Murder of Hae Min Lee

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hae Min Lee
Hae Min Lee.jpg
BornOctober 15, 1980[1]
DisappearedJanuary 13, 1999(1999-01-13) (aged 18)
Cause of deathManual strangulation
Body discoveredFebruary 9, 1999
in Leakin Park
OccupationHigh school student
Known forMurder victim
Subject of Serial

Hae Min Lee (Hangul이해민; October 15, 1980 – c. January 13, 1999) was a Korean-American high school senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, 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 Syed (Urdu: عدنان سید‎), her ex-boyfriend, was convicted in February 2000 of first-degree murder and given a life sentence plus 30 years.

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; bringing the conviction into question.[2] In July 2016, Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Syed's conviction and ordered a new trial.[3] On March 29, 2018, Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision to grant Syed a new trial.[4] This decision was later overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals on March 8, 2019.[5]


Hae Min Lee was born in South Korea in 1980 and emigrated with her mother Youn Kim and her brother Young Lee to the United States in 1992 to live with her grandparents.[6] Lee attended the magnet program at Woodlawn High School near Baltimore, Maryland.[7] She was an athlete who played lacrosse and field hockey.[8]

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

On February 9, Hae's partially buried body was discovered by a passerby in Leakin Park in Baltimore.[9] On February 12, the Baltimore City Police Homicide Division received an anonymous phone call suggesting that Lee's ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was responsible for her murder.[10] Investigators learned that Lee and Syed had dated for much of the previous year but had recently broken up. On February 16, Baltimore Police applied for call records and "13 cell site locations" for a cell phone belonging to Syed.[11] Two people were questioned from this call log, Jay Wilds and Jennifer Pusateri. Pusateri told police that her friend, Wilds, had called her on the day of Hae Min Lee's disappearance, using Syed's phone. She furthermore claimed that, on that day, she had picked up Wilds from a mall parking lot in the evening, in the presence of Adnan Syed, and that Wilds had immediately recounted to her that he had at least peripherally assisted Syed in burying Hae Min Lee after Syed had strangled her.[12] The investigating officers subsequently questioned Wilds, who initially denied any involvement. In a later taped police interview, Wilds confessed to helping Syed bury Lee's body and dispose of her car.

Syed was arrested on February 28, 1999, and charged with first-degree murder.[13]

Trials and appeals[edit]

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 the judge referred to Gutierrez as a "liar".[14] 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.[15] Syed was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years.[16]

Syed made a direct appeal in 2003 which was unsuccessful, and later made an appeal for post conviction relief in 2010[17] based on ineffective assistance of counsel including that Gutierrez did not investigate Asia McClain as an alibi witness; this appeal was initially denied in 2014.[18]

On February 6, 2015, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals approved Syed's application for leave to appeal ("leave" meaning "permission").[19]

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 said she was 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.[20] On November 9, 2015, the superior Court decided it would hear the case.[21] 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.[19]

Syed's appeals lawyer C. Justin Brown said 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."[22]

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."[23] The post-conviction relief hearing, originally scheduled to last two days, lasted five days from February 3 – 9, 2016.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26][27] In October 2016, Syed's attorneys requested bail be granted to Syed until the retrial started.[28] On December 29, 2016, Judge Welch denied bail for Syed.[29] On March 29, 2018, the decision to grant Syed a new trial was upheld by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.[30]

In 2018, the State applied to the highest court in Maryland, to review the decision to overturn Syed's conviction. On July 12, 2018, the Court of Appeals agreed to hear both the State's appeal and Syed's cross appeal.[31] An appeals panel of seven judges heard oral arguments on November 29, 2018,[32] and on March 8, 2019 the Maryland Court of Appeals, on a 4-3 vote, reversed the lower appellate court's ruling, effectively denying the new trial.[33] The Court agreed that Syed's legal counsel was deficient but ruled that it would have not been enough to have swayed the jury to change their decision. They also stipulated that the opportunity to reexamine the cell tower evidence had been waived because the issue had not been raised as part of Syed's Ineffective Assistance of Counsel claims in his original petition.[34]


Serial and Undisclosed podcasts[edit]

From October 3 to December 18, 2014, the murder of Hae Min Lee and the subsequent arrest and 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.[3] In 2015, lawyer Rabia Chaudry (an advocate for Syed who had introduced the case to Koenig) and other lawyers began producing a podcast called Undisclosed: The State vs. Adnan Syed.[35] Undisclosed advocated for Adnan Syed's innocence and brought up myriad purported inconsistencies with the police investigation and State's case that the podcasters claimed shed doubt on Syed's culpability.

