The 1999 murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, were brought to global attention in 2014 by the hugely popular “Serial” podcast. But there is more to the story.
The Case Against Adnan Syed reinvestigates the case behind the podcast, from the genesis of their high school relationship to the original police investigation and trial, and moves into the current day. The absorbing four-part documentary series is directed by Amy Berg (West of Memphis, the Oscar-nominated Deliver Us from Evil).
In production since 2015, The Case Against Adnan Syed reviews the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, from high school romance, forbidden love and cultural conflict, to the aftermath of her disappearance, the original police investigation and the present day, as Syed awaits the outcome of a lengthy appeals process.
Director Amy Berg brings a fresh eye to the case and offers interviews with key players, many of whom were not featured in the original podcast. Bringing the story to life visually, she revisits the crime and follows unfolding developments from 2014 to today. The series presents new information that questions the state’s case, and draws on exclusive access to essential characters, including new audio recordings of Syed from prison, the defense team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of Hae Min Lee, private investigators and members of Baltimore City law enforcement, examining how Syed’s trial and subsequent conviction in 2000 raised as many questions as they answered.
Along with footage and recordings from the original investigation and trial, The Case Against Adnan Syed features exclusive new interviews with figures from many sides of the case, including: Syed’s mother, father and brothers; family friend and advocate Rabia Chaudry, who originally reached out to “Serial” podcast host Sarah Koenig; Asia McClain, a key witness in the appeal; Susan Simpson, an attorney and advocate for Syed; high school friends Aisha Pittman, Krista Meyers, Laura Estrada Sandoval and Debbie Warren; Darryl Massey, a former Baltimore City police detective on Syed’s case; and key prosecution witnesses who have not spoken publicly until now.
A wealth of archival footage, documents from the case file, family photos and personal ephemera bring back the feel of 1990s Baltimore and give visual texture to elements of a story that unfolds over two decades. Hae Min Lee’s richly detailed teenage diary, charting the emotional journey through her last high school years, is brought to life with voiceover, illustration and animation.
In February 2016, Syed’s post-conviction relief proceedings commenced and continued for five days. In June 2016, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Martin P. Welch granted Syed’s request for a new trial after new evidence challenged the reliability of cellphone tower data linking Syed to the crime scene, and a long-awaited alibi witness, Asia McClain, finally had her day in court.
The State of Maryland appealed the lower court judge’s ruling, but on March 29, 2018, the Court of Special Appeals also ruled to vacate Syed’s conviction and grant him the retrial he has been waiting for. The state appealed once again, to the highest court in Maryland, to review the decision to overturn Syed’s conviction. An appeals panel of seven judges heard oral arguments in November 2018. On March 8, 2019, the Court of Appeals issued a new ruling to reverse both lower court decisions and deny him a new trial.