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'Serial' case: Adnan Syed in court seeking new trial

Adnan Syed enters Courthouse East in Baltimore prior to a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016 in Baltimore Image copyright AP

A convicted murderer whose case was the focus of the wildly popular podcast Serial is in court for a chance at a new trial.

A three-day hearing in the case of Adnan Syed, 35, began on Wednesday in Baltimore.

The hearing has focused on an alibi witness never called to testify and mobile phone records defence lawyers say are misleading.

The case propelled the podcast, Serial, to an iTunes record, reaching five million downloads faster than any other programme.

Syed is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Hae Min Lee.

The programme gained a cult following and last year, a Maryland appeals court granted a hearing on the possibility of a new trial.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sarah Koenig and the Serial team won a Peabody award for the podcast

The alibi witness in the case, Asia McClain, is expected to testify during the hearing. Ms McClain has said she saw Syed at a library the day Lee was strangled - and had contacted Syed before his first trial.

But his lawyer at the time never contacted her to testify at the trial.

Prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah said Ms McClain may not be reliable as a witness.

The competency and health of Syed's lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, at the time of the trial was also called into question by Mr Brown.

"At the time of the Syed case (Gutierrez) was unable to handle her cases,'' said Mr Brown.

Personal problems meant "the single most important piece of evidence, an alibi witness, slipped through the cracks", he said

But Mr Vignarajah argued that Syed was convicted because "he did it," not because of his lawyer.

He said Ms Gutierrez chose not to call upon Ms McClain because her claims were contradicted by more reliable witnesses.

The Maryland attorney general's office, which is handling the case for the state, has opposed Syed's request for a new trial.

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