Posts Tagged ‘Florida’


Tree of Life. Pic: Salisbury Amnesty

The latest death penalty report produced by the group is available and thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.  In the report is a link to the Japanese man who has been imprisoned and on death row for four decades and is now of interest again because the Pope has become involved.

Sept – Oct report (Word)

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Briton now has to wait until January for his release

In a recent post we described the situation Kris Maharaj has experienced in Florida USA where he has been imprisoned for 33 years for a crime he did not commit.  There was to be a hearing on 17th of this month but we have just heard from Reprieve that this has been put back until January.   The message from Reprieve is copied below:

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Since you wrote your message of support to Kris Maharaj and his wife Marita, I’m sorry to say there has been a frustrating development.  Kris’ chance at justice was set for October 17th – but yesterday we heard it will not even happen this year.

That’s because the Florida Department of Corrections immediately sought and was granted a 90-day extension until January 18th 2020.  90 days may not sound like a lot, but Kris and his wife Marita have already been waiting 33 years for this nightmare to end.

Any delay is an injustice – and this will take us almost to Kris’ 81st birthday. We need to make sure they do not lose hope.

Can you share this latest instalment of injustice with your friends and family and ask them to add their own words of support?  Here’s a suggested message you can send them:

Kris is a British man who was charged with a murder he could not have committed.  Yet he remains in a Florida prison.  His chance at justice has again been delayed, this time for another 90 days. Add your words of support to Kris and his wife Marita as they endure the latest instalment of their ordeal: https://act.reprieve.org.uk/page/s/send-a-message-of-support-to-kris-and-marita

Or, you can share this story on Facebook or WhatsApp using the below buttons.

 


UPDATE:  Reprieve have sent through a request to send a message of support to Kris and this can be accessed here.  (24 September 2019)

We report – via Reprieve – the good news that a Briton held for 33 years in Florida, has gained the chance of release about 4 years after it was proved he was innocent.  We have received an email from them which is reproduced in full below:

I’ve [Clive Stafford Smith] just had some incredibly exciting news on the case of Kris Maharaj, the Brit who has already spent 33 unjust years in Florida’s prison system for a murder he did not commit. Kris will finally have an evidentiary hearing on October 17th.  The meaning of that might not be initially obvious, but I assure you it’s a very significant development. It’s one I have been pushing for, for a long time.  It means that Kris finally has the chance to prove in a US federal court that he should not have been deprived of his liberty for more than three decades, let alone have been sentenced to death.

I’ve been involved in more than 400 capital cases over the years, and Kris’ is the greatest injustice of them all.  Evidence uncovered in 2014 proved beyond doubt that Kris is not guilty of the murders for which he has been imprisoned.  The state trial court nevertheless refused to order a new trial at the time.  That’s why I’ve been pushing for a Federal evidentiary hearing.

When I took on this case back in 1993, I had no grey hairs.  Twenty-six years on, you’d be hard pushed to find a hair on my head that isn’t grey or white – and a fair number of them have been caused by the traumas of Kris’ case. But just imagine the impact of the last 33 years on Kris and his wife Marita.  It is hard to believe that we could get justice after all the crushing disappointments we’ve been through over the years, but perhaps – just perhaps – Kris will finally come home for his first Christmas in more than three decades.
The possibility of justice would never have arisen were it not for the kindness of all his supporters.  Both Kris and Marita have said their hope wouldn’t have lasted this long without the support they get from the Reprieve community.

It’s going to be a busy month ahead as I prepare for this hearing, but the Campaigns team at Reprieve will be in touch to update you in the run-up to the 17th October.  Thank you, as always, for your support of Reprieve so we can help many people like Kris and Marita.

We reviewed on these pages, a book, Injustice, on this case by Stafford Smith making the point how unsound the American system is.   So Kris is likely to walk free but it is important to bear in mind that he might have been executed by now.  The book goes into remorseless detail about the inadequacies of the American trial system.  We are conditioned by Hollywood films and TV about how heroic it is but for the poor, the system is rotten.  The police do not have to release evidence to the defence (defense) which helps the defendant, a situation which happened in the UK before PACE was passed.

This is an uplifting story but tragically, he has had to spend over 3 decades in gaol for a crime he did not commit.

A search of his name comes up with a photograph of him with the caption ‘Kris Maharaj, murderer’.

Piece by the Sun newspaper on this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Latest death penalty report available

The latest report is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  Note that China remains the world’s largest execution but details are a state secret.

Report (Word)


Death penalty report for March – April 2017

This is the death penalty update report for mid March to mid April thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  Some good news – even in China – where the statistics on the use of the penalty are a state secret, tempered by heavy use in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iran.

Report (Word)



Attached is the death penalty report for mid February to mid March compiled by group member Lesley.  A lot happening around the world and some worrying increases in execution activity.  Note the report does not cover China – the world leader in executing its citizens but keeps the numbers a state secret.

Report Feb – March (Word)


The latest death penalty report covering the period 13 January to 9 February is attached and thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  The report notes that many of the countries which feature in the report have close links with the UK as we have described in previous posts.

