(Reuters) - A Maryland judge on Thursday ordered a new trial for Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was put into question by the 2014 podcast "Serial."
Syed, 36, is serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee, 18. His lawyers had sought a new trial amid questions about the fairness of the case that were raised by the podcast in late 2014.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Martin Welch ordered Syed's conviction vacated because of ineffective legal help.
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"Petitioner's request for a new trial is hereby granted," Welch wrote in his order.
Lee's body was found buried in a Baltimore park. Syed was convicted in 2000 of murdering her.
Welch, who oversaw a five-day hearing in February about reopening the case, said Syed's original lawyer, Cristina Gutierrez, had failed to cross-examine prosecutors' expert about the reliability of cellphone tower location evidence.
During the hearing, Syed's lawyers had argued that Gutierrez had failing skills when she defended him. She later was disbarred, and died in 2004.
Welch rejected Syed's lawyers' contention that his original defense team had failed to call an alibi witness, Asia McClain Chapman.
A former high school classmate of Syed, she testified during the hearing that she had spoken with him at a library on the day that Lee went missing and that he appeared calm.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis and Ian Simpson; Editing by Leslie Adler)