Serial podcast's Adnan Syed asks for jail release after already serving 17 years

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A defendant awaiting retrial for the killing of his high school girlfriend and whose story was the centre of a popular podcast is asking to be released from prison.

Justin Brown, a lawyer representing Adnan Syed, wrote in a motion filed on Monday that Syed should be released while awaiting retrial because he poses "no danger to the community."

Brown also said his client has already served 17 years in prison "based on an unconstitutional conviction for a crime he did not commit."

Prison artwork created by Adnan Syed sits near family photos in the home of his mother, Shamim Syed
Family photos of Adnan in the home of his mother, Shamim Syed (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Syed was convicted in 2000 of strangling 17-year-old Hae Min Lee. His story became the centrepiece for the first season of the Serial podcast. In June, a judge granted Syed a new trial because his lawyer failed to cross-examine an expert witness about cell tower data linking Syed to the crime scene.

"Completely absent from Syed's record are circumstances that typically cause courts concern regarding pretrial release," Brown wrote in his motion.

Brown also wrote that Syed is not a flight risk because of his strong ties to the community, and because he enjoys so much support from the public after Serial, which attracted millions of listeners and inspired an army of armchair investigators to help hunt down evidence to bolster his defence.

Christine Tobar, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office, which is handling the case, said in an email that the office had not yet received a copy of the filing but planned to "review and determine how best to respond".

Childhood artwork created by Adnan Syed
Childhood artwork created by Adnan (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Brown said in a statement that "there is no reason to think Adnan would run from the case he has spent half his life trying to disprove".

In his request for a new trial, Brown argued that Syed's original lawyer erred by failing to call an alibi witness to share with the jury her claim that she saw him in the library shortly before Lee's killing. Brown also said the lawyer failed to ask any questions about cell tower records.

The state thus far has opposed Syed's motions, and appealed against the judge's granting of a new trial. State officials have said that if they lose the appeal, they will retry the case.