Baltimore, MD – Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh blasted Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s recent decision to vacate a murder conviction and vehemently denied her claims that his office withheld evidence that resulted in the suspect being “wrongfully convicted.”
The case at the center of Frosh’s outrage involved the murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee, who was last seen alive at Woodlawn High School on Jan. 13, 1999, The Daily Record reported.
Lee’s body was discovered in Leakin Park several weeks after her disappearance.
She had been strangled to death, according to police.
Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of Lee’s murder and sentenced to life in prison, plus 30 years.
He remained behind bars until last month, when Mosby’s office asked the court to vacate his conviction, The Daily Record reported.
Syed, now 41, was released from prison on Sept. 19.
Prosecutors said they lost faith in Syed’s conviction after Mosby’s head of the Sentencing Review Unit, Becky Feldman, discovered handwritten notes in the original prosecutor’s file indicating that another possible suspect who allegedly threatened to kill Lee was never ruled out, according to The Daily Record.
Those notes were written by prosecutor Kevin Urick, but Mosby’s office didn’t bother to interview Urick about the issue before filing the motion to vacate Syed’s conviction.
The filing further questioned the reliability of cell phone location evidence that was crucial in Syed’s conviction, as well as the trustworthiness of a witness who testified that he had helped Syed bury Lee’s body in Leakin Park, The Daily Record reported.
Mosby’s office also accused the Maryland Attorney General’s Office of violating Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to hand over any exculpatory evidence to defense, according to the paper.
Frosh said his office never attempted to withhold evidence.
“Neither State’s Attorney Mosby nor anyone from her office bothered to consult with either the Assistant State’s Attorney who prosecuted the case or with anyone in my office regarding these alleged violations,” he said in a statement to The Daily Record. “The file in this case was made available on several occasions to the defense.”
Lee’s family was given just two days’ notice about a hearing that took place as a result of Mosby’s office’s motion to vacate Syed’s conviction, CBS News reported.
Lee’s brother appeared via Zoom for the hearing and begged the court repeatedly to “make the right decision,” according to WBAL.
The judge subsequently vacated Syed’s conviction.
Lee’s family filed an appeal over how the case was handled, but their opportunity for a hearing was blocked after Mosby’s office swooped in and dropped all charges against Syed due to him supposedly being cleared by new DNA evidence, WBAL reported.
The charges were officially dropped on Oct. 12, according to CBS News.
Frosh filed paperwork with the court on Tuesday denouncing the way Mosby’s office handled the case and how they treated Lee’s family, WBAL reported.
He further argued that his office did not withhold evidence, and noted prosecutors did not present any evidence to back up their bold claim.
Frosh said Mosby’s office cherry-picked information contained in Urick’s notes, and that they disregarded other notes that were consistent with the incriminating evidence against Syed, The Daily Record reported.
“It is hard to imagine how anyone could conduct a neutral and unbiased investigation without asking Mr. Urick for his recollections surrounding the notes,” Assistant Attorney General Carrie Williams wrote in the filing.
Frosh’s office also questioned Mosby’s prior declaration that DNA evidence recovered from Lee’s shoes helped clear Syed’s name, The Daily Record reported.
The shoes had not previously been tested, and the DNA evidence found on them did not come back to Syed.
“Ms. Mosby did not offer any evidence that the perpetrator handled Ms. Lee’s shoes or provide any other reason to believe that the absence of Mr. Syed’s DNA on Ms. Lee’s shoes exonerated him,” Williams wrote.
The attorney general’s filing is related to the appeal filed by Lee’s brother regarding how Mosby’s office treated his family during the process of vacating Syed’s conviction and will not change the outcome of the vacated conviction itself, The Daily Record reported.
The Attorney General’s Office does not have the authority to reverse decisions made by Mosby’s office.
Because her office dismissed charges against Syed altogether, it is also unlikely that Lee’s family will have any recourse under the state’s victims’ rights laws, The Daily Record reported.
Mosby issued a statement defending her handling of the matter and blaming Frosh’s office for what had transpired, WBAL reported.
“Attorney General Brian Frosh and his office mishandled and sat on exculpatory evidence for years and his recent attempts to save face are a complete disservice to the family of Hae Min Lee and to Adnan Syed who was wrongfully incarcerated for 23 years,” the statement read. “We stand by our investigation and our ultimate finding that there is no credible evidence that Mr. Syed was involved in the death of Ms. Lee.”
“It is extremely troubling that the attorney general, who is clearly biased and is in self-preservation mode to protect himself as well as the original prosecutor and post-conviction attorney in the case, is legally asserting that prosecutors don’t have to disclose to the defense an alternative suspect that threatens to kill the victim because the person reporting the threat was not sure if the threat was serious or not,” Mosby added.
“The problem is that the attorney general’s argument is completely contrary to the law and is the reason why a judge rightfully concluded that it was a Brady violation,” she wrote.
Frosh has pushed for the handwritten notes to be made public, but Mosby said doing so could compromise the ongoing investigation into Lee’s murder, The Daily Record reported.