New DNA evidence has been requested in the case of Adnan Syed, a man from Maryland currently serving a life sentence for the murder of ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. The tests, ordered for by a judge, will utilize DNA technology unavailable at the time of Syed’s first trials in 1999 and 2000.
The murder, as presented at the time of Syed’s conviction, is said to have involved a struggle in a car. The motion for new forensic investigations centers around this, as Syed’s attorney has expressed that the killer would have needed to be very close to the victim, and so a detectable degree of DNA transfer is to be expected.
"Ms. Lee's clothing, shoes, and certain other evidence recovered from the scene have not been subject to DNA testing," CNN reports the motion said. "(Syed) seeks to use the most advanced DNA testing methodologies that are currently available to analyze the biological evidence collected from the scene in an effort to exculpate him."
Baltimore police have 15 days to collect the necessary material and deliver it to the Forensic Analytical Crime Lab in Hayward, California, for testing. These will then go through CODIS, the FBI’s criminal justice DNA database, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
While the exact tests will be decided by the crime lab, Syed’s attorney Erica J Suter has requested touch DNA analysis – so named as it only requires a person to have touched an object to be detected via skin cells or bodily fluids. Suter has also asked investigators to establish if a DNA profile can be identified and matched to a person.
Forensic analysis of fingernail clippings, blood, and a condom was carried out at the time of the murder – but while none had detectable traces of Syed, it wasn’t considered to be exculpatory evidence.
Adnan Syed has been the subject of much debate following the hugely popular podcast series Serial, which saw journalist Sarah Koenig investigate proceedings leading up to and following the murder of Min Lee.
Syed first came under police scrutiny as he had previously dated Min Lee, whose body was found in Leakin Park, Baltimore, on February 9, 1999. An anonymous call was made to detective Daryl Massey on February 12, saying that Syed should be under investigation. He was later arrested on February 28.
Syed was found guilty following a six-week trial in 2000, following a short mistrial in 1999. Multiple attempts at a retrial were made following Koenig’s podcast which was downloaded more than 300 million times. However, none were successful in making it to court.
DNA testing in criminal cases was first introduced in 1985, enabling forensic scientists to use skin, hair, blood, and other bodily fluids as a way of identifying a certain person's prescence at the scene of a crime. The first person to be convicted through DNA evidence was Tommie Lee Andrews, a serial rapist from Florida.
[H/T: NBC News]