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Adnan Syed, Subject Of 'Serial' Podcast, Will Get A New Trial, Judge Rules


All right. Maybe you recognize the name Adnan Syed. He was the man made famous in the "Serial" podcast and now he is getting a new trial. A judge set aside his conviction. As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, a reporter's stories have affected the real-life drama.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The podcast "Serial" started with this confession.


SARAH KOENIG: For the last year, I've spent every working day trying to figure out where a high school kid was for an hour after school one day in 1999.

FOLKENFLIK: And so the journalist Sarah Koenig and her colleagues embarked on a journey to re-examine Syed's conviction in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, and turned up some glaring gaps in the proof of his guilt. Syed's own defense attorney ignored a young classmate who had said she was with Syed at the time of the killing. And they found inconsistencies in cellphone evidence. "Serial" also found a ravenous audience. Tens of millions of people downloaded the podcast.


C. JUSTIN BROWN: Has the public attention helped us? Yes. It - I would be crazy to deny that.

FOLKENFLIK: That's C. Justin Brown of Syed's legal appeals team at a press conference yesterday.


BROWN: One of the things that happened is that as a result of "Serial" more information became available to us, information that we might not have other - otherwise gotten.

FOLKENFLIK: "Serial" inspired blogs filled with weekly dissections of its episodes, as well as efforts to cast doubt on its findings. The lawyer who had tipped Koenig off to the case produced a separate podcast called "Undisclosed" with two other lawyers. They unearthed the documents cited by the judge challenging the reliability of the cellphone records used by prosecutors. Justin Brown suggests this might be the first open-sourced appeals case.


BROWN: All the materials from the case were out there, so people were investigating this case all over the country. I had essentially thousands of investigators working for me.

FOLKENFLIK: State prosecutors indicated they may appeal at least part of the ruling and say they intend to continue to seek justice for the family of Hae Min Lee. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik
David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.