Our chance to free Kris Maharaj

By Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s founder and Kris’s lawyer for 24 years

Kris Maharaj has spent thirty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This autumn, we have a chance to help him walk free – but we need your help.

Kris was sentenced to death for murder in 1987 at a shambolic trial which was a catalogue of every failing of the US justice system:

  • The original judge was arrested on the third day of the trial for soliciting bribes.
  • The second judge conspired secretly with the prosecutors to have them draw up the execution order before the judicial sentencing hearing had even begun.
  • Kris’s lawyer did not submit a defence at all.
  • Kris’s lawyer failed to call the six alibi witnesses who placed Kris 30 miles away from the scene.
    The prosecutors told the judge the State’s key witness had passed a lie detector test, when he in fact had failed. He has changed his story several times and committed perjury in six court cases. Kris, on the other hand, passed his polygraph.
  • The lead detective told the jury Kris had lied about owning a gun and visiting the hotel where the murders took place; rather, documents show it was the police officer who lied.
  • The State’s other key witness, who originally supported Kris’s alibi, changed his testimony only after the prosecutors helped him get off a possible life sentence in Jamaica.

As terrible as these judicial failings are, the most shocking fact is that the real culprits were known to the police all along. The victims, far from being the clean-cut businessmen they were portrayed as in court, were actually deep in the Miami drug smuggling trade and had been laundering money for Pablo Escobar.

Our investigation has uncovered more evidence of Kris’s innocence, and this Autumn we have the chance to present that evidence in court and finally overturn this injustice.
Our latest investigation has uncovered further evidence of Kris’s innocence, including:

  • Five former Cartel members, including one of Pablo Escobar’s chief lieutenants, have given statements that they and not Kris were responsible for the murders. The last court ruling in Kris’s case said that the former Cartel members presented “compelling” accounts that “independently corroborate one another’s […] All five individuals’ stories reflect that the Moo Youngs were killed by the Cartel.”
  • The only other resident on the twelfth floor of the hotel was in Room 1214, across the hall from where the murders took place. He was from Colombia, and there was a blood smear on his door. The lead detective simply said he was “legit” – even though (unknown to the defence) he had just been indicted for membership in the Cartel.
  • A government informant told his handlers at the time of the murders that the victims had been involved in the narcotics trade and the murders were a Cartel hit.
  • A retired DEA special agent pointed out the various ‘red flags’ in the police investigation at the time, and agreed that the murders were the work of Colombian drug cartels.

I have been working on Kris’s case since 1993. I’ve flown thousands of miles and worked thousands of hours to find the truth. Piecing together what really happened on that day in Miami has had me trekking through Colombian Cartel-land and required the testimony of lawyers, policemen, DEA agents, informants and Cartel members. Now, I finally have the chance to present that evidence and get Kris released.

Kris is 78 years old and in poor health. He has had thirty years of his life stolen from him, separated from his loving wife Marita. I won’t stop until they are reunited.

You can help Kris by making a donation to Reprieve.

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