Both of the investigations done by Koenig and Chaudry have been criticized. Hae's family has stated, "It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility when so few are willing to speak up for Hae.” The family has described how it has "reopened wounds few could imagine". Insistent upon Adnan's guilt, the family claims it is now "more clear than ever" that he killed their daughter.[36]

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.[37][38]

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,[39] and Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial written by Rabia Chaudry was released on August 9, 2016.[40]

On March 29, 2018, Maryland's second-highest court ruled that Syed deserved a new trial. The Court of Special Appeals' opinion explained that Syed's counsel failed to contact a potential alibi witness who could "have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of at least one juror."[41] On March 8, 2019 the Maryland Court of Appeals, on a 4-3 vote, reversed the lower appellate court's ruling, effectively denying the new trial.[42]

The Innocence Project DNA testing[edit]

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 were attempting to get new DNA tests, specific to Hae's case, be conducted.[43] 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.[44] As of 2015, Syed's legal team had not yet started pursuing DNA testing.[45]

HBO documentary[edit]

In May 2018, HBO announced it would produce a four-hour documentary based on the murder case called The Case Against Adnan Syed.[46] The first part of a four-part series was released on March 10, 2019.[47]


  1. ^ "Missing person report Baltimore County" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on September 18, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  2. ^ Carr, David (November 24, 2014). "'Serial,' Podcasting's First Breakout Hit, Sets Stage for More". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Engel Bromwich, Jonah; Stack, Liam (June 30, 2016). "Adnan Syed, of Serial Podcast, Gets a Retrial in Murder Case". New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2016. Judge Welch also said in the memo that the substantial public interest in the case did not affect his decision.
  4. ^ "'Serial' Subject Adnan Syed Deserves A New Trial, Appeals Court Rules". Retrieved 2018-03-29.
  5. ^ CNN, Ralph Ellis. "Adnan Syed, subject of 'Serial' podcast, will not get a new trial". CNN. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  6. ^ Oakes, Amy (March 1, 1999). "Ex-boyfriend is charged in teen's killing". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  7. ^ "Episode 2: The Breakup Transcript". October 2014. Retrieved January 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Apperson, Jay (March 12, 1999). "Slain teen remembered as joyful, 'full of love'". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  9. ^ "Body found in park is missing woman, 18". tribunedigital-baltimoresun. Retrieved 2018-05-20.
  10. ^ Massey, Det. Darryl (February 12, 1999). "Baltimore Police Memo on Anonymous Call". The Undisclosed Wiki. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  11. ^ Cohen, Mark. "Subpoena for AT&T re Adnan Syed's Cell Phone Records, submitted February 16, 1999" (PDF). The Undisclosed Wiki. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  12. ^ "2-27-1999- Jenn's Interview" (PDF).
  13. ^ Oakes, Amy (March 1, 1999). "Ex-boyfriend is charged in teen's killing". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  14. ^ "Episode 10: The Best Defense is a Good Defense". December 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  15. ^ Francke, Caitlin (February 26, 2000). "Jury finds teen guilty of killing ex-girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  16. ^ Francke, Caitlin (June 7, 2000). "19-year-old gets life sentence for killing former girlfriend". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  17. ^ "Appeals in the case of Adnan Syed vs State of Maryland". The Undisclosed Wiki. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  18. ^ Welch, Martin (January 6, 2014). "Welch's 2014 Memorandum Opinion and Order, Circuit Court Baltimore City. Adnan Syed v. State of Maryland" (PDF). The Undisclosed Wiki. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Phillip, Abby (February 7, 2015). "Md. court allows Adnan Syed to appeal his conviction in Serial case". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  20. ^ S.M. (10 February 2016). "How a podcast spurred a new hearing for a murder convict". The Economist. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ Izadi, Elahe (November 6, 2015). "Judge reopens 'Serial' case, allowing Adnan Syed to introduce new evidence". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
