In shocking twist, court reinstates conviction of 'Serial' podcast subject Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed

A Maryland appeals court on Tuesday reinstated the conviction of the man at the center of the hit podcast "Serial, who had served more than 20 years in prison for his ex-girlfriend's murder.

Adnan Syed, whose case received worldwide attention through the podcast, had been serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, but was released in September of last year after Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn vacated his conviction.

However in a 2-1 decision, the Maryland appellate court said Tuesday that the rights of Lee's brother, Young Lee, who lives in California, had been violated because he had not been given adequate time to attend that hearing in-person.

"Accordingly, we vacate the circuit court's order vacating Mr. Syed's convictions, which results in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence," the court said.

The appellate court ordered a new hearing giving Young Lee sufficient notice to allow him to attend in-person and where "evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented."

The court said it was giving the parties 60 days to "assess how to proceed in response" to the decision.

Lee's body was found buried in February 1999 in a shallow grave in the woods of Baltimore, Maryland. The 18-year-old had been strangled.

Syed steadfastly maintained his innocence and prosecutors last year asked Judge Phinn to vacate his conviction, citing the discovery of new information regarding two alternative suspects.

Syed's case earned worldwide attention when it was taken up by "Serial," a weekly podcast that saw a US journalist revisit his conviction and cast doubt on his guilt.

His case has also been the subject of a four-part documentary on the HBO channel called "The Case Against Adnan Syed."

The "Serial" podcast -- a mix of investigative journalism, first-person narrative and dramatic storytelling -- focused its first season on Syed's story in 12 nail-biting episodes.

Both Syed and Lee were high school honor students and children from immigrant families -- he Pakistani, she South Korean -- who had concealed their relationship from their conservative parents.