Jailed Brit, 78, could go free if US released key evidence

(Reprieve) – The US Government is refusing to disclose evidence that could help free an elderly British man who was sentenced to death in Florida three decades ago.

British citizen Kris Maharaj, 78, was wrongly sentenced to death in 1987 over the murders of two men, Derrick and Duane Moo Young, in a Miami hotel room. Subsequent investigation by Mr Maharaj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, has established that Colombian drug cartels – who were active in Miami at the time – committed the murders. In 2002, Mr Maharaj’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Earlier this year, an appeals court in Atlanta ruled that Mr Maharaj should be given a new hearing, based on the new evidence of his innocence. The case is now set to move back to Miami for a federal hearing before the end of this year, where a single judge will be able to examine fresh evidence collected by Mr Stafford Smith and the human rights organization Reprieve.

Reprieve has previously asked the US government to disclose further records relating to Mr Maharaj’s case, which could help prove his innocence at the hearing. However, the US federal authorities have refused to respond to requests by a state judge for the records. The federal authorities are not compelled to respond to requests from state courts – even if the records in question could be instrumental in deciding a case.

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Speaking to BBC radio from prison in an interview broadcast this morning, Mr Maharaj said:  “It is blatantly obvious that I was framed […] Believe you me; I will be vindicated.”

Clive Stafford Smith – the founder of Reprieve, and pro bono lawyer for Mr Maharaj for 24 years – said:

“For years, the US government has held evidence that could help free an innocent man. Kris and his wife Marita have been through a nightmarish ordeal since 1986 – all they want now is for justice to be done. It is high time the US authorities gave us the information we need to prove Kris’ innocence once and for all.”

This report prepared by Reprieve.