  24. ^ "Hearing for 'Serial's' Adnan Syed moved up a day". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 12, 2016.
  25. ^ ‘Serial’ takes the stand: How a podcast became a character in its own narrative Washington Post. February 8, 2016
  26. ^ Justin Fenton and Justin George (June 30, 2016). "Conviction vacated, new trial granted for Adnan Syed of "Serial"". Baltimore Sun.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  27. ^ Judge Martin P. Welch (June 30, 2016). "Adnan Syed, Petitioner vs. State of Maryland, Respondent" (PDF). Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
  28. ^ Adnan Syed of Serial Seeks Release on Bail October 26, 2016
  29. ^ Judge denies bail for 'Serial' podcast phenom Adnan Syed December 29, 2016
  30. ^ "Maryland Appeals Court Upholds Decision to Grant 'Serial' Subject Adnan Syed a New Trial".
  31. ^ Brown, Justin (May 29, 2018). "Adnan Syed Updates | Website of Attorney C Justin Brown". Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  32. ^ Barbera, Mary Ellen (July 12, 2018). "Order and Writ of Certiorari". The Undisclosed Wiki. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  33. ^ Prudente, Tim (March 8, 2019). "Adnan Syed case: Maryland high court reinstates 'Serial' subject's conviction". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  34. ^ Greene, J (03/08/2019). "STATE OF MARYLAND v. ADNAN SYED". Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 199103042 through 199103046 Argued: November 29, 2018. IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 24 September Term, 2018 – via State of Maryland Courts. line feed character in |title= at position 18 (help); line feed character in |journal= at position 33 (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  35. ^ Krupke, Eric (April 13, 2015). "Adnan Syed's Case Gets Another Look with Launch of New Podcast 'Undisclosed'". PBS News Hour. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  36. ^ Fenton, Justin (February 7, 2016). "Hae Min Lee's Family Says Syed Hearings Have 'Reopened Wounds Few Can Imagine'". The Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Archived from the original on February 11, 2016. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  37. ^ "Adnan Syed: Innocent or Guilty?". Investigation Discovery. Discovery, Inc. June 14, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  38. ^ "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" (Press release). Silver Spring, MD: PR Newswire. ABC's Lincoln Square Productions. May 31, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2016.
  39. ^ Lazzaro, Sage (June 6, 2016). "The 9 Most Surprising Revelations from Asia McClain's New 'Serial' Memoir". Observer. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  40. ^ Salazar, Carlita (August 12, 2016). "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. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  41. ^ Dwyer, Colin (March 29, 2018). "'Serial' Subject Adnan Syed Deserves a New Trial, Appeals Court Rules". NPR. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  42. ^ Prudente, Tim (March 8, 2019). "Adnan Syed Case: Maryland High Court Reinstates 'Serial' Subject's Conviction". The Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  43. ^ Dockterman, Eliana (December 19, 2014). "The Innocence Project Tells Serial Fans What Might Happen Next". Time. Time Warner. Archived from the original on December 19, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2015.
  44. ^ Enright, Deirdre (March 9, 2015). "The Deal with 'Serial' at UVA Law". Soundcloud. pp. at 111 minutes. Retrieved May 19, 2015.
  45. ^ "I'm Attorney, Blogger and Advocate Rabia Chaudry, Who Brought Adnan Syed's Case to Sarah Koenig and Serial, AMA". reddit. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  46. ^ Kreps, Daniel (May 16, 2018). "HBO Announces 'The Case Against Adnan Syed' Docuseries". Rolling Stone. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
  47. ^ Gilbert, Sophie (March 8, 2019). "The Case Against Adnan Syed Challenges the True-Crime Playbook". The Atlantic. Emerson Collective. Retrieved March 8, 2019.