A judge in Maryland has granted a retrial to Adnan Syed, whose conviction for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend was the subject of the first season of the hit podcast “Serial,” Mr. Syed’s lawyer announced Thursday.
C. Justin Brown, Mr. Syed’s lawyer, tweeted the news Thursday afternoon and confirmed by phone that the motion for a new trial was granted by Judge Martin Welch.
The decision to grant Mr. Syed, 35, a retrial is a major victory for an inmate who has long maintained his innocence and has exhausted all other avenues of appeal. He was convicted of the murder of Hae Min Lee in 2000 and has been serving a life sentence in prison.
The announcement by Mr. Brown follows three days of post-conviction hearings in February during which Mr. Syed and his legal team were able to present new evidence, including the testimony of a new alibi witness, and argue that his original defense counsel had been grossly negligent.
The post-trial proceedings were held before a retired Baltimore City Circuit Court judge, Mr. Welch, who granted Mr. Syed’s request for a hearing last November.
Mr. Syed first filed a request for a post-conviction hearing in 2010 but was denied.
Mr. Brown said on Thursday that the retrial was granted on the basis of “the cell tower issue” but could not elaborate as he had not yet read the full opinion.
In February, Mr. Syed’s defense challenged the testimony of an AT&T engineer whose sworn statements on cellphone data were used to link Mr. Syed to the park where Ms. Lee’s body was buried. The engineer, Abraham Waranowitz, said he was not shown a crucial disclaimer about cell tower data that would have affected his testimony in the murder trial.
But much of the defense team’s argument for a retrial centered on the testimony of Asia McClain, an alibi witness who also figured prominently in “Serial.”
Ms. McClain testified on Wednesday that she had seen and chatted with Mr. Syed in a public library in Woodlawn, Md., at the time that Ms. Lee was killed. She was not called as a defense witness in the original trial.
Mr. Brown had argued that the decision not to call Ms. McClain to testify deeply damaged the defendant’s case and constituted gross negligence on the part of his original trial lawyer, Maria Cristina Gutierrez.
Ms. Gutierrez was a prominent Baltimore defense lawyer in the 1990s whose career crumbled in 2001 when she agreed to her own disbarment after a state commission uncovered financial improprieties involving her clients.
The podcast “Serial” turned speculation about Mr. Syed’s guilt and whether he had received a fair trial into something of a national pastime in 2014. The show was downloaded more than 100 million times and won a Peabody Award for its role in illuminating flaws in the criminal justice system.
“Serial” fans have been able to follow the post-conviction proceedings as well. Sarah Koenig, its host, attended all three days of the hearings and turned them into mini-episodes attached as an appendix to its first season.
The podcast recently ended its second season, which told the story of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier in Afghanistan who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 and released as part of a prisoner swap in 2014.