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Last Updated: Friday, 27 February, 2004, 22:31 GMT
Briton's US murder appeal fails
Krishna Maharaj
Krishna Maharaj claims to have new witnesses
A Briton who has spent 18 years in a US prison for a double murder he denies he committed has been refused a re-trial.

Krishna Maharaj, 65, spent 15 years on Florida's Death Row before his sentence for shooting a drug trafficker and his son was commuted to life in 2002.

His lawyers say there were legal errors in his case and he has new witnesses.

But magistrate Judge William Turnoff said: "Newly discovered evidence which goes only to guilt or innocence is insufficient to warrant relief."

Maharaj's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, filed a 350-page petition with the US Court in 2003 calling for a retrial.

On Friday he told BBC News Online: "I've rarely been as incensed as this."

Referring to the judge's written response, he added: "We filed this appeal over a year ago and it's taken a year to write 10 pages of nonsense."

Mr Stafford Smith said Maharaj was in poor health, which he claimed had been partly caused by gangrene contracted after he fell and injured himself while handcuffed in a prison shower.

"Their whole strategy is to waste enough time so that Krishna dies in a Florida state prison", Mr Stafford Smith claimed.

Precedent

Mr Stafford Smith said the precedent for Judge Turnoff's ruling came from the US Supreme Court case of Herrera vs Collins.

In that case the court held that, in the absence of other constitutional violations, new evidence of innocence was not reason enough for federal courts to order a new trial.

Maharaj claims he has several witnesses prepared to testify he was at a business meeting 25 miles from the crime scene when it happened.

Mr Stafford Smith claimed US authorities had failed to notify the UK Government of Maharaj's case ahead of his original trial, or to tell Maharaj he had the right to contact British officials.

As Maharaj was unaware of his rights he did not raise this violation in his original trial.

It was therefore deemed new material could not be included in subsequent appeals, the lawyer claimed.

He said the situation was "directly out of Catch 22".

Maharaj's supporters claim many other grounds for a retrial exist.

Mr Stafford Smith said the next step would be to try to get a federal judge to reject Judge Turnoff's ruling, allowing the case to go before a Circuit Court judge and if necessary the US Supreme Court.

Taking it to the Supreme Court could take up to 18 months, he said.




SEE ALSO:
Death Row Briton spared execution
28 Mar 02  |  England
Fresh hope for death row Briton
18 Mar 02  |  England


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