An alibi witness for a man whose murder conviction was re-examined in the popular “Serial” podcast told two classmates more than 20 years ago she would lie to help him, the Maryland attorney general’s office wrote in court filings Monday.
Officials wrote that two sisters who were classmates of the witness at Woodlawn High School approached the attorney general’s office this summer, after a judge ordered a new trial for Adnan Syed. The sisters gave sworn statements saying they got into a 1999 argument with the witness, Asia McClain, who has said she saw Syed at the Woodlawn library about the same time Hae Min Lee was murdered and buried in a shallow grave in a Baltimore park that year.
Syed was convicted in 2000 of murdering Lee, his former high school girlfriend. He was sentenced to life in prison.
One of the classmates sent an unsolicited email to the attorney general’s office on July 7, a week after the judge ordered the new trial. The woman, who is not identified in court papers, wrote she initially planned to stay out of the case, because she didn’t think Syed would be granted a new trial. But she decided to reach out after the judge’s decision.
“I very much remember, as does (my sister) having a conversation with Asia in our co op class about Asia saying she believed so much in Adnan’s innocence she would make up a lie to prove he couldn’t have done it,” she wrote in the email.
The attorney general’s office is asking that the sisters’ affidavits be used in court if McClain’s alibi claim is introduced.
“Courts operate under the comfortable assumption that a person ordinarily would not be willing to lie to assist someone charged with murder,” the attorney general’s office wrote. “Two witnesses who were previously unknown to the state have now come forward and affirmed that this assumption does not apply in the case of Asia McClain. To correct that assumption prior to appellate review is in the interests of justice.”
In his ruling this summer for a new trial, now-retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Martin Welch said he disagreed that Syed’s lawyer erred when she failed to contact McClain. He ruled that Syed’s attorneys were deficient, because they failed to note the unreliability of cellphone tracking evidence cited by prosecutors to place Syed’s phone near the site where Lee was buried.
The “Serial” podcast attracted millions of listeners who became armchair detectives as the series analyzed the case for weeks in the winter of 2014.