A potential witness in the ongoing Serial legal case says the original prosecutor in the case pressured her not to give evidence in the appeal of the convicted murderer Adnan Syed.
The case of Syed, who allegedly murdered his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, became a national interest when the Serial podcast re-examined the facts of the 15-year-old murder. Though Syed lost an appeal in 2005, his lawyers are now seeking to appeal a denial by the Baltimore circuit court for post-conviction relief. If they win, they might be able to introduce new evidence.
On Tuesday, Syed’s lawyer submitted a supplement to that appeal that included a new affidavit from Asia McClain, a classmate of Syed who wrote to him in jail saying she saw him in a public library during the period of time prosecutors said he killed Lee.
That testimony from McClain was not put forward as evidence in the trials that originally led to Syed’s conviction, even though it was the an alibi Syed had for the murder. Syed’s lawyer Christina Gutierrez, who was later disbarred and died in 2004, never contacted McClain to testify.
At the request of a Syed family friend gathering evidence for an appeal, McClain gave an affidavit in March 2000, saying she had seen Syed on the believed day of the murder. But when Syed’s new lawyers tried to contact McClain to appear in court for the 2005 appeal, she did not speak with them. Instead McClain contacted the prosecutor in the first trial, Kevin Urick, she says.
The prosecutor went on to testify during Syed’s appeal that McClain “told me that she’d only written [the affidavit] because she was getting pressure from the family, and she basically wrote it to please them and get them off her back.” (The audio from Urick’s testimony was featured on the first episode of Serial.)
McClain now says Urick pressured her not to participate in court proceedings when Syed’s lawyers contacted her about testifying for an appeal. Urick has called the allegation “absolutely false.”
“I never told Urick that I recanted my story,” writes McClain, in the new affidavit dated Jan 13, 2015. “In addition, I did not write the March 1999 letters or the  affidavit because of pressure from Syed’s family. I did not write them to please Syed’s family or to get them off my back. What actually happened is that I wrote the affidavit because I wanted to provide the truth about what I remembered.”
“She definitely told me that she wrote what she wrote, was to appease the family, to get them off her back,” Urick said in an interview published by The Blaze Tuesday, “… that’s what I recall, the gist of the conversation, that she wrote something to get the family off her back, which can be interpreted that she was getting pressure.” He said his call with McClain lasted about five minutes.
In the new affidavit, which was provided to TIME by McClain’s lawyer Gary Proctor, McClain says that she contacted Urick in 2005 because she had questions about the case she did not feel comfortable asking Syed’s lawyers. She alleges that Urick told her that there was “no merit to any claims that Syed did not get a fair trial.”
“Urick discussed the evidence of the case in a manner that seemed designed to get me to think Syed was guilty and that I should not bother participating in the case, by telling what I knew about January 13, 1999,” the affidavit states. “Urick convinced me into believing that I should not participate in the ongoing proceedings.”
McClain further said the case’s airing by Serial led her to come forward with the new affidavit:
Syed’s lawyer, C. Justin Brown, told TIME the supplemental affidavit was submitted to the court around 10:30am on Tuesday and said he could not otherwise comment on the ongoing case.
There is no timeline for when the Maryland appeals court will determine whether Syed can move forward in his bid to overturn his murder conviction. The state responded to the application on Jan. 14.
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