Death penalty report (pdf)

Reggie Clemons (picture Amnesty USA)

Reggie Clemons (picture Amnesty USA)


Life and death in the courtrooms of America

It sometimes comes as a shock to people that the only country in the Americas which still has the death penalty is the USA.  It is especially favoured by the southern states such as Louisiana, Texas and Florida and we have on many occasions on this blog mentioned particular cases where the wrong man is convicted of a crime or where the evidence is at best doubtful.

Our view here in the UK of the justice system in America is heavily conditioned by Hollywood films, on screen or on TV, which give a highly biased view of the real life situation.  In these depictions, an innocent man or woman has been wrongfully arrested.  Clean cut lawyers appear for the defendant and there is a tense meeting in the DA’s office.  At some point, the defence (or defense if you’re reading this in the USA) lawyer says ‘we’re outa here’ and they all sweep out.  Hearings, such as a Grand Jury happen as if by magic and subsequent court appearances take place soon after.  Few episodes can go by without a lawyer saying someone’s ‘Miranda rights have been infringed’ and more people sweep out.  Everyone is dedicated to securing justice with the exception of one individual (a witness, police officer or someone needed for the plot) who is found out at the end.  More clean cut young people find a tiny and crucial piece of evidence and this is sufficient to set a defendant free, often in the last minute or so of the trial.  The overall impression is of a system that works – albeit uncertainly at times – with the good guy getting off at the end.

If you read Clive Stafford Smith’s book Injustice * you will find that these Hollywood stories are for many in the States, fiction.  Clive has spent many years in the USA helping people on death row, the majority of whom should not be there.  The book is about one individual, Krishna Maharaj (pictured), who was on death row in Florida for 28 years before being released.  It is a truly astonishing book with 110 pages of detailed notes and describes the dysfunctional legal system in states such a Florida.

The problem – bizarrely – is that an innocent man or woman is often more at risk that someone who is guilty.  Innocent people believe, often wrongly to their cost, that they don’t have to prove anything because they are innocent.  There cannot be any evidence to prove they did it because they didn’t.  They also think that the justice system is unbiased and the truth will out eventually, a ‘touching faith’ as Clive describes it.

 

The book explores these issues in great detail.  America elects its law officers and so there is great pressure to convict to prove to the electorate that you are ‘tough on crime’.  Sentencing people to death is a great way to prove this.  Unlike recent changes to the justice system in the UK, the defence has no right of disclosure.  So the police need only present evidence allegedly proving guilt, and not reveal evidence that proves the defendant innocent.  This practice was also commonplace in the UK before new rules were introduced following some high profile injustices were discovered.  In Florida, because of the enormous amount of money flooding in to the state from the drug barons, corruption is rife throughout the justice system.  Amazingly, the judge himself in Krishna’s trial was arrested for bribery and corruption after three days of hearings.  The police are often themselves involved in the drugs trade.

 

So if the judge was arrested, then surely the trial should start afresh?  No, because defence lawyers are paid so little and on a block fee basis, to start again is something they cannot afford, so they just ploughed on with a new judge.   The quality of defence lawyers is frequently poor and they fail to cross-examine properly, call relevant witnesses or even to meet the defendant that often.  The problem here is that if through incompetence or otherwise the defence lawyer does not raise the issues at trial, then appeal courts will rule matters to be ‘procedurally barred’ subsequently.

So alibis are not called, forensic evidence not challenged, police witnesses’ changes in evidence not challenged and so on and so on.  The result was an innocent man narrowly escaping death row for a crime he did not commit and which was committed it was eventually discovered, by someone acting for a drug cartel.  The man murdered was ‘skimming’ drug profits.  Errors are so great and so frequent that justice would better be served if it was done on the basis of a coin toss.  Fewer would be executed on this basis.

Clive Stafford Smith is an extraordinary lawyer but he is also a great story teller and this account of Kris Maharaj death row case is a powerful thriller beautifully told.  Helena Kennedy QC [senior lawyer in the UK]

Passionate and Humane Mail onSunday

This is a highly recommended book for anyone interested in the justice system.  If you have written letters to governors and others in the States it will explain a lot.  Clive Stafford Smith was the founder of Reprieve.

A story about the case in Miami Herald

*Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith, Vintage books, 2013


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Swindon Lawyer goes to Florida to work on death row cases

A former Swindon Amnesty member and lawyer, Catherine Dunmore, has secured funds from a crowdsourcing site to enable her to go to the state of Florida in the USA to work on first degree murder cases.  She has been there three weeks now and she has a blog which is worth reading.  Florida is one of the states still using the death penalty.

texas executionWe hope you will follow her blog and also be moved to send funds to her crowdfunding site.


This is the latest urgent action, this time for the ‘sunshine’ state of Florida.  Urgent Actions are a key part of Amnesty activity and we ask that people spare a moment or two to write a letter or letters to the people texas executionconcerned.  You can try emailing but these are frequently blocked.  You can read the details in the attachment below.  If you can write it would be appreciated.  Our monthly death penalty report is available.

Urgent Action