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Adnan Syed’s Defense Brings On Big Law

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Adnan Syed, a Maryland man whose conviction for murder became the subject of an award winning podcast, got a major boost in the strength of his defense Wednesday.

A litigation team from Hogan Lovells (HL) has announced it will dispatch a pro-bono team to serve as co-counsel with Justin Brown, the attorney who has handled Syed’s appeal in recent years.

“We are happy to assist Mr. Brown in his defense of Adnan Syed,” said T. Clark Weymouth, a pro-bono partner at HL, in a statement from the firm. “It’s no secret that many of those subjected to our criminal justice system lack the resources to mount an effective defense. Where, as here, the system fails, the private bar must help to protect the accused’s right to a fair trial.” (RELATED: Adnan Syed Of ‘Serial’ Fame Gets New Trial)

HL has had considerable success on pro bono appeals in recent years. The firm helped exonerate Derek Tice in 2011, whose murder conviction was the product of a coerced confession. Thomas Haynesworth and Johnathan Montgomery were also exonerated of rape convictions after lengthy prison terms thanks to the firm’s work. The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project recognized HL’s work with awards in 2010 and 2014.

Syed was convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee, his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend. Lee was found dead Feb. 9, 1999, in Baltimore’s notorious Leakin Park, a veritable graveyard for the recently murdered and site of the horror movie “The Blair Witch Project.” Authorities determined the cause of death was manual strangulation.

Judge Martin P. Welch vacated Syed’s conviction last week for ineffective counsel. The court determined Syed defense lawyer Maria Cristina Gutierrez’s failure to cross examine a key government witness, as well as the addition of an affidavit providing Syed an alibi to the record warranted a new trial.

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