Adnan Syed's court trial shaped by racial stereotypes, experts say
Following Adnan Syed's release after his murder conviction was vacated, experts and advocates are calling attention to how his race and religion were framed in court.
Following Adnan Syed’s release from prison Monday, after more than two decades fighting his conviction for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, experts and advocates are calling into question the way his race and religion were framed in court during his trial.
Syed’s background as a Muslim from a Pakistani immigrant family not only shaped the trial, they say, but were tools the state used to help convict him.
“It seemed like what the prosecution did is it made an intentional choice to substitute Islamophobia and racial bias for proof,” Mano Raju, San Francisco public defender and a member of the South Asian Bar Association of North America, told NBC News. “The conviction was based in large part on references to race and plays to racism.”
A Maryland circuit court judge vacated Syed’s convictions due to new evidence that could’ve impacted the outcome of the case. Syed, 19 years old at the time, was handed a life sentence after the body of Lee, 18, was found buried in Baltimore’s Leakin Park in 1999. Now 42, Syed, whose case was brought to national attention by family friend and attorney Rabia Chaudry, and made the subject of popular 2014 podcast “Serial,” had his convictions of murder, kidnapping, robbery and false imprisonment vacated.
Prosecutor Becky Feldman denied NBC News’ request for comment. In her arguments in court Monday, she questioned cellphone tower data that was alleged to have placed Syed at the park where Lee’s body was found, one of the most critical pieces of evidence in the initial conviction.