Businessman Kris Maharaj—once one of Britain's wealthiest men—was implicated in a murder which may have been linked to Pablo Escobarby Clive Stafford Smith / December 9, 2014 / Leave a comment
Kris Maharaj’s case has been, without question, the most comprehensive miscarriage of justice I have ever witnessed. I have seen bizarre cases of blasphemy in Pakistan, where mentally ill men have been sentenced to death for making irrational statements about Islam. There have been the drugs cases in Indonesia—the only “crime” other than blasphemy where large swathes of the public believe it should be totally legal, while others think you should die for what you did. But Kris’s case is just more extreme, in almost every way—everything that could go wrong with a case did go wrong.
An extremely successful businessman here in Britain, in the mid-1980s Kris was exploring splitting his time between London and South Florida, where he wanted to set up new business ventures. Then, in October of 1986 he was arrested for the murder of his former business partners, Derrick and Duane Moo Young in a Miami hotel; his alleged motive that the victims had stolen $400,000 from him in the months before.
Kris passed a polygraph asserting his innocence and six alibi witnesses placing him 30 miles away at the time of the murders inexplicably did not appear at the trial. In 1987 he was found guilty and sentenced to death in the electric chair.
I took on the case in 1993 at the behest of the British Government. It was clear to me from the start that Kris was innocent, and it is hard but to feel that I have failed him since then. We eventually (in 2002) got him off death row, but he is now 75, in ill-health and not eligible for parole until he is 101 years old.
The original trial judge, the impartial arbiter of the trial and, in Florida, the person ultimately responsible for the life-or-death decision, was Judge Howard Gross – popularly known as Howie the Mouse, who famously had a swimming pool in the shape of a small rodent. On the third day of Kris’ trial, half way through the State’s key witness, Judge Gross was led away in handcuffs having been caught on tape taking a bribe to fix a case for an agent posing as a Colombian narco-trafficker.
Remarkably, the trial continued, but the problems…