Miami, Apr 5 (AP) Someone gunned down businessman Derrick Moo Young and his adult son in room 1215 of the Dupont Plaza Hotel in October 1986 during the height of Miami’s cocaine wars.
But the man convicted of those slayings, 79-year-old British businessman Krishna Maharaj, has maintained his innocence throughout his three decades in prison.
In a matter of months, Maharaj may get one last shot at convincing a federal judge he is innocent. And he will try to clear his name by pinning the crime on Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel.
Maharaj, who made a fortune in Britain with a fruit and vegetable import business, had relocated to South Florida in the early 1980s to invest in real estate.
Young, who had met Maharaj in London, had offered to oversee the investments when Maharaj was out of town.
At Maharaj’s trial, prosecutors sought to show that Maharaj killed the Moo Youngs, who were Jamaican-Chinese associates, because of a vendetta involving a business dispute.
They had testimony from a man who said he witnessed the killings and was kidnapped, as well as evidence that included the murder weapon, a 9mm Smith & Wesson, with a serial number somewhat consistent with a gun Maharaj had owned.
However, an appeals court found that the serial number could apply to thousands of similar guns, “which was not strong evidence of guilt.”
Maharaj had no history of violence, and he has alibi witnesses who placed him miles away at the time of the slayings. He also has fresh evidence that he was set up to take the fall for the shootings, his lawyers said.
“This guy is patently, patently innocent,” said Clive Stafford Smith, a London-based attorney with the human rights group Reprieve. “I don’t know how long the justice system can put up with that.”
The office of Attorney General Pam Bondi has pointed out that seven courts have previously concluded that Maharaj’s conviction should stand.
“Mr. Maharaj’s evidence consists of vague allegations that invite inferences, and none of it comes together coherently without additional inferences. Only his conclusions fill the gap, but this court is not required to accept such conclusions,” Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Geldens wrote.
The innocence claim by Maharaj, who was born in Trinidad and is a British citizen, has been championed by British media and politicians for years. In 2001, some 300 British politicians, church leaders and judges told former Florida Gov Jeb Bush in a letter they found the conviction rife with flaws and demanded a new trial.
Maharaj never got a new trial, but he did get his original death sentence reduced to life behind bars in 2002.
He lost other appeals in the years to follow.
More recently, his lawyers discovered that a purported Medellin cartel member was in the hotel room directly across the hall from the room in which the slayings occurred, according to court documents. That led to what the lawyers call a slew of new evidence about Escobar’s involvement, even claims that the drug kingpin personally ordered the killings because the Moo Youngs were stealing from him. (AP) NSA
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.