August 8, 2007
Former British millionaire and convicted murderer seeks freedom
The Associated Press
INDIANTOWN, Florida: Former British millionaire Krishna Maharaj sits in a
prison swatting flies from his face. Beads of sweat form on his broad
forehead as he talks about the "grave injustice" that occurred two decades
ago when he was convicted of a double murder in Miami.
A setup, he claims.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with it," Maharaj said this week in a prison
It's a far cry from his heydays as a wealthy Londoner whose importing
business made him millions. He was once the owner of Britain's
second-largest string of racehorses and had a fleet of 24 Rolls-Royces. Now,
he is prisoner number 109722 at the Martin Correctional Institution.
"I went from living like a prince to existing like an animal," said Maharaj,
He has exhausted all his appeals and now has just one more chance at freedom
Thursday when he begins the process of seeking clemency from the state. "I
will be vindicated," he said.
The British Foreign Office has written to Charlie Crist, the governor of
Florida, in support of Maharaj's clemency plea.
Maharaj was convicted in the 1986 shooting deaths of a Jamaican father and
son in a plush Miami hotel. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for killing
Derrick Moo Young and given a death sentence for the murder of the
23-year-old son, Duane.
The trial attracted protests and news coverage from Britain, where
executions are outlawed. His death sentence was eventually overturned after
15 years on death row. A judge then sentenced him to another 25 years to
life in prison, bringing his total sentence to 53 years to life, including a
mandatory three years for using a firearm in a felony.
During the original trial, prosecutors presented evidence of Maharaj's
fingerprints on plastic wrap used to tie one of the victims and other
evidence that he owned a handgun similar to the one used in the shootings.
Maharaj does not deny knowing the victims or even being in the hotel room on
the day of the killings. But he claims he was 30 miles (48 kilometers) away
in Fort Lauderdale when they were shot to death.
Maharaj and the victims had been friends and business associates and were in
a dispute over money, but he insists he was going to let the courts work
that out. He claims the Moo Youngs were involved in money laundering, and
that is what got them killed.
Shaula-Ann Nagel and Paul Moo Young, Duane's siblings, did not return phone
Maharaj says he was asked to come to the hotel the day of the murders to
talk about a business deal, and that is how his fingerprints ended up in the
room - all an elaborate plot to frame him.
Prosecutors called it a clear case of cold-blooded murder.
A witness testified at his trial that he watched as Maharaj executed the
Aside from his repeated claims of innocence, Maharaj also asserts that the
trial was rigged and the judge sought a bribe from him, an assertion
rejected by the Florida Supreme Court.
The high court found there was no proof of the claim even though the
original judge, Howard Gross, was arrested on charges of taking bribes in
other cases just three days into Maharaj's 1987 trial. Gross was later
acquitted and resigned from the bench, said his attorney, Michael Tarre.
Lawyers representing the Bar of England and Wales, the British House of
Lords and members of the European Parliament asserted that Maharaj's trial
did not meet international standards for fairness. They argued that British
authorities were not advised of the charges as they should have been under
The state Supreme Court also dismissed that claim.
But his lawyer now claims new evidence, including alibi witnesses never
called at trial, merits Maharaj's release from prison.
"There's a very strong argument that if this evidence was considered today
in a fair trial, Kris would never have been convicted and he would have
walked free," British attorney Paul Lomas said this week. "We have no other
avenues. All his appeals have been exhausted."
Miami prosecutors, who handled the original case, declined to comment,
noting only that a jury convicted him and his appeals have failed.
"Twenty-one years of suffering for something I didn't do," Maharaj laments
from prison. "I've survived by the grace of God."
Source : Associated Press