Monday, August 8, 2016

Undisciplined: More Shenanigans from the State vs Adnan Syed

Adnan's Story, Rabia Chaudry's seminal book on the Adnan Syed case, has just been released today.  Your bookshelf won't be complete without a copy of this book, which contains contributions from Adnan, in his own words.  You can also pick up Asia Chapman's book, Confessions of a Serial Alibi, both available in all the usual places good books are sold!!  

Anyone who has been following the Adnan Syed case, or any wrongful conviction case, knows that the wheels of justice turn very, very slowly.  But in recent weeks there has been some movement in the case made famous by the Serial podcast, with the State filing for leave to appeal Judge Welch's decision granting Adnan a new trial.  For those of you who missed the most recent developments, back in February, there was a Post Conviction Relief hearing in which Adnan's legal team argued for the ineffective assistance of counsel on a number of points, including failure to call alibi witness Asia McClain Chapman, and failure to properly cross-examine the State's expert witness on cell tower evidence that was critical to the State's theory of the case.

Judge Martin Welch, the judge who denied Adnan's first PCR petition in 2014, was bought back out of retirement specifically to hear the 2016 petition.  Judge Welch ruled against the alibi testimony of Asia, claiming that, although he found her to be a credible witness, her testimony most likely would not have led to a different decision from the jury.  However, Welch found that the failure of Adnan's original trial counsel, Christina Gutierrez, to thoroughly cross-examine the State's cell tower expert did meet the standard for a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.  As a result, he vacated the murder conviction and granted Adnan Syed a retrial.

So, that brings us to the most recent motion filed by the State, requesting leave to launch an appeal against Judge Welch's decision.  There are several grounds for appeal being cited by the State, all of which are complicated and need to be explained by someone who actually knows what the hell they're talking about, so I'll leave that task to the Evidence Professor a.k.a Colin Miller from the Undisclosed podcast...

The Evidence Professor explains - Part 1
The Evidence Professor explains - Part 2

So what does all this mean for Adnan? Well, essentially it means that any preparations and processes for a retrial, including any potential bail hearings, are on hold until the State's appeal has been dealt with.  So Adnan will not be getting released on bail any time soon, which must be very disappointing, and I'd imagine, distressing for both Adnan and his family.  However, this is not an unexpected move from the State, we all knew that they would try and appeal Judge Welch's decision.
What is surprising, and Colin covers this in his blog posts, is that the State are now so desperate that they are attempting to bring in two new witnesses, classmates of Asia and Adnan, who allege that they argued with Asia over her intention to lie on Adnan's behalf by providing him with an alibi for the time of the murder.

The reason this is so surprising, and has drawn serious criticism from a number of legal experts, is because all the legal avenues for the State to present new evidence have already been closed.  Once a person is convicted and have had their initial appeals denied, any further appeals focus solely on whether or not the person recieved a fair trial, not on guilt or innocence.  Both of Adnan's post conviction relief claims have centered on points of justice - such as whether Adnan's original trial lawyer did her job properly or whether the State handed over important evidenciary documents to the defense.  For the State to suddenly produce these new witnesses 16 years after Adnan's conviction is highly unusual.  I feel compelled to point out though, that these sorts of shenanigans are fairly typical of this case and of the Baltimore DA's office.  Congratulations Thiru, you're rapidly sinking to the same lows as Kevin Urick, hope you enjoy the view from down there.

Sarah Keonig on Judge Welch's Decision
State Intends to Fight New Trial - Baltimore Sun

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