Murder of Hae Min Lee

From Podpedia

Hae Min Lee
BornOctober 15, 1980[1]
South Korea
DisappearedJanuary 13, 1999(1999-01-13) (aged 18)
DiedBaltimore, Maryland
Cause of deathManual strangulation
Body discoveredFebruary 9, 1999
in Leakin Park
OccupationHigh school student
(part-time employee)
Known forMurder victim
Subject of Serial (podcast)

Hae Min Lee (Hangul이해민; October 15, 1980 – c. January 13, 1999) was a Korean-American high school senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, who disappeared on January 13, 1999. Her body was found four weeks later in Leakin Park, the victim of murder by manual strangulation. Adnan Masud Syed, her ex-boyfriend, was convicted in February 2000 of first-degree murder and given a life sentence plus 30 years.[2]

Lee's murder initially only generated local interest until it became the subject of the first season of the podcast Serial in 2014, which brought international attention to the crime and to Syed's trial.[3] In July 2016, Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Syed's conviction and ordered a new trial.[4]

Background[edit | edit source]

Hae Min Lee was born in South Korea in 1980 and emigrated with her mother Youn Kim and her brother Lee to the United States in 1992 to live with her grandparents.[5] Lee attended the magnet program at Woodlawn High School near Baltimore, Maryland.[6] She was an athlete who played lacrosse and field hockey.[7]

Lee disappeared on January 13, 1999. Her family reported her missing after she failed to pick up her younger cousin from school at about 3:15 PM. Lee had attended Woodlawn High School that day and had been seen by several friends leaving the campus at the end of the school day.

On February 1, the Baltimore County Police received an anonymous phone call suggesting that Lee's ex-boyfriend, Adnan Masud Syed, was responsible for her murder.[citation needed] Investigators learned that Lee and Syed had dated for much of the previous year but had recently broken up. On February 3, Baltimore Police received call records for a cell phone belonging to Syed. Two people were questioned from this call log, Jay Wilds and Jennifer Pusateri. Pusateri told police that her friend, Jay Wilds, had called her that day using Syed's phone. In a subsequent interview, she told police that Wilds had admitted to her that he helped Syed bury his ex-girlfriend's body. The investigating officers also questioned Wilds, who initially denied any involvement, but eventually confessed to helping Syed bury Lee's body and dispose of her car.

On February 9, Lee's partially buried body was found by a passerby in Leakin Park. Syed was arrested on February 28, 1999, and charged with first-degree murder.[8]

Trials and appeals[edit | edit source]

Syed's family hired defense attorney Cristina Gutierrez to represent him. During Syed's first trial, jurors accidentally overheard a sidebar dispute between Gutierrez and the presiding judge in which he referred to her as a "liar".[9] After learning that the jury had heard his characterization, the judge declared a mistrial. A second trial lasted six weeks and Syed was found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and robbery on February 25, 2000.[10] Syed was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.[11]

Adnan first appealed his case in 2012 based on inadequate assistance of counsel because Gutierrez did not call Asia McClain as an alibi witness; this appeal was denied in 2013.[citation needed]

On February 6, 2015, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals approved Syed's application for leave to appeal ("leave" meaning "permission").[12]

On May 19, 2015, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals remanded the case to Circuit Court for potential hearing on the admissibility of alibi testimony of Asia McClain, who claimed to have been talking with Syed in the library at the exact time the prosecutor said Syed attacked Lee in a Best Buy parking lot several miles away.[13] On November 9, 2015, the Superior Court decided it would hear the case.[14] According to Sarah Koenig's investigation as told in Serial, McClain's account of her encounter with Syed on the day of the disappearance would have been helpful for Syed during his trial.[12]

Syed's appeals lawyer Justin Brown claimed that new evidence about the reliability of incoming call data from AT&T is suspect and should be reviewed by an appeals court, stating, "the cell tower evidence was misleading and should have never been admitted at trial."[15]

On November 6, 2015, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch ordered that Syed's post-conviction relief proceedings, which determines if he deserves a new trial, would be re-opened "in the interests of justice for all parties."[16] The post-conviction relief hearing, originally scheduled to last two days, lasted five days from February 3 – 9, 2016.[17] The hearing was attended by people from across the U.S., including Koenig, and McClain testified that she talked to Syed at the library on January 13, 1999.[18]

On June 30, 2016, Judge Welch granted Syed's request for a new trial, ruling that Gutierrez "rendered ineffective assistance when she failed to cross-examine the state's expert regarding the reliability of cell tower location evidence," vacating Syed's conviction.[19][20] In October 2016, Syed's attorneys requested bail be granted to Syed until the retrial started.[21] On December 29, 2016, Judge Welch denied bail for Syed.[22]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

Serial and Undisclosed podcasts[edit | edit source]

