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A Maryland prosecutor on Thursday sought to poke holes in the testimony of an alibi witness who says she chatted with a convicted killer at a library about the time prosecutors say his high school girlfriend was killed in a case that was profiled on the Serial podcast.
Asia McClain, now known as Asia Chapman, wrapped up her testimony Thursday during a hearing for Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering Hae Min Lee and is serving a life sentence. He is seeking a new trial on the grounds that his first attorney was ineffective for failing to contact Chapman and calling her as a witness.
During cross-examination, Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah peppered Chapman with questions about the details of her account, including the weather that day in 1999. Although McClain had told Sarah Koenig, host of Serial, that the season’s first snow fell on Jan. 13, the day Lee went missing, Vignarajah asked if it would surprise her “if it didn’t snow at all that day,” adding that the first snow was the week before. “Is it possible you’re misremembering?” Vignarajah asked.
Chapman’s testimony, however, was consistent with her previous accounts, and she maintained throughout her two days on the stand that her initial account is true.
Chapman sent a pair of letters to Syed in jail shortly after his arrest telling him she’d be willing to account for his whereabouts during the time they were together at the library.
But Vignarajah asked repeatedly whether she’d written the second letter weeks after she says she did, and how she came to know the details about the case she mentions in the correspondence. Vignarajah also questioned her about a claim by a friend of Syed who told police Syed had sent Chapman a letter from jail and told her to type it.
“You aren’t aware that [Syed] asked his lawyer how mail is scrutinized?” he asked. “Did anyone come to you and say, ‘Adnan wants you to type a letter?'”
Chapman said she knew nothing of that claim, and that she wrote the letter based solely on information and rumors swirling around the high school.
Vignarajah also suggested that Chapman lifted the details in her letter from a search warrant issued weeks after the letter was dated.
“Are you sure nobody gave you information and you wrote this letter weeks later?” Vignarajah asked. “You never read any search warrants?”
Chapman said she did not.
Following Chapman, defense attorney Justin Brown called an expert to discuss cellphone tower data prosecutors used to link Syed to the location Lee’s body was found on the day they say she was killed.
Syed’s attorneys argued that the data is misleading because it was presented to jurors at Syed’s first trial without a cover sheet advising that incoming calls are not reliable to prove location information.
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