Patrick Semansky, Associated Press
Prison artwork created by Adnan Syed sits near family photos in the home of his mother, Shamim Syed, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014, in Baltimore. Adnan Syed was convicted for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, and his case is being revived in a wildly popular podcast with millions of weekly listeners. A Maryland appeals court recently showed interest in the case and will hold a hearing in January weighing arguments that the man had ineffective counsel.

BALTIMORE — Adnan Syed, the subject of the popular podcast “Serial” who was convicted in 2000 for killing his ex-girlfriend when he was a teenager, has been granted an appeal.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals approved Syed’s application for an appeal, which claims that his lawyer, Christina Gutierrez, was ineffective. The rare ruling is the first step for Syed to challenge his murder conviction.

“It’s the first step in a pretty long process but we’re extremely happy,” said Syed’s attorney, C. Justin Brown.

His appeal is scheduled to be heard in June.

Syed, now 33, is serving a life sentence in a Maryland state prison after being convicted in 2000 of killing his high school classmate and ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in January 1999. He appealed but his request was denied in Baltimore Circuit Court a few years ago.

Last year, Brown filed an application with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to get that denial vacated. He argued that Syed had received ineffective counsel during trial from a lawyer who did not check out an alibi he had or listen to his pretrial requests, including seeing whether the state was offering him a plea deal.

The state fought this request but on Friday the Court of Special Appeals sided with Syed.

Much of the case hinged on testimony from a man prosecutors said helped Syed bury Lee’s body in Leakin Park. There were no other witnesses or physical evidence tying Syed to the killing.

The testimony of Asia McClain, a classmate of both Syed and Lee, challenges the timeline Baltimore prosecutors used to prove that Syed strangled Lee after school on Jan. 13, 1999. McClain’s testimony wasn’t heard at Syed’s 2000 trial, at which a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Cristina Gutierrez, who died in 2004, did not call McClain to the stand.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled that Syed needs to file briefings of his appeal arguments by March 16. The Maryland attorney general’s office has until April 16 to file briefings opposing the appeal. Then the court could hear oral arguments and order a new trial or deny Syed a trial. The judges could also send the case back to circuit court.

“Serial,” a multi-episode podcast from the creators of the radio show “This American Life,” has brought attention to the case since its producers raised questions about Syed’s conviction.

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