Florida authorities today seeking to block crucial evidence of Briton’s innocence

January 21, 2014

The state of Florida will today seek to block the release of key fingerprint evidence which could demonstrate the innocence of Krishna Maharaj (74), a British businessman sentenced to death in 1987 for murder. 

Although Mr Maharaj’s death sentence has since been quashed, due to misconduct by the judge in his original trial, he has now spent over a quarter of a century in prison and is not eligible for release until he is 101 years old.

Mr Maharaj’s lawyers, including Clive Stafford Smith, Director of legal charity Reprieve, are pushing for swathes of new evidence which could clear Mr Maharaj to be considered by the courts. This includes corroboration of admissions by members of a Colombian drug cartel that the cartel was in fact responsible for the murders of Duane and Derrick Moo Young for which Mr Maharaj was convicted.

Today, the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida in Miami will consider a request from Mr Maharaj’s lawyers that 19 unmatched fingerprints from the crime scene should be compared with those of three cartel members who have been identified as responsible for the murder. The hearing is expected to begin today at 1030 EST (1530 GMT).

However, lawyers for the state of Florida have refused to release the fingerprints to allow for a comparison to take place. The judge is expected to rule today on whether he has the power to require the fingerprints to be compared.

Last week, a former British Government minister said it was “perfectly obvious” that the process faced by Mr Maharaj had been “deeply flawed.” Sir Peter Bottomley MP told ITV News: “We now know cartels were involved; we’re pretty sure that some people in the Miami police may have been involved; and it’s perfectly obvious that the Florida court process was deeply, deeply flawed.”

Commenting, Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “It is scandalous that the state of Florida is blocking the release of evidence that could prove Kris’ innocence.  Not only are they preventing the release of a man who has spent over quarter of a century in prison for a crime he did not commit; they are also in effect protecting the drug cartels who were responsible for the murder. It is essential that the British Government steps up to ensure that their citizen receives a fair hearing, after the string of injustices Kris has suffered.”

ENDS

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Further information on Mr Maharaj’s case, and the new evidence unearthed by his lawyers, can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/krishnamaharaj/