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Rabia Chaudry: "Serial" Had Impact On Adnan Syed's Appeal

Adnan Syed, circled, in a Serial podcast promotional image.
The case for Adnan Syed's defense now hangs around the ineffectiveness of his former attorney, Cristina Gutierrez.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals granted a request Friday to review the case of Adnan Syed. He was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and was the subject of the podcast Serial. Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer and National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation, brought Syed's case to the producers of Serial,and has been a leading advocate for his appeal.

Chaudry believes the popular podcast may be in part responsible for a speedy decision that could lead to a new trial. 

On WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, Chaudry said that the latest development in the case is unusual. The opportunity to file a post-conviction appeal doesn't happen often, she said, and when it does, it doesn't tend to move through the system this fast. This is the third attempt in 12 years to appeal Adnan Syed's conviction. 

"It would be pure speculation," Chaudry said on WNPR, "but I do think there might be a couple factors at play here. One: that they are getting slammed with media requests, and other people trying to figure out what's happening with the case. So maybe they're thinking if we dispense with it quicker, it's off their plate."

Chaudry also mentioned a supplement filed with the petition alleging that the lead prosecutor Kevin Urick lied under oath. "I think when something like that happens, it literally undermines the integrity of the entire proceeding," she said. "And maybe that's something that moved them to realize that this is something serious and they have to get to this quicker."

The case for Syed's defense now hangs around the ineffectiveness of his former attorney, Cristina Gutierrez.

C. Justin Brown represents Syed now, and he alleges she didn't follow up on a possible alibi, and didn't approach the state of Maryland about a plea deal. 

Chaudry said that memory plays a role too. She cited the prosecution's lead witness at the original trial, Jay Wilds, who "changed his story so many times," she said, including in a recent interview where he admitted to lying on the stand.

If there's another trial in the future, "I think basically he's kind of useless to the state," Chaudry said.

The Maryland  Court of Special Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments in Syed's case in June. 

Listen below to Chaudry talk about the case on WNPR: 

Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.

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