Lawyers flying out to clear condemned Briton

 

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The Independent Online

A team of English lawyers will fly to America next week in a final attempt to save a British prisoner from the electric chair.

Kris Maharaj, who was a prominent racehorse owner in the Seventies and a social acquaintance of the Queen Mother, has been on Death Row in a Florida jail for 13 years. His case has been taken up by 300 MPs and peers who believe he is the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice by the American legal system.

His lawyers, led by Geoffrey Robertson, a leading human rights QC, will argue that Maharaj was framed for the murder of two American businessmen in 1986.

The hearing will also highlight allegations of corruption in the Florida judiciary. New evidence will be put to the Florida Supreme Court, which the lawyers claim will show that after four days of Maharaj's trial the judge hearing the case was arrested for accepting a bribe to influence the outcome of another case. The legal team representing Maharaj will allege that the same judge asked for money to do the same in his case and that Maharaj rejected the request.

The lawyers will also raise the possibility of bias after it emerged that a judge in a later pre- sentence hearing of the murder case was instrumental in overseeing Maharaj's original prosecution.

The case will also focus onthe use of the electric chair. The US Supreme Court is considering an application to have the chair replaced as the means of state execution after a convict caught fire while he was being put to death.

A media conference, organised by the MPs Peter Bottomley and Oona King, and Lord Goodhart QC, the vice-chairman of Justice, the human rights group, is being held today in the House of Commons in support of Maharaj.

He was a well-known figure on the international horse- racing scene during the Seventies and early Eighties, and was on speaking terms with the Queen Mother. In the mid-Eighties his Caribbean fruit import business ran into trouble and he relocated to America where he set up a property investment company. Two of his business associates, the father and son Derrick and Duane Moo Young, were shot in a hotel room in Miami.

Maharaj was arrested after an eyewitness identified him as the killer. The crucial witness subsequently failed a lie- detector test while Maharaj passed his. Maharaj's legal team, which includes the leading City lawyer Paul Lomas and the barristers Philip Sapsford QC and Julian Knowles, says that the Moo Youngs were part of a drugs and money laundering syndicate and that Maharaj was set up to be the prime murder suspect.

His defence will also give the names of witnesses, not called at the original trial, who can testify that Maharaj was in Fort Lauderdale, not Miami, at the time of the murders.

If the Florida court rules against him next Thursday there is no automatic right of appeal.

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