The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 (UK) or call Clive Stafford Smith in Miami (+1 786 218 0313)

Kris Maharaj Capital Conviction Upheld


Miami Judge William Thomas today refused to grant a new trial to Londoner Kris Maharaj for the murder of Derrick and Duane Moo Young, father and son, in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in downtown Miami on October 16th, 1986.

Judge Thomas refused to consider most of the evidence that the murders were committed by the Colombian Cartels either because he concluded that that State of Florida had not known it at the time of trial, or because he believed it to be hearsay.

Judge Thomas found, for example, that the testimony of government informant Baruch Vega that a cartel operative had admitted committing the murder was "compelling", he decided that it was hearsay. Likewise, while confidential federal informant 'John Brown' (not his real name, as he testified under an alias) testified that Pablo Escobar boasted directly that he ordered the murders, this was also considered hearsay.

Because Florida law, in common with the law of many states, does not recognize a claim of factual innocence, Judge Thomas did not even mention Kris' claim of innocence in his ten page order.

Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith and Miami attorney Ben Kuehne have represented Kris pro bono for more than 21 years, previously securing him a resentencing trial in 2002 when he received a life sentence, but Kris has no chance of parole until after his 100th birthday.

Kris Maharaj, who was not in court today, said: "This is a body blow, enormously dispiriting. More than anything, it is dreadful for my wonderful wife Marita, who has stood by me all this time. I would have given up and just died if it were not for her. But I will not stop fighting for justice until they do carry me out of this terrible place in a coffin."

Marita Maharaj said: "I have waited for a long, long time for justice and I am just shell shocked. I was sure that finally this would be the day. The idea that it might take another year of appeals to have a hope of a new trial is just horrible."

Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said: "This is a sad day for justice. What on earth must one prove to get a new trial? I am confident that we will get this decision reversed on appeal, but with his 76th birthday coming up on January 26th, I am just not sure how many more years of the fight Kris has in him."

Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantanamo Bay.