Kris Maharaj case: 10,000th day in US jail for British man still protesting innocence over double murder
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 03 March 2014
When Kris Maharaj wakes on Tuesday morning in his cell in the South Florida Reception Centre, it will be the 10,000th day that the Briton has spent in a US prison for a double murder he insists he did not commit.
For the 75-year-old former businessman, it will be another grim milestone after 27 years of incarceration following his conviction for shooting dead his business partner, Derrick Moo Young, and his son Duane in a Miami hotel in 1986.
His British lawyers warned that with his health failing, time is running out to secure the Trinidad-born Briton’s release on the basis of evidence which they say shows the killings were carried out by a Colombian drugs cartel while he was 30 miles away.
Prosecutors in Florida have in recent weeks blocked the release of fingerprint evidence which would allow defence lawyers to compare prints from three Colombian suspects to 19 unidentified sets of prints found at the murder scene.
In the meantime, Maharaj, who is now wheelchair-bound, was sent a letter in January informing him that his eligibility for parole will be considered in April 2042 as long as he stays “discipline free” for at least three months before the hearing, by which time he would be 103 years old. Campaigning group Reprieve said there was “compelling evidence” to prove the innocence of the Briton, who was initially sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment in 2002 after it was accepted due process had not been followed in his trial.
Clive Stafford-Smith, director of Reprieve and Maharaj’s lawyer, said: “That Kris has spent 10,000 days in prison for a crime he did not commit is little more than legal kidnapping. That the state of Florida taunts him with the possibility of parole at the age of 103 borders on sadism. We desperately need help to win him justice.”
The lawyer has obtained statements from key members of the Colombian drugs gang now believed to have been behind the killings, including a former enforcer for the notorious Pablo Escobar, who insists that Maharaj did not commit the crime.
The campaigners have called on the Foreign Office to fulfil an undertaking to grant a £20,000 loan to fund expert evidence, which they claimed has since been reneged upon.
Maharaj’s wife, Marita, said: “When will this ordeal be over? Kris is very unwell, and he means everything to me. He has been bankrupt for 20 years and the British Government has reneged on its promise to lend us the money.”
The Foreign Office said it had offered a loan in “exceptional circumstances” while Maharaj was facing the death penalty and the offer expired when the threat of execution was removed.
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