‘Serial’ Podcast Subject Goes After Cell Tower Evidence

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By Jessica DaSilva

Oct. 13 — Defense attorneys for Adnan Syed, the defendant in the high-profile case featured in National Public Radio's “Serial” podcast, filed a response to the Maryland Attorney General's opposition motion and supplement to re-open post-conviction proceedings alleging evidence of a Brady violation in addition to his ongoing ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

The reply, filed Oct. 13, responds to the state's argument against a remand order regarding a potential claim for ineffective assistance of counsel based on the failure of Syed's attorney to interview alibi witness Asia McClain—a focal point of the podcast and an issue continually reiterated by Syed's attorneys.

Syed's newest claim alleges the state “committed a Brady violation by failing to disclose exculpatory phone records, and by introducing cell tower location evidence at trial when it knew, or should have known, that such evidence was unreliable and misleading.”

Testimony Would Have Been Affected, Witness Says

The undisclosed evidence, Syed argues, revolves around a disclaimer that accompanied the cell phone tower records from AT&T, which stated “Outgoing calls only are reliable for location status. Any incoming calls will NOT be considered reliable information for location.”

“Syed's concern, of course, was that the State had done precisely what it said it could not reliably do: it used incoming calls to prove location status of Syed's phone,” wrote C. Justin Brown on behalf of Syed.

Attorneys presented the argument eight days after the state's expert witness Abraham Waranowitz, a radio frequency engineer for AT&T, filed an affidavit for Syed stating he never saw the disclaimer, which he explicitly stated would have affected his testimony.

“If I had been made aware of this disclaimer, it would have affected my testimony,” he wrote, “I would not have affirmed the interpretation of a phone’s possible geographical location until I could ascertain the reasons and details for the disclaimer.”

Syed is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, an 18-year-old student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore. Syed has maintained his innocence since his arrest. The case became the subject of a 12-episode podcast scrutinizing the case from its initial investigation through Syed's conviction. It became a pop-culture sensation in the fall of 2014.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica DaSilva at jdasilva@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bna.com

Full text at http://src.bna.com/EP.