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In the Media; New Trial for Adnan Syed of 'Serial'; Baltimore Seeks Gunshot Detection System

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A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Conviction vacated, new trial granted for Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’

"A Baltimore judge on Thursday ordered a new trial for Adnan Syed, adding a new chapter to a two-decade-old murder case propelled to international attention by the popular podcast 'Serial.'

"Syed, now 35, has been serving a life sentence since 2000, when he was convicted of killing ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee the year before. The body of Lee, a classmate of his at Woodlawn High School, was found buried in Baltimore's Leakin Park.

"Retired Judge Martin Welch, who had denied Syed's previous request for a new trial, vacated Syed's conviction Thursday and said questions about cellphone tower evidence should have been raised by his trial team.

"The ruling came four months after a hearing that included testimony from an alibi witness who had been featured in 'Serial.'

"The podcast was downloaded millions of times, drawing legions of devoted fans who scrutinized the case online.

"Susan Simpson, an attorney and "Serial" blogger who produced an offshoot podcast called "Undisclosed," is credited with tracking down the evidence that Welch cited in granting a new trial.

"Syed remains in prison in Western Maryland, where he has been fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. His attorney said he expects the state to appeal the ruling, but said the defense had cleared its biggest hurdle.”

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From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore seeks gunshot detection system to aid in shooting investigations

"City officials plan to install a gunfire detection system to help Baltimore police pinpoint where shootings are happening, technology a previous police commissioner called a "horrible, horrible failure."

"The system — which supporters say has advanced significantly since 2008 when former Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III maligned it — would use acoustic sensors installed over at least three `square miles in an undetermined community where guns are frequently fired.

"The Police Department intends to use a $370,000 federal grant to help pay for the equipment, for which bids have been requested. Companies must submit proposals by Aug. 10.

"City Councilman Brandon M. Scott said the system will create opportunities for police to solve more crimes. Upgrades to the technology make the purchase a worthwhile investment, he said.

"The technology detects the sound of gunfire using receivers attached to buildings and utility poles. The audio is monitored by both computers and analysts, allowing dispatchers within seconds to deploy officers to the scene of gunfire.

"That allows police to arrive faster, get victims immediate medical attention, interview witnesses before they leave and collect evidence, such as shell casings.

"Reviews of the technology have found that frequent alerts don't necessarily translate into arrests. The technology does not always lead police to the right location, and other loud noises — such as fireworks — can trigger alerts.

"Baltimore has backed out of plans to buy the equipment at least twice over the past decade. Meanwhile, the number of cities using the surveillance equipment has tripled to at least 90 worldwide, including Washington, New York and Oakland, Calif.

"A Baltimore police spokesman said the technology fits into the city's evolving crime-fighting strategy."

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From the Baltimore Sun: New Maryland law aims to spur retirement savings through state plan

"An estimated 1 million Marylanders work for businesses that do not offer a retirement savings plan. Legislation that becomes law Friday will give them state-sponsored and private alternatives.

"Maryland workers who don't have access to 401(k)s or other federal plans may choose to have money deducted from their paychecks and placed in a retirement account intended to supplement Social Security.

"The new law — at least four years in the making — puts Maryland at the forefront of a national effort among states to fill what proponents call a gap left by the federal government, which they say has made it too difficult for smaller businesses and their employees to set up retirement accounts.

"'Maryland has an extremely robust law,' said Sarah Gill, legislative representative for state government affairs at the AARP in Washington. 'I'd say it was one of the best in the country.'

"The law is one of more than 250 passed by the General Assembly this year that will take effect Friday, the start of the state fiscal year."

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