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Adnan Syed Of 'Serial' Appears In Court For Shot At New Trial


A hearing underway in Baltimore will determine whether convicted murderer Adnan Syed will get a new trial. The first season of the hit podcast "Serial" investigated the case and raised inconsistencies. Syed was convicted in 2000 of killing his ex-girlfriend. Reporter Andrea Seabrook has been at the courthouse in Baltimore all day and joins us from there now. And, Andrea, for people who haven't heard "Serial," tell us the background of this case.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: Well, this is about the murder of Hae Min Lee. She was a teenager at the time, Adnan Syed's ex-girlfriend. He was convicted of murdering her, strangling her with his bare hands and burying her in a shallow grave in a park. The state's case when they convicted him in 2000 completely turned on about 20 minutes on the afternoon that she disappeared, those 20 minutes that Syed really couldn't account for - 20 minutes in the afternoon of a teenager's life.

CORNISH: This isn't the first attempt to get Syed a new trial after he was convicted. And today, there's new evidence that's actually being heard. How unusual is this?

SEABROOK: It seems definitely unusual, especially in this case because so much of what has electrified listeners about this is the podcast "Serial" - the one produced by "This American Life" hosted by Sarah Koenig. The new evidence that came to light today really has everything to do with those 20 minutes and where he was. And there's a new witness. There was new testimony under oath. There are new exhibits, new actual, you know - actual things - papers and notes that really completely contradict what prosecutors have said in the past.

CORNISH: This has drawn a lot of attention. Who is in the courtroom?

SEABROOK: You know, it's funny. It's interesting, Audie. A large part of the public that came to the hearing are "Serial" listeners in the room to see the sort of developments of this case. There were also many members of Adnan Syed's family, his mosque. And there was a section for Hae Min Lee's family, although we don't know if any of them were there. And there is more testimony to come, but the thing that is, you know - two things that are really remarkable - there's almost a feedback loop here. I mean, a lot of what was dug up by the "Serial," "This American Life" investigation is stuff that's now coming up before a judge. And with so much new evidence and so many new things to look at about this case, it's hard to remember this isn't a trial at all. This is a hearing that the judge will actually use the evidence from to determine whether there should be a new trial at all.

CORNISH: All right. What happens next? You mentioned all of these documents. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what's in them and what goes into this decision about whether he gets a new trial.

SEABROOK: Today, the judge heard testimony from Asia McClain. "Serial" listeners will probably remember that name. She is the one who says she saw Adnan Syed in the library at the exact same time that the state said he was out committing a murder. And she brought with her notes and cell phone data that really contradict what prosecutors have said in past proceedings about her and about the evidence that she has. What's fascinating about her is she didn't even know how important she was to the case until she heard about it on "Serial."

CORNISH: You said this is a hearing. What should we look for from the judge next?

SEABROOK: Well, the judge is hearing testimony tomorrow and Friday as well, but we have no idea when he will decide.

CORNISH: Andrea Seabrook - she joined us from the Baltimore City Circuit Court. Andrea, thank you.

SEABROOK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.