Convicted Briton bids to clear name

Blackpool Citizen: Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve.

A Briton who has been in prison in the United States since being sentenced to death in the late eighties for a double murder, will this week attempt to force the US government to hand over documents which could clear his name.

Former self-made millionaire Krishna Maharaj, 74, who was once the second biggest racehorse owner in the UK, was convicted in 1987 of the murders of two men, Derrick and Duane Moo Young, in the Dupont Plaza hotel in central Miami.

He spent 15 years on death row before his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002.

A motion has been filed ahead of a hearing on Tuesday in Miami at the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida requesting that the US government should hand over key evidence that suggests the murders were committed by members of Colombian drug cartels.

The judge will consider the motion at the hearing and whether the files, believed to be held by US federal agencies, should be released.

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 say the Moo Youngs were murdered on the orders of drug baron Pablo Escobar.

Clive Stafford Smith, Mr Maharaj's counsel for more than 20 years and director of legal charity Reprieve, said: "This is a test for the Florida prosecutors - are they interested in exonerating Kris Maharaj, an innocent man in a wheelchair, 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?"

Maharaj was sentenced to 25 years to life for killing Derrick Moo Young and given a death sentence for the murder of his 23-year-old son Duane.

It was commuted to life imprisonment in 2002 and i n 2008 officials in Florida denied his request for clemency.

During the hearing nearly six years ago, the family of the murder victims pleaded tearfully with the state clemency board to deny Maharaj's request.

US prosecutors told the board that Maharaj had a fair trial and a series of appeal hearings and other investigations that have all come to the same conclusion.

Lawyers for the Bar of England and Wales, the House of Lords and members of the European Parliament have asserted in the past that Maharaj's initial trial did not meet international standards for fairness.

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