Syed, of Serial podcast focus, freed in US

·2-min read

A US judge has ordered the release of Adnan Syed after overturning Syed's conviction for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee - a case that was chronicled in the hit podcast Serial, a true-crime series that transfixed listeners and revolutionised the genre.

At the behest of prosecutors who had uncovered new evidence, Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered that Syed's conviction be vacated as she approved the release of the now-41-year-old who has spent more than two decades behind bars.

There were gasps in the crowded courtroom and applause as the judge announced her decision.

Phinn ruled that the state violated its legal obligation to share evidence that could have bolstered Syed's defence.

She ordered Syed to be placed on home detention with GPS location monitoring.

The judge also said the state must decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

"All right Mr Syed, you're free to join your family," Phinn said as the hearing ended.

Minutes later, Syed emerged from the courthouse and flashed a small smile as he was shepherded to a waiting SUV through a sea of cameras and a cheering crowd of supporters.

Syed has always maintained his innocence.

His case captured the attention of millions in 2014 when the debut season of Serial focused on Lee's killing and raised doubts about some of the evidence prosecutors had used, inspiring heated debates across dinner tables and water coolers about Syed's innocence or guilt.

Last week, prosecutors filed a motion saying that a lengthy investigation conducted with the defence had uncovered new evidence that could undermine the 2000 conviction of Syed, Lee's ex-boyfriend.

"I understand how difficult this is but we need to make sure we hold the correct person accountable," assistant state's attorney Becky Feldman told the judge as she described various details from the case that undermine the decades-old conviction, including flawed mobile phone data, unreliable witness testimony and and a potentially biased detective.

Syed was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of strangling 18-year-old Lee, whose body was found buried in a Baltimore park.