Post Conviction Relief Granted for Adnan Syed

On June 30, 2016, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted relief in Adnan Syed v. State. You can read the Court’s 59 page Memorandum Opinion and Order at the end of this post.  I’m going to attempt to bottom line the key points in the Court’s opinion.

There were three issues before the Court:

  1.  Did Mr. Syed’s trial counsel render ineffective assistance in failing to contact Asia McClain as a potential alibi witness?
  2.  Did the State fail to turn over documents to defense as required by law?
  3.  Did trial counsel render ineffective assistance in failing to challenge the reliability of the State’s cell tower location evidence

The Court denied relief on the first two claims, but granted relief as to the third claim.  You only need to win on one issue to win a new trial.  Mr. Syed did not need to will on all of the claims in order to ultimately prevail.

Did Mr. Syed’s trial counsel render ineffective assistance in failing to contact Asia McClain as a potential alibi witness? […]

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Part 3:

Most everyone has heard of the standard of proof in a criminal prosecution, “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  It is the highest standard of proof in our legal system.  It was the standard of proof that applied during Adnan Syed’s trial.  The State was tasked with persuading the jury that Mr. Syed was guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt and Mr. Syed was presumed innocent until the State satisfied its burden of proof. […]

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Part 2:

So let’s talk about prejudice and post conviction.  Yesterday’s post discussed deficient performance, a serious mistake, the first prong of Strickland.  The second part of the test involves “prejudice,”  and we’re not talking about the kind meant by #Oscarssowhite.  What does the case law say? […]

Brady Violations: A Quick Primer

     I’ll translate this into plain language in an update to this post, but here are the fundamentals of Brady: In Brady v. Maryland, the United States Supreme Court held that the state’s suppression of exculpatory evidence at trial violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. To prevail on a Brady claim, Petitioner[…]

The Danger of Loud and Wrong: a Public Service Announcement

    “Loud and wrong” is an expression of which I’m rather fond.  It applies when someone is equal parts incorrect and adamant that they are right.  Another way to describe this state of being is confident and uninformed or my personal favorite, “Strong with no money.”  Though I harbor a certain, peculiar admiration for the kind of person who is so completely without shame, self reflection, or concern that they could be making an utter fool of themselves, this behavior presents a genuine danger to clients and attorneys. […]

Motion to Reopen a Closed Post Conviction

     Under the current law in Maryland you are entitled to only one post conviction petition and one hearing on that petition.  If you have lost your post conviction petition and your Application for Leave to Appeal from the denial of your post conviction, you next option may be to file a Motion to Reopen a closed post conviction.  A Motion to Reopen is filed in the circuit court.  Oftentimes, it goes back to the judge who denied the post conviction petition.  In some counties, there is a single judge who reviews all Motions to Reopen and decides whether it will be denied or be assigned to a judge to consider the merits.  The applicable standard in determining whether to reopen a closed post conviction is “in the interests of justice.”  In other words, the court must ask, is it in the interests of justice to give this person another chance to argue that something went wrong with the trial or guilty plea.  This standard is a broad, ill-defined standard, but one recognized basis is ineffective assistance of post conviction counsel. […]