Who Is Adnan Syed? Everything You Need To Know About Him

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Who Is Adnan Syed?

Adnan Syed is a Pakistani-American man who was convicted of the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999.

Lee was 18 years old when she was discovered buried in Baltimore’s Leakin Park. Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was identified as the primary suspect by investigators.

A tribute to Hae Min Lee, class of 1999, in a Woodlawn High School yearbook in 2002.
A tribute to Hae Min Lee, class of 1999, in a Woodlawn High School yearbook in 2002.

In the year 2000, he was sentenced to life in prison.

He became widely known as the case gained national attention after the popular podcast “Serial” aired in 2014, which re-examined his case and raised questions about his guilt.

Here is everything you need to know about Adnan Syed:


Adnan Syed was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1980. He grew up in a Pakistani-American family and attended Woodlawn High School, where he met Hae Min Lee.

The murder:

On January 13, 1999, Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School, went missing. Her body was found in a park a few weeks later. She had been strangled.

The Investigation:

Adnan Syed became a suspect in the case, and after a trial in 2000, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The “Serial” Podcast:

In 2014, journalist Sarah Koenig began investigating the case for the podcast “Serial,” which became a sensation and brought widespread attention to Adnan Syed’s case.

New Evidence:

Following the popularity of “Serial,” new evidence came to light, including testimony from a witness who claimed to have seen Adnan Syed at the library at the time Hae Min Lee was killed.


Adnan Syed’s legal team filed several appeals, arguing that his conviction was based on flawed evidence and that he had received ineffective counsel.

In March 2019, the Maryland Court of Appeals reinstated his conviction, but in December 2020, a judge granted him a new trial.

Adnan Syed Case Timeline

Here’s a brief timeline of Adnan Syed’s case:

January 13, 1999: Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, Maryland, disappears. Her body is found in a park a month later.

February 28, 1999: Adnan Syed is arrested and charged with the murder of Hae Min Lee.

February 2000: Adnan Syed’s trial begins. He is convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

2000-2014: Adnan Syed appeals his conviction multiple times, but all appeals are denied.

October 3, 2014: The first episode of “Serial,” a podcast that explores the case, is released.

December 18, 2014: The final episode of “Serial” is released. The podcast raises questions about Adnan Syed’s guilt and leads to a renewed interest in his case. Adnan’s case gains national attention.

February 2016: Adnan’s conviction is overturned by a Maryland court, which rules that his defense attorney had been ineffective.

March 2018: The Court of Special Appeals affirms the ruling, but Maryland’s attorney general appeals the decision.

March 2020: The Court of Appeals hears arguments in Adnan’s case.

In March 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Syed’s case, effectively ending his legal appeals. However, Syed’s supporters continue to advocate for his release and are pursuing other avenues to challenge his conviction.

April 2021: The Court of Appeals affirms the ruling that Adnan’s conviction should be overturned, but orders a new trial.

September 2021: Adnan’s attorneys file a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court to appeal the decision for a new trial.

Adnan Syed Release

Syed was released from prison in September 2022 after a Baltimore court determined that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that would have helped Syed in his trial.

Syed was released after Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby said DNA evidence proved his innocence. His conviction was made famous by the podcast “Serial.”

Adnan Syed leaving the courthouse in Baltimore after he was released from prison on Sept. 19.
Adnan Syed leaving the courthouse in Baltimore after he was released from prison on Sept. 19.

Despite being convicted of murdering his former girlfriend and classmate Hae Min Lee, whose body was discovered in a Baltimore park in 1999, Syed maintained his innocence.

The NPR podcast “Serial,” as well as the 2019 HBO docuseries “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” drew widespread attention to Syed’s case and cast doubt on his conviction.

“It took over two decades for prosecutors to finally acknowledge what Adnan Syed and his loved ones have been saying since day one: he did not murder Hae Min Lee,” a statement from Syed’s attorney, Erica Suter, reads. “The appeal was not about Adnan’s innocence but about notice and mootness.

The Appellate Court of Maryland has reinstated Adnan’s convictions, not because the Motion to Vacate was erroneous, but because Ms. Lee’s brother did not appear in person at the vacatur hearing. We agree with the dissenting judge that the appeal is moot and that Mr. Lee’s attendance over Zoom was sufficient.”

Suter continued, “There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon. For the time being, Adnan remains a free man. We remain optimistic that justice will be done. We intend to seek review in Maryland’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Maryland, and will continue to fight until Adnan’s convictions are fully vacated. Ensuring justice for Hae Min Lee does not require injustice for Adnan.”

Maryland Court Reinstates Murder Conviction Of ‘Serial’ Subject Adnan Syed

Adnan Syed’s murder conviction has been reinstated months after his release.

On Tuesday, a Maryland appellate court upheld Adnan Syed’s conviction for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, whose murder case was featured in the landmark podcast “Serial.”

Lee’s family had filed an appeal, claiming that they had not been properly informed of the efforts to free Syed last year.

The Maryland appeals court ruled in their favor, saying officials failed to give Lee’s family enough notice to attend the hearing.

In a 2-1 rulin, the appellate court stated that the lower court had violated the victim’s brother, Young Lee’s, right to attend a key hearing, when it scheduled the September hearing that vacated Syed’s conviction and allowed him to regain his freedom after more than two decades in prison, the court failed to provide adequate notice to the victim’s family.

“Because the circuit court violated Mr. Lee’s right to notice of, and his right to attend, the hearing on the State’s motion to vacate … this Court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr. Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy,” the court’s opinion said.

“We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision,” it added.

According to Lee family attorney David Sanford, the family is “delighted” with the court’s decision.

“We are equally pleased that the Appellate Court is directing the lower court to conduct a transparent hearing where the evidence will be presented in open court and the court’s decision will be based on evidence for the world to see,” the family stated in a statement.

Erica Suter, an attorney for Syed, said in a statement Tuesday that the appeal was “not about Adnan’s innocence but about notice and mootness.”

“There is no basis for re-traumatizing Adnan by returning him to the status of a convicted felon,” Suter said, adding that Syed’s team intends to seek a review in state Supreme Court. “Ensuring justice for Hae Min Lee does not require injustice for Adnan.”

According to the majority opinion in the appellate court ruling, the outcome of the hearing will be to either reinstate or vacate the initial conviction.

“Accordingly, the violation of Mr. Lee’s rights can be remedied without violating Mr. Syed’s constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy,” the ruling said.

Suter, one of Syed’s attorneys, had argued that teleconferencing by Zoom was sufficient to satisfy the Lee family’s rights to attend the hearing and discuss the impact vacating the conviction would have on them.

“I think we would be in different circumstances if the state did not provide Mr. Lee a Zoom option. But we are in very different times now,” Suter said at the appellate hearing in February.

Showing a strongly different opinion, Judge Stuart R. Berger stated that Lee’s family has no right to speak at the hearing on whether to vacate a conviction and that electronic attendance was most likely sufficient to satisfy the family’s rights. The trial judge also allowed Lee’s brother to speak in court.

What Is The Current Status Of Adnan Syed?

Syed’s conviction has been reinstated, but he will not be taken back into custody right away.

A new hearing on the evidence to overturn Syed’s conviction will be held; in the meantime, the previous murder charges have been reinstated.

The decision on Tuesday and the new hearing are viewed as procedural issues, and there is no reason to believe Syed will be returned to prison.

According to the prosecutor, there is evidence pointing to other suspects, and the investigation is ongoing.

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