More than two decades after Adnan Syed was sentenced to life in prison and eight years after the shaky case against him became the center of the hit podcast “Serial,” a Baltimore judge on Monday ordered that Syed’s conviction be vacated and he walked out of court a free man. 

There were cheers inside the court as officers unleashed Syed’s shackles. 

Syed, 41 and imprisoned for over two decades, was led into the crowded courtroom in handcuffs Monday. But after Circuit Court Judge Melissa Phinn ordered that Syed’s conviction be vacated, his shackles were removed and he left wearing a white shirt with a tie. His mother and other family representatives left with him.

Phinn ruled that the state violated its legal obligation to share exculpatory evidence with Syed’s defense. She ordered him released from custody and placed in home detention with GPS location monitoring. She also ordered the state to decide whether to seek a new trial date or dismiss the case within 30 days.

The move came after prosecutors said they no longer have faith in their original case – something that many followers of “Serial” have been saying for years.

The first season of the podcast, spanning 12 episodes, spawned investigations into Syed’s conviction, books, documentaries and national media attention. The podcast concluded with host, Sarah Koenig, saying she was unsure who killed Hae Min Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend.

That ambiguity captured national attention as Koenig examined glaring problems with both Syed’s defense and the prosecution’s case, exploring shoddy cellphone data, inconsistent timelines, ignored witnesses and other possible suspects.

Syed was sentenced to a lifetime in prison, plus 30 years after he was convicted of the 1999 murder. He has maintained his innocence since age 17.

Despite public attention, legal representation, and mass advocacy pushing to overturn Syed’s conviction, multiple appeals were denied and it took prosecutors admitting errors years later to reach this point. 

Experts say the vast majority of prisoners don’t have such opportunities, making their struggle even more difficult. 

LAST WEEK:Prosecutors move to vacate Adnan Syed’s ‘Serial’ conviction

EARLIER THIS YEAR:Effort to exonerate Adnan Syed may get boost with DNA testing

Syed’s case, and the doubts around it, captured national attention

The true-crime frenzy around Syed is one of the most high-profile examples of podcasts, TV shows and media reports casting serious doubts about previously obscure convictions. But until recently, Syed remained in jail with few legal options left.

That changed when Baltimore’s state’s attorney filed a motion to vacate the conviction judgment against him Wednesday, saying a lengthy investigation uncovered new evidence that could undermine his 2000 murder conviction.