In 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and burying her body in a park in Baltimore. Although he was just 17 at the time of his girlfriend’s death in 1999, he was sentenced to life in prison.
He has argued that he is innocent, but Maryland’s highest court upheld his conviction in 2019. Adnan’s case was also featured on the podcast “Serial,” which called into question several aspects of the case against him.
Now, a new law in Maryland could offer Adnan some relief from his life sentence. When a person was 17 or younger at the time of their offense and sentenced to life in prison, the new law allows them to petition for a reduced sentence after they serve 20 years of the sentence.
When Adnan petitioned for a reduced sentence, both the prosecutors and the defense in his case signed a motion to retest the evidence in the case with updated DNA technology that was not available at the time of the trial.
In 2018, the Maryland Attorney General’s office tested items related to the case for DNA, and none matching Adnan was found. However, that wasn’t enough to overturn Adnan’s conviction.
This new motion acknowledges that DNA evidence “has changed and improved drastically” since 1999. Now, much smaller samples are needed to identify someone’s DNA. It is sometimes possible, for example, to obtain DNA from an item a person has merely touched.
Therefore, the joint motion asks that any evidence that wasn’t tested for DNA in 2018 be tested now, with the more sensitive techniques available. This would include the victim’s clothing and shoes, hairs that were recovered from the crime scene, and other evidence.
A judge for the Baltimore City Circuit Court ruled in favor of the joint motion and ordered all the untested evidence to be sent to a California crime lab within the next 15 days. The test results will go to the prosecution, the defense and the FBI.
If Adnan is telling the truth, none of this evidence should have his DNA, either. If none of his DNA is located on any of the evidence, even using sophisticated techniques, there could be a strong case that Adnan was not involved in the murder.
Although Adnan is currently seeking a reduced sentence, not exoneration, any further proof of innocence is bound to have an impact on his petition.