Season One Update: Judge Orders New Trial

Feb 7

Update: Court of Special Appeals Will Hear Arguments in Adnan Syed Case

By Sarah Koenig

Some news on the legal front: The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has agreed to hear arguments about why Adnan should either get a new trial, or some other remedy. Here's the order:

In Episode 10 of the podcast, I reported that this appeal was alive by a thread. Now, I’d say it’s more of a … well-made string, maybe. Like the nylon kind. Because it means that the Court of Special Appeals judges think the issues Adnan raised in his brief are worth considering. That’s a pretty big hurdle for any appellant to clear.

To remind you: Adnan argued that his trial attorney, Cristina Gutierrez, had screwed up in various ways. Chiefly, he’d argued that her failure to speak to Asia McClain, a potential alibi witness, and Gutierrez’s failure to seek a plea deal for him, even though he says he asked her to, amounted to what’s called “ineffective assistance of counsel.”

Now that the appellate court has granted this order, what happens next is that, in its June session, a panel of judges will hear oral arguments from Adnan’s side, and also from the state. Neither side can bring in new evidence or witnesses. Then the court will either deny or grant Adnan further relief. That relief could be a whole new trial in the circuit court, or it could be that the circuit court just has to allow Adnan to present new evidence, such as Asia McClain’s testimony.

No matter what the Court of Special Appeals rules, it’s quite possible the whole megillah ends up in Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Because if this current panel of judges grants Adnan relief, the state is likely to appeal to the highest court; and likewise, if it denies Adnan relief, Adnan’s attorney will probably do the same. So it’s bound to grind on for a long while yet.

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