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Serial podcast subject exonerated as prosecutors drop case

Adnan Syed was released from US prison last month after a judge found his trial had been mishandled.

Prosecutors in the US city of Baltimore have dropped a murder case against Adnan Syed, who became the subject of the popular podcast series Serial, which cast doubt on his guilt in the 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee.

Emily Witty, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Attorney’s Office, said in an email Tuesday that prosecutors dropped their case against Syed. A judge overturned Syed’s conviction last month, released him from prison and gave prosecutors a month to decide whether to reopen the case.

“Breaking news: after the latest round of DNA testing returned results that ruled out Adnan Syed like previous rounds of testing, he has now been officially exonerated!” tweeted Laura Nirider, a co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law who escorted Syed out of prison last month.

The act is a final vindication for Syed, now 42, who served more than 20 years in prison for a murder he always claimed he did not commit. Released in 2014, the podcast series became hugely popular, attracting millions of listeners and raising doubts about the fairness of the trial.

District Judge Melissa Phinn ruled last month that the state had violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have strengthened Syed’s defense in the case in which he was accused of strangling Lee, who was buried in a Baltimore park .

In the case, data from a cell phone tower had been used to paint a picture of Syed’s whereabouts, although it was known to be unreliable. A note in the recordings specifically stated that the billing locations for incoming calls “would not be considered reliable location information”.

Prosecutors said a re-examination of the case unearthed new evidence relating to two possible alternative suspects, one of whom, according to a court filing, had threatened to kill Lee and make her “disappear”. Both suspects had a history of violent crimes against women.

Prosecutors said the two potential suspects were known at the time of the original case but were not properly ruled out or disclosed to the defense. Syed was released from prison last month and placed under house arrest with a GPS monitor, a common practice in the US criminal justice system.

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