Brief filed: 01/09/2023
Lee v. Maryland
Court of Appeals of Maryland; Case No. 1291
On Appeal from the Circuit Court for Baltimore City
NACDL, with authors from law firm Paul, Weiss, filed an amicus brief in the Appellate Court of Maryland in Young Lee, as Victim’s Representative v. State of Maryland. Adnan Syed, whose criminal case gained notoriety after being chronicled in the podcast Serial, was recently released from prison after the court vacated his conviction upon the prosecution’s recommendation. Mr. Syed had been serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his high school classmate Hae Min Lee. The prosecution cited flaws in the conviction, including unreliable cell phone tower data and possible failure to disclose key exculpatory evidence and two new potential suspects in their motion to vacate Syed’s conviction. Even though they were in attendance, the victim’s family has appealed the vacatur for lack of sufficient notice and opportunity to participate. Our amicus brief argues that, while Maryland law expressly grants a victim the right to receive notice of and attend vacatur proceedings, it does not provide a victim the right to be heard at the proceeding. The Maryland General Assembly made a choice to treat vacatur proceedings differently than other proceedings, such as sentencing, where a victim’s right to be heard is expressly granted. Even if Maryland did provide victims the right to be heard at a vacatur hearing, which it does not, that would not mean that victims have the additional right to participate in such hearings by challenging the evidence, as the victim’s family argues. Giving victims the right to challenge evidence or dispute substantive rulings would effectively allow them to usurp the role of prosecutors and violate due process, we argue.
Kobie Flowers, Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP, Baltimore, MD; David B. Smith, NACDL, Alexandria, VA; William Michael, Wharton & Garrison LLP, New York, NY; Jake Elijah Struebing and Macy Mize, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Washington, DC.