A landmark hearing in Briton Kris Maharaj’s 28-year case concluded yesterday in Miami with key witnesses asserting his innocence.
On the last day of week-long proceedings at the 11th District Court in Miami, the court saw a video statement from Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, a senior lieutenant of notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar’s cartel.
Mr Vasquez said that Mr Maharaj, now 75, was innocent, and that the murders of the Moo Youngs – for which he was handed a death sentence in 1987 – had been coordinated by a hitman of Escobar’s known as La Cuchilla (“The Blade”).
The court also heard the conclusion of cartel member Jorge Maya’s testimony from Colombia via Skype. He told the court that his brother Luis had paid almost one million dollars from Escobar to La Cuchilla for the murders, as well as that of another victim.
The prosecution called one witness to introduce a diary that they represented as belonging to Mr Maharaj, saying it was found at the crime scene. However, a subsequent review of the item revealed that it was actually the diary of Derrick Moo Young, one of the victims. [emphasis added]
Presiding, Judge Thomas announced his intention to rule as early as possible after December 5th, the deadline for both sides to submit post-hearing briefs.
Kris Maharaj’s wife Marita said: “It is a great relief to have heard all this evidence of my husband’s innocence this week, and that it was heard by a judge who was so willing to listen. I have hoped for 28 years to be home with Kris by Christmas and while it may not happen again this year, I do think we are getting close to his day of freedom.”
Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said: “We have now heard from two of Escobar’s men that the cartel did the crime. Surely, now, the State must see that their continued prosecution of Kris Maharaj is really just a defense of Pablo Escobar, the most notorious and violent of all the cartel’s leaders. Let us hope that Kris will soon receive justice.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: (UK) +44 (0) 207 553 8160 or (US) +1 917 855 8064.
2. For background on Kris Maharaj’s case, please see here.