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Kris Maharaj

Aired July 13, 2014 - 22:00   ET



SUSAN SARANDON, HOST (voice over): On this episode of "DEATH ROW STORIES," a millionaire is accused of brutal murders in a downtown Miami hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crime scene was a bloody, bloody mess.

SARANDON: But after a death sentence, one man fights to save his life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In federal court they say, my guy is innocent. They say, too bad, mate. That's got nothing to do with it.

SARANDON: And what he discovers would turn the case upside down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody would say, what? That's not allowed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were series of questions that should have been asked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This case, there was more evidence covered up than any case I have seen in decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a body in the water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was butchered and murdered.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many people proclaim their innocence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this case, there are a number of things that stink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man is remorseless.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He needs to pay for it with his life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The electric chair.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Flashed in front of my eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get a conviction at all cost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another homicide was discovered the Dupont plaza hotel in downtown Miami.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a very sensational crime. How many times do you have a double homicide in a downtown Miami hotel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crime scene was a bloody, bloody mess.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The father was shot six times. He was crawling, trying to escape. The son was shot execution style. This was a pretty shocking case.

SARANDON: The dead men were Derrick Moo Young, a father of four, and his youngest son Duane who had just been accepted to law school.

A few hours after the shootings a journalist named Neville Butler contacted police saying he had seen his boss, 47-year-old Kris Maharaj pull the trigger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our big break was when we received a telephone call that there was an individual named Neville Butler that wanted to speak to us.

SARANDON: Butler described the crimes in painstaking detail to Buhrmaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kris open the door and came out with a gun in hand, a glove on. And that's when I almost passed out. I asked Kris, what on earth is this? He says, keep out of this. That's when he fired the first shot at his leg. That's when Kris must have let go of four or five bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The television that was there, the lamp, and everything had all been shot up. And the television had been destroyed from a bullet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He turned his attention now to the son and said, come with me. And he took him up the stairs and turned him around against the wall and then, the next thing I heard was he shot the boy in the back of his head.

SARANDON: Kris Maharaj was a wealthy importer are from England who started a newspaper business in Miami. He was quickly charged with two counts of first-degree murder. The maximum sentence, the death penalty.

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH, AUTHOR: It didn't look too good for Kris. The lead detective John Buhrmaster said he denied ever being in room 1215. Obviously, his fingerprints were all over the place and hat was a lie. Kris denied of having a gun. He clearly did have a nine millimeter (INAUDIBLE). The ballistics expert came in and said that is the type of gun that was used for this murder.

He had invested in property and Derrick Moo Young was supervising the property. According to Kris, Derrick had stolen $441,000, just embezzled it. So Kris had a motive. He clearly hated the Moo Youngs. And finally the icing on the cake was star witness Neville Butler.

SARANDON: Kris's case went to trial. In court, the defense presented no alibi witnesses and Kris never took the stand.

Ron Petrillo was the defense investigator on the case.

RON PETRILLO, INVESTIGATOR: I knew when I heard all of this going on coming out of the jury room what the final outcome was going to be.

SARANDON: The jury returned guilty verdicts in the less than four hours.

PETRILLO: When it went to the penalty phase, judge gave him the death sentence.

SARANDON: During his ruling the judge declared the coldness and calculated manner in which the defendant executed his heinous plan cannot be overstated. Kris would officially begin his time on death row.

KRIS MAHARAJ, DEFENDANT: Once they gave me the death sentence, I said, God knows I am innocent. They will not kill me. They cannot.

SARANDON: Kris is from England, a country that abolished the death penalty for murder in 1965. With one of their citizens on death row, the British government asked Clive Stafford Smith to investigate the case. Clive was a young idealistic lawyer who made a name for himself fighting death penalty cases on a pro bono basis.

SMITH: By the time I got there in 1994, he had been sentenced to death. He had gone up to the Supreme Court on appeal, to the U.S. Supreme Court. It come back down. And so, my first thought was, my goodness, how did I let myself into ?

SARANDON: Despite his reluctance, Clive agreed to meet with the man he presumed was guilty.

SMITH: I never talk to people when I first meet them about did you do it. They don't trust you. Kris was a rare person who insisted on giving me an a to z lecture about the fact that he didn't do it. And I found that quite convincing. Although the evidence against him was strong at the time.

SARANDON: As a former cop, Ron Petrillo also had doubts about Kris's innocence when he joined the case.

