June 30, 2016

"Conviction vacated, new trial granted for Adnan Syed of 'Serial.'"

"The court finds that trial counsel's performance fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment when she failed to cross-examine the state's cell tower expert regarding a disclaimer obtained as part of pre-trial discovery," wrote retired Judge Martin Welch.

MORE: Here, in the NYT:
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.”

12 comments:

Lyle Smith said...

Progressives. That poor Korean-Anerican girl's family.

Sebastian said...

"The court finds that trial counsel's performance fell below the standard of reasonable professional judgment when she failed to cross-examine" I have no opinion about this case or decision but I do have two general concerns. First, don't these sorts of decisions create moral hazard, in the sense of an incentive for counsel to deliberately fall below some standard in some cases, so as to create a basis for overturning a verdict? Second, why don't trial judges have a responsibility to make sure, during the trial itself, that counsel lives up to all relevant standards (and make up for any failure, for example, in a case like this, by asking the relevant question themselves)?

tim in vermont said...

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.

Telcos call everybody engineers. I think a real engineer would know all of the issues.

BDNYC said...

Without reading the opinion, I have a hard time understanding the court's finding of prejudice. If trial counsel had well and thoroughly cross-examined the cell data expert, what are the chances the outcome of the trial would have been any different? Wasn't there other damning evidence? I didn't follow this case very closely, but I recall that one of the witnesses against him was his accomplice. Apparently the jury believed his testimony. Would undermining cell data really have swayed the jury?

Patrick said...

The cell data, coupled with the testimony of Asia McClain could well have swayed the jury to find reasonable doubt. McClain said, back then that she saw Syed at the time the State said he killed the young lady. For whatever reason, the defense attorney didn't call her to testify, likely the primary support for ineffective assistance of counsel issue.

I only know what I heard about this case on the Serial podcast, but based on that, I would not be surprised if there is an acquittal. I'm not convinced he didn't do it, but I think a jury could find reasonable doubt.

Patrick said...

Having read the article, I was wrong. The judge was not swayed by the McClain testimony.

JCC said...

The new trial was ordered, apparently, solely on the decision of trial defense counsel not to cross examine the phone company engineer more vigorously, probably thinking such cross would only reinforce the engineer's conclusions about where the cell phone in question was at a certain time. New defense attorneys found a single page instruction sheet for some piece of phone company equipment which seems to suggest that the data from cell towers was not all that reliable, and they obtained am affidavit from the original engineer who said that his trial testimony might have been different had he known of the data sheet. So, ineffective assistance of counsel, or in other words, second guessing of trial strategy long after the fact.

All of the crap about the so-called alibi witness was disregarded by the judge as unreliable.

I would assume there is a fair chance this will be reversed.

MayBee said...

I think it is absurd that so much hinges on Asia McClain when Adnan never said he was where she said he was, or that he saw her.

MayBee said...

OK, good to hear the McClain testimony didn't persuade the judge.

tim in vermont said...

I tell you what, I know more than a little bit about cell phone protocols. The tower is constantly adjusting the signal strength of the handset based on the strength of signal in order to spare the battery. That's why your phone runs out quicker in the boonies. Cell towers have three cells mounted in three directions with directional antennas. This is so three times as many people can use the same tower. Look at any cell tower and you will see this.

The combination of those two factors allows anybody privy to the signalling between the phone and the tower to know pretty closely where the phone is.(Which antenna, how strong a signal) If there was an error, it was maybe a couple of hundred meters tops. Unless that library was very close to the park in question, I can't see why anybody would think this guy was innocent.

Jupiter said...

Tim, that was true then, it mostly isn't true any more, with LTE. And nobody "thinks" this guy is innocent. That conclusion is not arrived at by a process involving thought.

tim in vermont said...

Yeah, I didn't want to get into LTE, it's not my job to muddy up the waters, that's the job of the defense.