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Hae Min Lee’s family appeal of judge’s decision to vacate Adnan Syed’s murder conviction can move forward, court rules

By Rob Frehse, Liam Reilly and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

Hae Min Lee’s family appeal of a judge’s decision to vacate the murder conviction of Adnan Syed can move forward, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has ruled.

In its ruling, the four-judge panel said the appeal will be scheduled for consideration in February.

Syed was accused of killing the teen and served more than 20 years in prison before his release in September.

The one-paragraph notice of Lee’s family appeal, was filed days after that release by attorney Steven Kelly on behalf of Young Lee, the victim’s brother.

“Young Lee filed the attached notice of appeal based on violations of his family’s right to meaningfully participate in the September 19, 2022 hearing on the motion to vacate Adnan Syed’s conviction,” Kelly told CNN in an emailed statement. “The notice of appeal is the first step in seeking the Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ review of the potential violations of Maryland’s victim’s rights statutes in connection with the hearing.”

Lee filed a motion the day of the hearing, stating he did not have enough notice to exercise his right to be present for the proceedings. While Associate Judge Melissa Phinn denied his motion, she ordered a 30-minute recess to allow Lee to leave work and get on a Zoom call so that he could watch the hearing.

“This isn’t a podcast for me, it’s real life,” Lee said during the hearing last week.

In his impact statement, he said he felt “betrayed” by the state. “I always thought the state was on my side,” Lee said.

“Whenever I think it’s over, it’s ended, it always comes back,” Lee said through tears.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office says it will continue to fight for Hae Min Lee’s family.

“We truly empathize with Hae Min Lee’s family, who believed they had resolution and are now being re-traumatized by the misdeeds of the prior prosecutors,” Zy Richardson, spokesperson for the office, said in a statement.

Richardson added that as administrators of the criminal justice system they have to ensure the right person is held accountable.

Syed was serving a life sentence in prison when his murder conviction was vacated earlier this month. He was convicted in February 2000 of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment in the killing of Hae Min Lee, who was his ex-girlfriend.

The case gained public scrutiny after it was investigated on the hit podcast “Serial,” which raised questions about the conviction and Syed’s legal representation.

Syed’s conviction was vacated after a judge determined some materials related to the case were not properly turned over to defense attorneys. The judge also said there were two suspects who may have been improperly cleared as part of the investigation.

“We’re not yet declaring Adnan Syed is innocent,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said following the judge’s ruling to vacate the conviction. “But we are declaring that in the interest of fairness and justice he is entitled to a new trial.”

Syed is currently ordered to wear a tracking ankle monitor, according to Becky Feldman, chief of the Sentencing Review Unit of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors are now weighing whether to pursue a new trial as they await DNA analysis to determine whether Syed’s case can be dismissed.

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CNN’s Don Grannum, Brian Vitagliano and Lauren Koenig contributed to this report.

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