Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj, a British businessman sentenced to death in 1987, will tomorrow (March 4th) spend his 10,000th day in a US prison, despite compelling evidence of his innocence.
Now 75 years old, Mr Maharaj was handed a death sentence three decades ago in Miami for the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young. Over the years, evidence suppressed by the US government has leaked, showing the Moo Youngs were laundering up to US$5bn for the Colombian drug cartels. Recently, former cartel operatives admitted that the murders were carried out by the MedellÃn drug cartel on the orders of drug lord Pablo Escobar.
In a January 22nd 2014 letter, the Florida Parole Commission informed Mr Maharaj that his eligibility for parole will be considered in April 2042, by which time he will be 103 years old. In order to qualify for parole in that year, the letter adds, Mr Maharaj must stay “discipline free” for at least 90 days beforehand (as well as staying alive for another 28 years).
In recent weeks, Florida prosecutors have blocked the release of fingerprint evidence that could further demonstrate Mr Maharaj’s innocence. The Florida prosecutors also rely on a US Supreme Court precedent to argue that mere ‘innocence’ cannot be a reason to set a prisoner free if the trial was otherwise fair.
In 2002, Maharaj’s lawyer, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith, succeeded in commuting Mr Maharaj’s death sentence to a life term after serous misconduct by the judge and prosecution came to light.
Reprieve director and Mr Maharaj’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith said: “It is unfathomable to most rational people that the US Supreme Court says that innocence is not a reason to set a prisoner free. 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 now taunts him with the possibility of parole at the age of 103 borders on sadism. We desperately need help to win him justice.”
Kris’ wife Marita Maharaj, who has stood by him throughout his imprisonment, said: “When will this ordeal ever be over? Kris is very unwell, and he means everything to me. He has been bankrupt for twenty years, and the British Government has reneged on its promise to lend us the money to pay for experts that can prove his innocence. Surely Kris’ British passport means more than that?”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to GuantÃ¡namo Bay.