British Man Seeks Clemency for Murders

Former British millionaire Krishna Maharaj once lived the high life, but now spends his days swatting flies from his face and talking about the "grave injustice" that landed him behind bars more than 20 years ago.

British Man Seeks Clemency for Murders
Maharaj, 68, has exhausted all his appeals in his 1986 double murder conviction and has just one more chance at freedom Thursday when he begins seeking clemency before the Florida Clemency Board.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with it," Maharaj said this week in a prison interview.

The former importer once owned Britain's second-largest stable of racehorses and a fleet of 24 Rolls-Royces. Now he's prisoner number 109722 at the Martin Correctional Institution.

"I went from living like a prince to existing like an animal," said Maharaj.

Maharaj was convicted in the 1986 shooting deaths of a Jamaican father and son in a plush Miami hotel. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for killing Derrick Moo Young and given a death sentence for the murder of the 23-year-old son, Duane.

The trial drew protests and news coverage from Britain, where executions have been outlawed. His death sentence was eventually overturned after 15 years on death row. A judge then sentenced him to another 25 years to life in prison, bringing his total sentence to 53 years to life, including a mandatory three years for using a firearm in a felony.

During the original trial, prosecutors presented evidence of Maharaj's fingerprints on plastic wrap used to tie one of the victims and other evidence that he owned a handgun similar to the one used in the shootings.

Maharaj does not deny knowing the victims or even being in the hotel room on the day of the killings. But he claims he was 30 miles away in Fort Lauderdale when they were shot to death.

Maharaj and the victims had been friends and business associates and were in a dispute over money, but he said he was going to let the courts work it out. He claims the Moo Youngs were involved in money laundering and that it got them killed.

Maharaj says he was asked to come to the hotel the day of the murders to talk about a business deal. His fingerprints ended up in the room because of an elaborate plot to frame him, he said.

Prosecutors say it was a clear-cut murder.

A witness testified at his trial that he watched as Maharaj executed the men.

Maharaj also asserts that the trial was rigged and that the judge sought a bribe from him, an assertion rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.

The high court found there was no proof of the claim, though the original judge, Howard Gross, was arrested on charges of taking bribes in other cases just three days into Maharaj's 1987 trial. Gross was later acquitted and resigned from the bench, said his attorney, Michael Tarre.

Lawyers representing the Bar of England and Wales, the British House of Lords and members of the European Parliament asserted that Maharaj's trial did not meet international standards for fairness. They argued that British authorities were not advised of the charges as they should have been under international treaties.

The state Supreme Court also dismissed that claim.

Maharaj's lawyer now claims new evidence, including alibi witnesses never called at trial, merits Maharaj's release from prison. Britain's Foreign Office also has written to Gov. Charlie Crist in support of Maharaj's clemency plea.

"There's a very strong argument that if this evidence was considered today in a fair trial, Kris would never have been convicted and he would have walked free," British attorney Paul Lomas said this week. "We have no other avenues. All his appeals have been exhausted."

Miami prosecutors, who handled the original case, declined to comment, noting only that a jury convicted Maharaj and his appeals have failed.

AP
Last Mod: 09 Ağustos 2007, 10:45
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