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Adnan Syed is hired by Georgetown University to work on prison reform

The subject of the hit true-crime podcast "Serial," who spent 23 years behind bars, was released in September after a judge vacated his murder conviction.
Adnan Syed at Georgetown University.
Adnan Syed at Georgetown University.Georgetown University

Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was tossed in September after he served 23 years behind bars, has been hired by Georgetown University to work on prison reform.

The subject of the hit true-crime podcast "Serial," Syed had been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. He was 17 at the time of Lee's death and has maintained his innocence.

Syed's job as a program associate for Georgetown's Prisons and Justice Initiative is his first 9-to-5 office job, according to the university. He started Dec. 12.

"It’s a really normal feeling and an amazing feeling. I’m so grateful for it," Syed, 41, said in a Georgetown press release.

The university's Prisons and Justice Initiative offers education to incarcerated people and training to those who have been released while addressing "the root causes and consequences of mass incarceration," Georgetown said.

Part of Syed’s job will include supporting Georgetown’s "Making an Exoneree" class, in which students re-investigate wrongful convictions, make documentaries about the cases and help free innocent people.

His own case was investigated after "Serial" revealed new details about it in 2014. A judge vacated his sentence this fall.

In the year leading up to his release, Syed had taken part in Georgetown’s Bachelor of Liberal Arts program in prison. He called his new position a "full-circle moment."

The Prisons and Justice Initiative "changed my life. It changed my family’s life. Hopefully I can have the same kind of impact on others,” he said.

'He has so much to offer'

Director of Prisons and Justice Initiative Marc Howard said Syed had demonstrated a strong commitment to his education and said he was thrilled when Syed was exonerated.

"He is one of the most resilient and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and he has so much to offer our team and the other students in PJI programs,” Howard said.

Syed was released from prison on Sept. 19 after Baltimore City Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn approved a motion to vacate his murder conviction. The move followed an investigation that revealed the possible involvement of two other suspects in Lee's killing and indications that trial prosecutors did not properly turn over evidence that could have helped Syed's defense lawyers during his trial.

Lee’s family filed an appeal after the charges were overturned, claiming they were not given an adequate opportunity to participate in the hearing that led to Syed’s release. The status of the appeal was unknown Friday.

An attorney for Lee's family did not immediately respond to an inquiry Friday seeking comment about Syed's job with Georgetown.

Adnan Syed leaves the courthouse after being released from prison on Sept. 19, 2022, in Baltimore.
Adnan Syed leaves the courthouse after being released from prison on Sept. 19, in Baltimore.Lloyd Fox / The Baltimore Sun via Getty Images file

When Syed was freed in September, he was photographed carrying a Georgetown binder full of papers and tests, including his statistics final exam, which the university said he scored a 98 on. He told Georgetown the tests were worth more than his grades.

“They’re a proof of concept that you can take a group of people who are in prison, give them a chance, and they can benefit from it; they can do something great with it," he said.