Adnan Syed, the man who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, has been denied a new trial, the Maryland Court of Appeals announced Friday.
Syed’s conviction gained international attention after it became the subject of the popular podcast Serial, which investigated whether he could be innocent, as he has claimed.
Friday’s decision is a reversal of the court victory Syed and his legal team won last March, when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that his “Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated” by a failure to investigate a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, who has said she saw Syed in the school library at the time Lee was murdered.
Syed’s attorney, Justin Brown, said in a statement that the Court of Appeals, which is the state’s highest court, decided that McClain’s story “would not have affected the outcome of the proceeding.”
“Unfortunately we live in a binary criminal justice system in which you either win or you lose,” Brown said. “Today we lost by a 4-3 vote.”
Brown said they were “devastated” by Friday’s ruling but would “not give up on Adnan Syed.”
“Our criminal justice system is desperately in need of reform,” Brown said. “The obstacles to getting a new trial are simply too great.”
Brown did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh commended the ruling in a statement.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision,” Frosh said. “Justice was done for Hae Min Lee and her family.”
The decision comes days before Syed’s case is about to get even more attention. On Sunday, The Case Against Adnan Syed, a documentary series, premieres on HBO.