A court should uphold the conviction of a man accused of strangling his high school sweetheart after they broke up in a case at the center of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, Baltimore prosecutors said Wednesday.
Adnan Syed, now 34, has appealed the conviction and argues he received ineffective counsel because his attorney ignored his requests to negotiate a plea deal. He was accused of killing Hae Min Lee in 1999 after becoming inconsolably jealous when she began dating someone else.
Prosecutors said in their response to the appeal Wednesday that Syed was never offered a plea deal, and that there was no evidence aside from his own “self-serving post-conviction testimony” that attorney Cristina Gutierrez failed him. Gutierrez was disbarred in 2001 after client funds went missing from a trust account. She died in 2004 of a heart attack.
“What the record shows is that Petitioner was totally satisfied with Gutierrez’s services until the jury returned an adverse verdict,” prosecutors said in their 23-page filing. Furthermore, going to trial was the only option Syed wanted to pursue at the time.
Syed’s current attorney, Justin Brown, declined to comment because the case is still active.
Syed also claims Gutierrez failed to interview a witness who could have provided him with an alibi, though the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland asked prosecutors to focus only on the claims about a plea deal in their response.
Lee’s slaying became the focus of “Serial,” a podcast hosted by former Baltimore Sun reporter and longtime radio producer Sarah Koenig that exhumed the 15-year-old case and raised serious questions about whether Syed received a fair trial, and whether or not the man now serving a life sentence is guilty of the crime.