Attorneys for Adnan Syed return to court Thursday for oral arguments in their appeal of the 2000 conviction for the murder of Hae Min Lee. Arguments are expected to start at 10 :00 a.m. ET.
A lower court ruled in 2016 that Syed will get another trial, and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld it, but that was appealed to the state’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals.
Attorneys are expected to fight over two key questions.
1. Did the Special Appeals court botch their ruling about a potential witness?
As listed on the court schedule, the first issue is: “1) Did CSA [Court of Special Appeals] err in holding that defense counsel pursuing an alibi strategy without speaking to one specific potential witness violates the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of effective assistance of counsel?”
Prosecutors insist that Syed murdered Lee, his ex-girlfriend. Her body was found buried in Baltimore’s Leakin Park. The defense, however, was able to get another trial by arguing that the defendant’s trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to vet Asia McClain. This possible alibi witness (a schoolmate of Syed and Lee) claimed she saw the defendant in their high school’s library at the time authorities allege the murder happened.
2. Does the case law affirm Syed’s apparent waiver of ineffective counsel?
The other issue on the schedule is: “2) Did CSA draw itself into conflict with Curtis v. State, 284 Md. 132 (1978), when it found that Respondent waived his ineffective assistance of counsel claim based on trial counsel’s failure to challenge cell-tower location data, where the claim implicated the fundamental right to effective counsel and was therefore subject to the statutory requirement of knowing and intelligent waiver?”
The defense said that the CSA botched their ruling on the matter. Syed had claimed Gutierrez failed to challenge cell tower data used to convict him, but prosecutors said that he essentially waived this argument by not putting it in his first post-conviction proceeding.
If the defense is successful, this would be Syed’s third trial in Lee’s death. The first ended in a mistrial.
[Screengrab via ABC]