Asia McClain testified in a Baltimore court on Wednesday, at the first hearing for Serial subject Adnan Syed, who’s seeking a new trial for a murder conviction.
Serial fans know McClain as the witness who could have provided an alibi for Syed during his case in 2000. McClain claims she saw Syed in Woodlawn library around the time that his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee was murdered.
Syed was sentenced to life in prison for Lee’s murder in a case that was revived last year, thanks in part to the popularity of Serial and its creator Sarah Koenig. “I didn’t think I was very important at all,” McClain testified yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court. “I came to find out, as Sarah said, maybe it is important.”
According to McClain’s testimony, the Baltimore Sun reports:
Defense attorneys never asked about her account, she said, and a prosecutor later dismissed the potential alibi as irrelevant. But before a packed courtroom on Wednesday, McClain described how a popular podcast about the case had persuaded her that she needed to speak up.
At the hearing, Syed’s lawyers attempted to prove that his attorney at the time, M. Cristina Gutierrez (who died in 2004), was professionally inept. The state argued otherwise, presenting Gutierrez’s strategy-planning files as evidence of her competence:
Attorneys for the state urged retired Judge Martin P. Welch to deny the request. Deputy Maryland Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah said Syed received sufficient representation during his trial in 2000 and that any decision by his attorneys not to follow up on McClain’s account then was strategic.
Gutierrez determined that the “pursuit of Ms. McClain would not be a worthwhile endeavor,” Vignarajah said, countering the contention that Gutierrez was not of sound mind.
The same judge previously dismissed a retrial request from Syed’s lawyers in 2012. Another lead that could potentially help Syed’s case involves questionable cellphone towers that may have falsely ID’d him.
According to a statement from Lee’s family, which was read by Vignarajah: “We believe justice was done when Adnan was convicted in 2000, and we look forward to bringing this chapter to an end so we can celebrate the memory of Hae instead of celebrating the man who killed her.”
A photo of a thickly-bearded Syed appears to be the first new image many of us have seen of Syed since Serial made him infamous.
The three-day hearing continues today.
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