Multi-National Firm to Co-Counsel in ‘Serial'Case

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By Jessica DaSilva

July 8 — Adnan Syed's legal team will enjoy support from two pro bono lawyers at Hogan Lovells LLP, a multinational law firm co-headquartered in Washington, D.C., and London, England.

The team brings extensive experience representing defendants who were wrongfully imprisoned and two awards from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, according to a statement released to Bloomberg BNA.

The two-attorney team that will assist Syed's attorney, C. Justin Brown, as co-counsel are: T. Clark Weymouth, Pro Bono Partner, and Steve Barley, Hogan Lovells’ office managing partner in Baltimore, Md. Barley is recognized as one of Maryland's top trial lawyers, according to the statement.

Syed—subject of the viral podcast “Serial”—received a decision granting him a new trial on June 30. The Maryland Attorney General announced in a statement tentative plans to challenge the grant (99 CrL 522, 7/6/16).

Syed was convicted in 2000, when he was 18 years old, for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. He has maintained his innocence ever since. The viral podcast “Serial” garnered international attention when it scrutinized the police's investigation and evidence presented at trial.

In 2015 Syed was granted a post-conviction hearing, which allowed him to present new evidence over the course of five days in February, including an alibi witness and mobile phone records (98 CrL 455, 2/17/16).

Weymouth and Barley got involved when Brown reached out to a personal friend who worked at the firm's Baltimore office, Barley told Bloomberg BNA.

Barley said they were pleased with the trial court's opinion and hope the Maryland Attorney General will respect it, but that they were prepared to assist in the case regardless of the attorney general's reaction.

From looking at the case materials, it is clear that Syed did not get the appropriate representation or a fair defense at his initial trial, said Barley—who has not listened to the podcast.

While Barley said he heard about the podcast from his kids, the first time he became familiar with Syed's case was when Brown reached out to the firm.

Weymouth told Bloomberg BNA he listened to the podcast long before the firm ever got involved in the case.

“Like many people around the world, I was fascinated by it,” Weymouth said. “I thought it would be great to have a chance to work on it. It was serendipitous that [Brown] came to us.”

Yet Weymouth said he didn't think the podcast colored his view of the case because the podcast fairly presented the evidence and how the jury arrived at its ruling.

Despite both attorneys' experience, neither ventured a guess on what might happen next in the case.

“I don't have any predictions other than whatever happens is going to get a lot of attention,” Weymouth said. “From our perspective, it's not a problem and probably a good thing.”

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

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