An elderly Briton was framed for a murder for which he has spent 28 years in a Miami prison, according to new evidence detailed last night in an investigative BBC report.
Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj, now 75 years old, was handed a death sentence in 1987 in Miami after a seriously flawed trial for the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young. Since then, evidence collected by Mr Maharaj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith of the international human rights organisation Reprieve, has shown that Mr. Maharaj was far from the crime scene, and that the Moo Youngs were killed by members of Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel. Mr. Maharaj could finally be proven innocent after a full ‘evidentiary hearing’ takes place at the Miami District court on November 10th.
In a report broadcast last night, the BBC’s Newsnight detailed how an ex-Miami police officer, now in prison on unrelated charges, has come forward to say he “knows” that Mr. Maharaj was framed. A former convict who knew the police officer told the BBC: “He told me ‘I know that guy, I was there that day… that guy’s innocent [and] I know it because I heard police officers saying they were going to frame him.’”
In an affidavit recently submitted in the case, the ex-policeman says: “I visited the scene of the crime when it happened. I know that Mr Maharaj was framed because one of the officers in charge of investigating the double murder told me flat out that they were going to do this.” He adds that he feels a “moral duty” to help exonerate Mr. Maharaj, and will testify at the hearing.
A government informant also interviewed in last night’s report detailed how a man known as Pablo Escobar’s “most professional” hitman – Manuel Guillermo Zuluaga Salazar, or The Blade – had become “famous” in part for killing the Moo Youngs on Escobar’s behalf.
The November hearing will examine evidence suggesting the murders were a Colombian cartel hit, witness perjury, and a police cover-up in relation to the 1986 murders. Speaking to the BBC, Mr. Maharaj said his 28 years in prison “feels like 280 years to me”, and talked of his hope that “the truth will be revealed at last.” He urged everyone involved to “do the honourable thing, and administer justice.”
Clive Stafford Smith, Mr. Maharaj’s lawyer and Reprieve director, said: “How many cartel members must testify that they did the crime before the US authorities finally accept that this 75 year old man is innocent? So long as they keep Kris Maharaj in prison, the authorities are really just defending Pablo Escobar for one of his many murders. Kris’s innocence is obvious from the evidence detailed by Newsnight. The US legal system has simply got the wrong man – justice must be done, and Kris must be released.”