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Prosecutors drop charges against Adnan Syed, the subject of 'Serial' podcast

Adnan Syed (center), leaving court on Sept. 19. He was released after a judge overturned his conviction in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee.
Brian Witte
Adnan Syed (center), leaving court on Sept. 19. He was released after a judge overturned his conviction in the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee.

Updated October 11, 2022 at 1:52 PM ET

Prosecutors in Baltimore have dropped charges against Adnan Syed, the man who was released from prison last month after having served 22 years for the murder of Hae Min Lee, his former girlfriend. Lee's death and Syed's conviction were the subject of the hit podcast Serial.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the state's attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby, said that recently tested DNA completely exculpated Syed from the crime: "His DNA was excluded," Mosby said. She declined to say if any other known suspects may be implicated in the recent DNA testing, saying that the investigation is ongoing.

Mosby said that her office received the DNA results on Friday, but dropped the charges against Syed Tuesday, in hopes of contacting Lee's relatives first. She said that the prosecutors had received no response from the Lee family's attorney, including as recently as early Tuesday afternoon.

In her remarks, Mosby noted that Lee's family has "had to relive an unimaginable nightmare over and over again. Equally heartbreaking is the pain and sacrifice and the trauma that has been imposed not just on that family, but Adnan and his family," adding that Syed spent "23 years in prison for a crime as a result of a wrongful conviction."

Mosby also pledged that her office will continue to pursue Lee's true murderer.

When Syed's conviction from 2000 was overturned last month, prosecutors in the city State's Attorney's Office had 30 days to decide whether or not to dismiss his case entirely or to retry him.

In a motion filed last month, the office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City stated that a year-long investigation had revealed new information about two potential other suspects in Lee's murder. The names of those suspects were not made public in that motion, as the investigation was still ongoing. Prosecutors noted in last month's filing that at least one of those suspects was not disclosed to Syed's attorney at the time of his trial.

Last month, Lee's family had filed an appeal against Syed's release from prison, but today's decision rendered that moot. "The case is over," Mosby said.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.