From October 3 to December 18, 2014, the murder trial of Adnan Masud Syed was the subject of the first season of the podcast Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. The podcast episodes generated international interest in the trial, and were downloaded more than 100 million times by June 2016.[4] In 2015, lawyer Rabia Chaudry (an advocate for Syed who had introduced the case to Koenig) and others began producing a podcast called Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed. Undisclosed found that the condition of Lee's body was inconsistent with the State's theory of her burial, and also that Jay Wilds, a key state witness, frequently seemed not to know what to say during police interviews, until a tapping sound was heard. After the tapping sound, he would apologize and give an answer.[23]

Investigation Discovery aired a one-hour special called Adnan Syed: Innocent or Guilty? on June 14, 2016 based on a new analysis of evidence brought up in the podcasts.[24][25][26]

In 2016 there were two books published related to the case. Confessions of a Serial Alibi written by Asia McClain Chapman was released on June 7, 2016, and Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial written by Rabia Chaudry was released on August 9, 2016.[27]

The Innocence Project DNA testing[edit | edit source]

The Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia Law School has identified several other potential suspects responsible for similar crimes in the area and will be requesting new DNA tests, specific to Hae's case, be conducted.[28] Deirdre Enright of the Innocence Project said that they are waiting to hear back from Maryland whether they can file for DNA testing while the appeal motion is pending.[29] As of 2015, Syed's legal team had not yet started pursuing DNA testing.[30]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Missing person report Baltimore County" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 18, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  2. Francke, Caitlin (July 7, 2000). "19-year-old gets life sentence for killing former girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  3. Carr, David (November 24, 2014). "'Serial,' Podcasting's First Breakout Hit, Sets Stage for More". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Adnan Syed, of Serial Podcast, Gets a Retrial in Murder Case". New York Times. June 30, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2016. Judge Welch also said in the memo that the substantial public interest in the case did not affect his decision. 
  5. Oakes, Amy (March 1, 1999). "Ex-boyfriend is charged in teen's killing". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  6. "Episode 2: The Breakup Transcript". October 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  7. Apperson, Jay (March 12, 1999). "Slain teen remembered as joyful, 'full of love'". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 26, 2015. 
  8. Oakes, Amy (March 1, 1999). "Ex-boyfriend is charged in teen's killing". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  9. "Episode 10: The Best Defense is a Good Defense". December 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  10. Francke, Caitlin (February 26, 2000). "Jury finds teen guilty of killing ex-girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  11. Francke, Caitlin (June 7, 2000). "19-year-old gets life sentence for killing former girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Phillip, Abby (February 7, 2015). "Md. court allows Adnan Syed to appeal his conviction in Serial case". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2015. 
  13. S.M. (10 February 2016). "How a podcast spurred a new hearing for a murder convict". The Economist. Retrieved 11 February 2016. 
  14. Kim Bellware (May 18, 2015). "Adnan Syed of 'Serial' Gets Major Breakthrough that Paves the Way for Asia McClain's Testimony – at Last". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 19, 2015. 
  15. "Serial: Adnan Syed lawyer finds evidence 'questioning case'". BBC News. August 25, 2015. Archived from the original on August 26, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2015. 
  16. Izadi, Elahe (November 6, 2015). "Judge reopens 'Serial' case, allowing Adnan Syed to introduce new evidence". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2015. 
  17. "Hearing for 'Serial's' Adnan Syed moved up a day". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 12, 2016. 
  18. ‘Serial’ takes the stand: How a podcast became a character in its own narrative Washington Post. February 8, 2016
  19. Justin Fenton and Justin George (June 30, 2016). "Conviction vacated, new trial granted for Adnan Syed of "Serial"". Baltimore Sun. 
  20. Judge Martin P. Welch (June 30, 2016). "Adnan Syed, Petitioner vs. State of Maryland, Respondent" (PDF). Circuit Court for Baltimore City. 
  21. Adnan Syed of Serial Seeks Release on Bail October 26, 2016
  22. Judge denies bail for 'Serial' podcast phenom Adnan Syed December 29, 2016
  23. Everett, Christine (August 24, 2015). "5 key findings from Undisclosed that Serial missed". Entertainment Weekly. 
  25. "Adnan Syed: Innocent Or Guilty?". Discovery Communications, LLC. 14 June 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  26. "Investigation Discovery To Premiere "ADNAN SYED: INNOCENT OR GUILTY?" on Tuesday, June 14th At 9/8c As Maryland Court Considers Possible Retrial For Syed Based On Critical Evidence". Prnewswire. PR Newswire Association LLC. ABC's Lincoln Square Productions. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  27. The Woman Behind Season One of Serial: Rabia Chaudry Releases New Book on the Untold Story of Adnan Syed and the Murder Case that Captivated Millions Innocence Project, August 12, 2016.
  28. Dockterman, Eliana. "The Innocence Project Tells Serial Fans What Might Happen Next". Time. Archived from the original on December 19, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2015. 
  29. ""The Deal with 'Serial' at UVA Law," with Deirdre Enright". Soundcloud. pp. at 111 minutes. Retrieved May 19, 2015. 
  30. "I'm attorney, blogger and advocate Rabia Chaudry, who brought Adnan Syed's case to Sarah Koenig and Serial, AMA • r/NarcoticsUnitAMA". reddit. Retrieved 2017-11-12.