What could be more distressing than being locked up on death row and in an American prison for 35 years for something you did not do?
British citizen Kris Maharaj has spent 35 years in a Florida prison for a crime he did not commit. All this time his loyal wife Marita has stood by his side waiting for the day when the couple can finally be reunited. Both now 82, Kris and Marita don't have long to get justice.
Innocence should mean freedom
This could be a landmark case if it goes to the Supreme Court. There are too many innocent people stuck in jail who have been failed by the US justice system.
Clive Stafford Smith has put in 7,600 hours of pro bono work over 28 years to prove Kris' innocence. In total, the pro bono work carried out on behalf of Kris equates to $10 million in corporate lawyers' fees. With the investigation at a crucial stage, please give what you can to support him and his volunteers.
Your donation will be doubled!
What happened to Kris Maharaj?
Kris Maharaj is a British citizen who was sentenced to death in 1987 for murdering Derrick Moo Young and his 23-year old son Duane. It is now clear that Kris Maharaj was framed for the murders but the American justice system continues to fail him. Clive and his colleagues got him off death row but he remains in prison with no chance of parole until he is 101.
At 82, Kris struggles to walk and cataracts make it hard for him to see, yet he remains hopeful that he will at last be declared innocent and freed to spend his last days in the company of his wife Marita. They want to move to Bridport, UK near the 3DCentre in Clive's hometown. Let's reunite them before it is too late.
A True Crime Thriller
The fight to prove Kris' innocence reads like a true crime thriller - as told in Clive Stafford Smith's book on the case, Injustice - Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America. Framed for shootings carried out by a Colombian drug cartel (aided by a corrupt police force), Kris is the victim of a corrupt and unfair justice system. The investigation takes us from 1980s Miami - the "murder capital of the USA" and centre for the cocaine trade - to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Colombia, California and across the South of the United States.
Muriel McKay was kidnapped in 1969 in a case of mistaken identity and her body has never been found (see the recent documentary The Wimbledon Kidnapping). The kidnappers planned to abduct Rupert Murdoch's wife Anna; they instead grabbed the wife of a friend to whom Murdoch had lent his Rolls Royce. Muriel's two daughters, Jennifer, 83, and Dianne, 81, have spent half a century unable to honour their mother with a proper burial. They wish to do so before it is too late.
The link between Kris and Muriel:
A man called Adam Hosein provides the link between the two cases. Adam Hosein was suspected of masterminding the McKay kidnap but was never charged. Clive has proved that he later laundered money for Pablo Escobar's cartel in league with the Moo Youngs. An independent witness says Adam Hosein went to the hotel room where the Moo Youngs were murdered with a 9mm pistol; this is corroborated by phone evidence. Evidence shows that the Moo Youngs had been siphoning off money from Escobar - a dangerous pursuit.
Information that might help free Kris Maharaj might also lead to finding the body of Muriel McKay. The next stage of the investigation involves interviewing family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and confidants of Adam who have begun talking since he passed earlier this year.
A Landmark Case in the USA
In 1993, Justice Scalia, in the much-criticized case of Herrera v. Collins, wrote that “there is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction.” In other words, the fact that Kris is innocent is not a reason to set him free. If Kris' case goes to the Supreme Court on the issue of substantive innocence we hope to change the law on that point not just for Kris but for everyone.
How will your money be spent?
Funds raised will be used to seek justice for Kris and others in similar situations where their human rights are being ignored.*
All funds raised will be administered by human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith as director and founder of the non-profit 3DC, registered in the UK.
About Clive Stafford Smith
Clive is a human rights lawyer best known for his work on behalf of prisoners on death row in the United States and detainees in Guantanamo Bay. He founded the Louisiana Capital Assistance Centre in New Orleans that facilitated the careers of scores of justice warriors, as well as the UK human rights charity Reprieve, an organisation that fights for the victims of extreme human rights abuses with legal action and public education. In 2000, Clive was honoured with an OBE for humanitarian services in the legal field. He has represented 87 detainees held in Guantanamo Bay and prevailed all 5 times he has defended the rights of death row prisoners in the US Supreme Court.
“Kris' case has more evidence that was covered up than any of the other 300 capital cases I have done in four decades.” - Clive Stafford Smith
Clive has donated more than 7,600 hours of his time over 28 years to obtaining justice for Kris. His commitment to proving Kris' innocence is a story in itself, but he cannot do it alone.
3DC aims to empower the next generation of social and environmental justice advocates. 3DC offers opportunities to experience campaigning such as Post Mortem and Generation on Trial and legal representation casework for clients including Kris and Bilal Abdul Kareem.
Reunite Star-crossed Lovers
Imagine waiting decades for your loved one, not knowing if you will ever be reunited.
Marita Maharaj has waited 35 years to be reunited with her husband. "It feels more than 35 years," she says, "it feels like a lifetime... It's like a nightmare you can never wake up from."
Marita has visited Kris every week, whenever able, for the past 35 years. Due to the pandemic, she has been unable to see him for the past 2 years - she gets just 5 minutes on the phone with him each day.
“When they sentenced him to death, Kris told me to go home," says Marita. "But I said, ‘no, I came with you, I leave with you. As long as I am alive I will be with you.' I hope that we will soon go home now. And at least we have… a very few years we have left, and I say, 'we’ll be together.' We want to live near Clive, who we think of as our adopted son, in Bridport."
Make a difference
“I couldn’t believe that in America you could be found guilty for something you didn’t do.” – Kris Maharaj
This is your opportunity not only to change the lives of Kris and Marita and correct a gross injustice, but also to pave the way to a fairer justice system in the US.
Kris' case is extraordinary, but he is not alone. There are countless innocent people in jail in the US who, without a change to the law, have little chance of being freed.
"This is little short of a second death sentence for a crime he did not commit." - Sir Peter Bottomley, the longest-serving member of the House of Commons.
"Everybody in the world knows he (Kris) didn't commit this murder. It was committed by Pablo Escobar's cartel. The cops all lied." - Roger Waters, Pink Floyd
"There are very real reasons for thinking that this case should be looked at again by the court and if it did, it would probably overturn the conviction." - Sir Nicholas Lyell QC, UK Attorney General 1992-1997
"There is a plausible possibility that this man was framed." - Lord Goldsmith, UK Attorney General 2001-2006
Reviews of Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith
"A powerful thriller, beautifully told." - Helena Kennedy QC
"This story will beggar belief. Interwoven through Maharaj's Kafkaesque experience is Stafford Smith's exposé of the US justice system." - Literary Review
"Utterly compelling... A superbly written account of only one case, but one of thousands." - John Grisham
"His (Kris') case is a microcosm of a much greater system of institutionalised injustice that corrodes the very basis of freedom and civil rights." - The Times
"Stafford Smith is a true hero." - Jon Ronson
*In accordance with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations guidance, 3DC operates a full costs recovery budgeting protocol for projects, including its casework. This means that up to 10% of any donation in this crowdfund will be used to pay for support costs as well as direct costs, including rent, resource development, insurance and management. We use this protocol because we want 3DC to remain sustainable in the long term.