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US court says rejects new trial for 'Serial' podcast inmate

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Washington (AFP)

The highest court in the US state of Maryland on Friday turned down a request for a new trial for a man convicted of his ex-girlfriend's 1999 murder -- a case that received worldwide attention thanks to the hit podcast "Serial."

The Maryland Court of Appeals reinstated the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee and reversed the decision of a lower court which had ordered a new trial.

Syed is serving a life sentence for the murder of Lee, whose body was found buried in February 1999 in a shallow grave in the woods of Baltimore, Maryland. She had been strangled.

Syed has steadfastly declared his innocence and the case earned new attention when it was taken up by "Serial," a weekly podcast that saw a US journalist revisit the case and cast doubt on his guilt.

The ruling rejecting a new trial came just two days before the HBO channel airs a four-part documentary called "The Case Against Adnan Syed."

Maryland's Court of Special Appeals ordered a retrial of the case a year ago on the grounds that Syed's lawyer had been ineffective and had failed to contact a potential alibi witness who claimed she saw him in a public library at the time of the murder.

The Maryland Court of Appeals threw out that argument.

"Given the totality of the evidence against (Syed), there was not a significant or substantial possibility that the jury would have reached a different verdict had his trial counsel presented the alibi witness," the court said.

The "Serial" podcast -- a mix of investigative journalism, first-person narrative and dramatic storytelling -- focused its first season entirely on Syed's story in 12 nail-biting episodes. They were downloaded more than 175 million times, a world record.

Both Syed and Lee were high school honor students and children from immigrant families -- he Pakistani, she South Korean -- who had concealed their relationship from their conservative parents.

Prosecutors said during the trial that Syed was a "scorned lover" who felt humiliated after Lee broke up with him.

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