Miami Frame-Up Claims Make for Lively Hearing


     MIAMI (CN) - New evidence could help a British former millionaire racehorse owner show that Miami police framed him 26 years ago for a double murder to protect the city's notorious cocaine cowboys.
     Convicted in 1987 for the double murder of a Jamaican father and son in the DuPont Hotel in downtown Miami, Krishna Maharaj, now 74, has continuously proclaimed his innocence, claiming he was miles away in Ft. Lauderdale at the time of the shooting.
     Maharaj's England-based defense counsel Clive Stafford Smith and Miami co-counsel Benedict Kuehne filed a 90-page motion in December to vacate judgment, focusing on the corruption in law enforcement present in the city in the mid-80s.
     Judge William Thomas voiced his thoughts on that motion at a hearing for Maharaj on Tuesday.
     "I was pulling my hair out and this was the result," quipped the bald Thomas. "You have to simplify it. It was so hard for me to follow everything that was presented."
     Most of the hour-long hearing involved prosecutors attacking Smith's 2012 book about Maharaj, claiming he made disparaging remarks about attorneys, one of whom is now a judge, that undermined the judicial system, which is illegal to do for Florida Bar members.
     Smith is not a member of the Florida Bar, but Kuehne, who is, retorted that Judge Howard Gross was arrested while presiding over Maharaj's trial for soliciting bribes from drug traffickers.
     Judge Thomas asked Smith, who has represented Maharaj for 20 years, "Why don't you just wait until you have the information you need so we can have a comprehensive conversation. Why are we doing this so much in piecemeal?"
     Kuehne responded, "We want to obtain relief while our client is alive." Maharaj will be 75 on Jan. 26.
     The defense asked Judge Thomas to compel the state to release fingerprints from the original trial, but were unable to cite a specific case or statute that granted the judge the right to do so.
     Thomas set a hearing for Jan. 21 for the lawyers to produce this.
     "We just need an hour to distill the facts clearly and show that there is more evidence undermining the convictions here than in any of the 300 capital cases I have ever done," Smith said in an interview after the hearing.
     Maharaj's motion states: "Evidence of Kris' innocence has emerged piecemeal since the trial as rights of access changed, data came online and serendipity knocked."
     It continues: "Due to a witness who has come forward after many years, we now know that the police actively framed Kris Maharaj for a crime committed by the cartels. We know that the police had a corrupt agreement with the cartels such that they would protect the true killers and ensure that others were falsely charged in other cases."
     Defending the intricacy of the motion that so confounded Judge Thomas, Smith pointed out that he wrote a book about Maharaj in part because the "case is hugely complex."
     "One thing is rather simple: that Kris is patently innocent," the lawyer added.