his conviction that there is no evidence that he would have even accepted one if one had been offered.
The potential for a Serial Part 2 remains to be seen.
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