23 Years Too Long: Adnan Syed’s Conviction


Adnan Syed (front) and Hae Min Lee (behind Syed) pictured with a group of friends in 1998 – SERIAL

Alizah Hashmi, In-Depth Writer

In September 2022, Adnan Syed’s sentence of life imprisonment for the murder of his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee in 1999 was overturned. After 23 years and several appeals, Adnan Syed was able to prove his innocence. Later it was reported by BBC News that, as of October 11, 2022, Baltimore prosecutors agreed to drop all charges against Adnan Syed. 



According to CBS News, then-classmates, Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee had begun a relationship in early 1998. They dated until December of the same year but broke due to cultural and religious differences. 


Later in January 1999, Lee’s family reported her missing when she failed to pick up her cousin. Witnesses had seen her leaving the school in the afternoon, but no one had seen her since. The police began to investigate those closest to Lee and most of their suspicion fell upon Syed, since he was an ex-partner and conflicting reports by an anonymous source. L


As the investigation continued, it hit a huge break the following month. Hae Min Lee’s body was found in a wooded area. The community was shocked by the death of a young high school student killed in such a brutal manner. The New York Times points out that following the discovery of the body, the Baltimore PD received an anonymous call twice, implicating Adnan Syed responsible for the crime. 


Within days, Syed was arrested and on trial for the kidnapping and murder of his former girlfriend. Despite conflicting witness statements and questionable DNA analysis, a Maryland court found Syed guilty of the murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. 



Since day 1, Adnan, his family and his supporters advocated for his freedom. Time and time again they were turned away. However, in 2014, his case was featured on a podcast: Serial. This brought national attention to the case and highlighted its inconsistencies. 


According to CBS News, Adnan appealed his conviction in 2015. He ended up winning the appeal and was granted a new trial allowing the introduction of new evidence. However, in 2018, the decision for a trial was reversed and Syed was forced to stay behind bars. 



In March 2022, a request was put on behalf of Syed by his lawyers, requesting the re-analysis of the case’s DNA evidence using modern technology. BBC News mentions that a new trial was requested to once again attempt to clear Adnan’s name. The DNA analysis brought two new suspects into the limelight. 


The fate of Syed lay in the hands of the judge viewing the presentation of the new evidence. The judge determined that there was enough evidence to overturn his sentence. However, the charges still remained until he was proven innocent without any doubt. 


Syed’s defense team put their faith completely in the hands of the final DNA analysis report. According to CBS News, the report concluded that it was not Adnan’s DNA that was collected during the investigation more than two decades ago. Because of this conclusion, the Baltimore prosecutors agreed to drop all charges against Adnan Syed and he was finally free.



Adnan Syed being absolved of all charges was monumental; however, it deepens the mystery surrounding Hae Min Lee’s brutal murder. The DNA evidence points to other suspects that were overlooked in the original investigation back in 1999. Baltimore PD is following these leads to hopefully put an end to this heartbreaking case and get justice for Lee. Still, her family is forced to open old wounds as the search for the murderer continues.