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Convicted Maryland killer featured in ‘Serial’ podcast seeks new trial

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A Maryland man whose 2000 murder conviction was thrown back into the spotlight by the popular “Serial” podcast, was back in court on Wednesday to argue he deserved a new trial because his lawyers had done a poor job with his case.

Adnan Syed, 35, who is serving a life term after being convicted of murdering his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in Baltimore in 1999, appeared in a prison jumpsuit in a courtroom packed with family members, supporters and the producer of the podcast.

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The killing was the subject of “Serial” in October 2014. The podcast, released by public radio station WBEZ in Chicago, has been downloaded more than 68 million times, CBS reported last year. The podcast raised questions about Syed’s conviction.

On the first day of a hearing expected to run through Friday, defense attorney C. Justin Brown asked Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch for a “new and fair” trial for Syed, who he said had “ineffective assistance by trial counsel” before his conviction.

State prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah rejected the defense’s claims.

“He strangled with his own hands an 18-year-old girl,” he said, adding the evidence was overwhelming and Syed was “convicted because he did it and the state proved it.”

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Asia McClain Chapman, a high school classmate of Syed, testified that Syed’s former lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, never contacted her about a potential alibi.

Chapman said she had told prosecutors she had seen Syed at the library the day of the murder. She shared the information with the “Serial” producers, she said.

A prosecutor told her at the time of the trial: “He killed that girl,” said Chapman, who now lives in Washington state.

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A ruling in May from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals opened the door for Syed to call Chapman as a witness. The court returned the case to Baltimore City Circuit Court to reopen post-conviction proceedings.

Welch in November ordered a hearing to look into questions raised by Brown over cellphone tower records that prosecutors used to show that Syed was at the site in a park where Lee was buried.

Syed’s lawyers have said in court papers that phone company AT&T indicated when it provided the data that incoming calls could not be used to determine location, but prosecutors used records on incoming calls to convict him.

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(Reporting by Donna Owens; Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone, Marguerita Choy and Peter Cooney)


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UK travel giant Thomas Cook set to collapse: report

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Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was reported to be coming to an end on Monday after the British travel firm struggled to find private investment to keep it afloat, potentially affecting thousands of holidaymakers.

The operator has said it needs £200 million ($250 million) or else it will face administration, which could affect 600,000 holidaymakers and require Britain's largest peacetime repatriation.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP that the company had failed to find the cash from private investors and would collapse unless the government intervened.

But ministers are unlikely to step in due to worries about the pioneering operator's longer-term viability, the Times reported, leaving it on the brink.

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‘We are the people’: Watch Billy Porter get a standing ovation for his passionate speech at the Emmys

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In a powerful and passionate speech accepting his Emmy, "Pose" actor Billy Porter showered the audience with love and proudly reminded all of their right to belong and be loved.

"Oh, my God. God bless you all! The category is love, y'all, love!" Porter exclaimed.

The epic FX show "Pose" depicts Black and Latinos in the LGBTQ ballroom culture of New York City in the 1980s in the first season and the early 1990s in the second season.

"I am so overwhelmed and so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day," he said. "James Baldwin wrote, 'It took many years of vomiting up the filth I was taught about myself and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.' I have the right. You have the right. We all have the right."

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Paris show of King Tutankhamun artifacts set new record with 1.42 million visitors

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A blockbuster Tutankhamun show set a new all-time French record Sunday, with 1.42 million visitors flocking to see the exhibition in Paris, the organisers said.

The turnout beat the previous record set by another Tutankhamun show billed as the "exhibition of the century" in 1967, when 1.24 million queued to see "Tutankhamun and His Times" at the Petit Palais.

"Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" -- which has been described as a "once in a generation" show -- will open in London in November.

The last time a show of comparable size about the boy king opened there in 1972 it sparked "Tutmania", with 1.6 million people thronging the British Museum.

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