In a shocking turn of events for the subject of the Serial podcast, and now an HBO mini-series, Adnan Syed won’t be getting that retrial he won on appeal, at least, unless Maryland’s, or the United States’, Highest Court steps in.
The Maryland Court of Appeals recently reversed the prior appellate court holding that the conviction of Adnan Syed be reversed and he be granted a new trial. Complicating the case for Syed is the fact that his defense attorney at trial, whom he had argued provided ineffective assistance in violation of his Sixth Amendment right, had died, which meant she couldn’t be questioned about her conduct.
What Alibi Witness?
The central issue of the appeal dealt with an alibi witness who Syed’s trial attorney never contacted.
In short, the court explained that despite the fact that the attorney’s conduct fell below the standard of what a reasonable attorney should have done, it reasoned that the result of the case wouldn’t have changed as the evidence against him was overwhelming.
It further explained that his attorney could have made a strategic decision to not bother with the alibi witness as she knew what the witness would testify to and found that it would conflict with Syed’s own story. So while the alibi witness may have provided an alibi, they also could have called Syed’s credibility into question, which could have been even more damaging.
Headed to the High Court
This case will likely be appealed up to the United States Supreme Court, given all the media attention, but whether the Court takes it up is another question entirely. After all, the Court gets thousands of petitions each year, and only takes up a very small percentage.
If the Court were to consider the case, it wouldn’t even be evaluating the merits of the trial, but rather just whether the defense counsel at trial was constitutionally sufficient, and whether the reversal of the reversal was proper.