Victim’s brother files appeal in Maryland Supreme Court, asking for more say in legal proceedings

Brother of woman Adnan Syed previously convicted of murder files own appeal to Maryland Supreme Court, arguing lower court ruling in his favor didn’t go far enough for victims’ rights .

The court case filed Thursday by Young Lee, brother of Hae Min Lee, who was killed in 1999, adds complexity to the already dizzying legal saga described in the hit podcast “Serial.” That means there are now a pair of Syed-related claims pending in the state’s highest court.

In his appeal last month, Syed, 43, argued the Maryland Court of Appeals erred when it overturned a Baltimore Circuit Court judge’s decision to overturn his conviction. in September and release him from prison for the first time in 23 years.

Lee, meanwhile, argues that the appeals court should have given him the right to speak and challenge evidence at the September hearing that freed Syed, not just attend in person, as the determined the opinion of appeal.

At issue in both appeals is exactly what role victims or their representatives should have in the process of overturning an accused’s conviction on legal grounds.

Last year, Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn met with the prosecution and Syed’s attorney at her chambers on September 16, a Friday, and scheduled a hearing for the following Monday, September 19. By the time the attorneys handling the case met Phinn, they had presented him with a common legal argument as to why Syed’s 2000 convictions were wrong and should be thrown out “in the interests of justice”.

Prosecutors had told Young Lee they would file court documents to withdraw Syed’s conviction in the murder of his sister, but they did not inform him of the court date until shortly after his date. planned.

Prosecutors told him he could watch the proceedings via video call, but Young Lee, who was living in California at the time, wanted to be there in person. He hired a lawyer over the weekend to show up in court and ask for a one-week postponement.

In court, Phinn told Young Lee’s attorney that she would only delay proceedings long enough for Young Lee to participate in a video call. Thirty minutes later, Young Lee, via video, told him how he had felt betrayed by prosecutors who had led him to believe for more than 20 years that the good man was guilty of the strangulation death of his sister. . When he was done speaking, Phinn said she appreciated his comments and moved on with the proceedings.

Led by then-state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby, prosecutors dropped charges against Syed in October. But by then, Young Lee had filed a notice of appeal.

In the appeal, Young Lee argued that prosecutors and Phinn violated his rights as a representative for victims of crime by giving short notice at the September hearing and not giving him time to present in person or to challenge the evidence.

The Victims of Crime Act only provides that victims or their representatives be given “reasonable” notice of legal proceedings, without specifying a time frame. Although lawmakers have expressly granted victims or their representatives the right to speak at certain hearings, such as sentencing, they have not specified as much in the state’s nascent vacatur law. As a general rule, victims cannot weigh in on legal matters.

A three-judge appeals court panel allowed the appeal to proceed, hearing oral arguments from attorneys for Young Lee and Syed in February, before delivering their opinion in March. In the split decision, the appeals judges ordered the reinstatement of Syed’s convictions and life sentence, and ordered a resumption of the September hearing that freed him.

The notice of appeal provided for a 60-day window before his warrants take effect. At that time, Syed’s attorneys unsuccessfully argued that the appeals court should reconsider its decision, then asked the state supreme court to hear the case.

Syed’s attorneys argued that prosecutors’ decision to drop Syed’s charges overturned Young Lee’s appeal, that Young Lee had been given sufficient notice of the September hearing as required by law. They also said that Young Lee appearing at the hearing via video call satisfied his right to attend.

More importantly, Syed’s lawyers said, the appeals court did not consider whether Young Lee’s presence in person would have changed the decision to overturn Syed’s conviction — a legal consideration. They said Young Lee’s presence in the courtroom wouldn’t have changed Phinn’s mind, so the appeals court shouldn’t have ordered a redo.

A custodial worker discovered Lee’s body in a shallow grave in Baltimore’s Leakin Park in February 1999. Homicide detectives quickly zeroed in on Syed, who was 17 at the time, arresting him there. same year. During the trial, prosecutors posited that popular student Syed couldn’t stand it when Lee broke up with him. She was strangled to death and investigators found evidence of a struggle in her car.

Convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery and forcible confinement in 2000, Syed was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison.


Leave a Comment