Lawyers for the family of Hae Min Lee, the Baltimore high school student whose murder was profiled on the hit podcast “Serial,” asked the appellate judges on Thursday to reinstate a murder conviction against the man who was once framed for her murder.

A three-judge panel of the Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments from lawyers on both sides of the case involving Adnan Syed, who was once convicted of the 1999 murder of Lee, his ex-girlfriend.

He was released from prison last year after prosecutors and a judge sided with Syed’s defenders, who have long claimed the defendant’s conviction was wrong.


A tribute to Hae Min Lee, class of 1999, in a Woodlawn High School yearbook in 2002.Hayes Gardner/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images file

Lee’s loved ones argued that they were not properly notified about the September 19 hearing that led to Syed’s release.

The victim’s brother, Young Lee, who acted as the immigrant family’s representative in this case, said he was only informed by email on September 16 about that crucial hearing.

He couldn’t get to Maryland from California in such a short time.

«What would be the remedy that you would ask us if we agreed with you?» asked Judge Stuart Berger during a dramatic crescendo of the hour-long proceedings in Annapolis. “What would happen to Mr. Syed in his scenario?”

«The case would have to be reinstated,» Lee’s attorney, Steve Kelly, responded.

«So you’re asking us to reinstate the sentence?» Berger pushed.

“Yes, your honor, which I think you have a right to do,” Kelly said.

But Erica Suter, Syed’s attorney, argued that Lee’s family had no specific right under the law to play an active role in person at the hearing that led to their client’s release.

“What the victim has is the right to information and the right not to be caught off guard about what is happening,” Suter told the judges. «This is not an environment where the impact of it should influence the decision of the court.»

Suter said the fact that the brother received such brief notice, preventing him from appearing in person, did not blatantly violate any procedure.

“I think we would be in different circumstances if the state did not provide Mr. Lee with a Zoom option. But now we are in very different times,” Suter said.

“At this point we do hearings on Zoom, we do them hybrid, we do them in person. It would be a different argument if the state did not take steps to facilitate their attendance, but it did.»

At that September hearing, City Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn vacated murder conviction of Syed, years after the hit podcast «Serial» chronicled his case and cast doubt on his role in Lee’s murder.

Prosecutors in the trial failed to properly turn over evidence to defense attorneys that could have helped them prove that someone else might have killed Lee, Syed’s defense attorneys said.

Phinn vacated the murder, kidnapping, robbery, and false imprisonment convictions against Syed and ordered his release.

The judges adjourned on Thursday, taking the case under consideration and not issuing an immediate court decision.

Since his release after 23 years behind bars, Syed has been hired by Georgetown University to work on prison reform.