Krishna Maharaj, a British citizen who has been in prison since being sentenced to death by a Florida court in 1987, will this week have a key hearing which could see the US Government forced to hand over documents which could help prove his innocence. Mr Maharaj was convicted of the murders of two men, Derrick and Duane Moo Young, in the Dupont Plaza hotel in downtown Miami on 16 October 1986.
His death sentence was quashed in 2002, since the trial judge had secretly asked the prosecutor to write the death order before hearing evidence, but he has remained in prison and is not eligible for release until he is 101 years old – despite mounting evidence unearthed by his lawyers that the murder for which he was convicted was in fact carried out by men working for drug baron Pablo Escobar.
Ahead of the hearing, which will take place in Miami at the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, Mr Maharaj’s counsel and Clive Stafford Smith, Director of the legal charity Reprieve, has filed a request that the authorities release evidence which could prove Mr Maharaj’s innocence. The additional evidence, believed to be held by US federal agencies, relates to a number of members of Colombian drug cartels who were responsible for the Moo Young murders.
The filing also sets out testimony provided by several other former members of Colombian drug cartels, who have admitted that Mr Maharaj was not involved in the murder. Instead, the cartel members confirm, the Moo Youngs were murdered on the orders of Pablo Escobar in a dispute over drug money.
Clive Stafford Smith, who has represented Krishna Maharaj for more than 20 years, said: “This is a test for the Florida prosecutors: are they interested in exonerating Kris Maharaj, an innocent man in a wheel chair, or do they want to defend Pablo Escobar for two of the many homicides that he ordered. It is also a test for the British government: will they assist a British citizen to get the evidence he needs, or merely make statements about the need for fair trials?”