Death Row wife's fury at lack of UK help

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The Independent Online
ON THE eve of a Supreme Court hearing on the case of Krishna Maharaj, the Briton on Florida's Death Row, his wife, Marita, last night accused the British Government of abandoning her husband, who has always professed his innocence in the double murder in Miami of two business associates in October 1987.

Mrs Maharaj, who has remained in Florida throughout the 13 years that he has remained on Death Row, was speaking as a group of senior British lawyers arrived in Tallahassee to present a petition to the Florida Supreme Court signed by 297 British parliamentarians asking that it reverse the murder convictions.

Struggling to stop her tears, Mrs Maharaj suggested that London "had not done enough" and might have intervened, if "my husband was a white man". She contrasted the relative lack of interest in the case with the swelling of support in Britain when Louise Woodward, the nanny, faced trial for murder in Boston.

Maharaj is a British citizen born in Trinidad. He became a millionaire in the Seventies importing bananas and was once the second largest owner in Britain of thoroughbred racehorses.

Maharaj, 60, was convicted in the murder of Derrick Moo Young and his son Duane, who were in a dispute with him about a property investment in Florida that went sour.

Originally sentenced to be executed in the electric chair, Maharaj had his death sentence temporarily suspended in 1997 because of irregularities in his original trial that came to light. The Supreme Court is to consider overturning his original guilty verdicts, in which case he faces being tried again. If the Court upholds his convictions, he could return to court to have his death sentence reimposed again, however.

Julian Knowles, a barrister in Tallahassee to represent the MPs who signed the petition, said there was much concern in London because, "there is palpable innocence here and because there is a Briton who is on Florida's Death Row as a result of a trial that was fundamentally unfair".

No evidence was heard at the first trial that would have showed eight witnesses placing Maharaj 40 miles away from Miami, in Fort Lauderdale, at the time of the shootings. The first trial judge was arrested midway in the trial after being exposed accepting bribes from parties in the case.

Weeping, Mrs Maharaj insisted: "I know that he is innocent and I know that God is going to bring him home."