PETRILLO: Initially, I thought Kris just killed these guys. But I'm looking to see where the evidence takes me. And it didn't add up. The deeper I got into the investigation, it began to dawn on me that Kris was innocent.

SMITH: Ron was very, very loyal to Kris. And he carried on after the case was over, even though he wasn't being paid or anything.

SARANDON: Ron and Clive noticed discrepancies in the prosecution's story of the murders and set out to look for answers.

SMITH: I demanded to the see the files of the prosecutor and of the police. I start going through it and I'm sitting there with extraordinarily bad coffee in police headquarters going through a carefully tabbed file. I discovered that Neville Butler, the star witness, failed his polygraph test, note that is showed that the police knew that Kris had lost his gun before the murders took place. This case is more evidence that was covered up than any case I have ever seen in decades.



SARANDON (voice-over): Just a year before Kris Maharaj was put on death row for the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young in Florida, he was living a life of luxury in England.

SMITH: Kris had come to England when he was quite young. Worked incredibly hard and had become a millionaire.

SARANDON: In England, Kris married and had four kids while working his way from a truck driver to a business magnate.

MAHARAJ: I was in business, all sorts of stuff. I started small. And I then became the largest importer.

SMITH: He was a very flamboyant millionaire here in London. He had a Rolls Royce. And then he began to get into horse racing.

MAHARAJ: I was able to purchase a hundred horses. I had 12 trainers.

SARANDON: Kris (INAUDIBLE) was second biggest stable of race horses in England, only the queen (INAUDIBLE). Having emigrated from Trinidad, Kris also mingled with members of parliament, gaining entrance into an upper crust, lily white society rarely available to immigrants of color.

MAHARAJ: When I got arrested for these murders, (INAUDIBLE) members of parliament said we knew Maharaj. Something is wrong. He's being framed.

SARANDON: Kris first met the men he has been accused of killing when he began importing their fruit from Jamaica. After years of doing business together, Derrick Moo Young asked Kris to invest in houses he was building in Florida.

MAHARAJ: My plan was when I reached 65 I would spend the summer month in England and the winter month here in Ft. Lauderdale. And I invested the money with him.

SARANDON: But according to Kris, the Moo Youngs took his money and embezzled it. They also incorporated as KDM distributors, a name eerily similar to Kris' company and allegedly started withdrawing money from Kris' accounts.

SMITH: According to Swiss, Derrick has stole in property with $441,000. So you could see why Kris would be very angry. He wanted to put an end to this.

SARANDON: Kris was used to settling dispute with words, not weapons. He sued the Moo Youngs and told Clive he expected to win. MAHARAJ: There was no question of me killing them for the money. As

a matter of fact, killing them would have made me lose the money, obviously.

SARANDON: But if Kris then had little reason to walk into the Dumont hotel with a loaded weapon, why was there so much evidence pointing to him as a suspect?

According to Kris, he went to the Dupont at 9:30 a.m. on the morning of the murders to meet a potential business partner for the newspaper he started in Miami. Neville Butler, the man who would claim to see Kris commit the murders, set up the meeting.

MAHARAJ: Neville took me up, opened the apartment.

SARANDON: But the man Kris was supposed to meet wasn't there.

MAHARAJ: Neville Butler said perhaps he went out.

SARANDON: The two men waited nearly an hour.

MAHARAJ: He insisted I wait. I said, no, I'm going. I'm never late for an appointment. I'm always on time. And I left.

SARANDON: At 10:30 Kris drove 25 miles to Ft. Lauderdale and attended meetings during the hours when the murders took place and he could prove it. Kris had alibi witnesses including an employee in his newspaper named Tino Geddes.

PETRILLO: Tino swore to me that he had been with Kris, gone on lunch, stayed by Kris.

SARANDON: The manager at a restaurant, Kris speak with him, also clearly remembered seeing Kris at lunch.

RON KISCH, RESTAURANT MANAGER: I know I saw Kris the day of the murders because there was a person who was sick. And I needed to come in and fill in for that person. It doesn't seem like there is any way possible that he could have killed people at 12:00 and then been in for lunch sometime between 12:00 and 2:00.

SARANDON: five other witnesses would come forward placing Kris with them at the time of the murders.

MARIANNE COOK, DOCTOR: I don't have any doubt at all I saw him that day. So that was 12:00, 12:30, within that time.

SARANDON: Yet Neville Butler told Miami PD homicide detective John Buhrmaster a convincing account of seeing Maharaj commit the murders in cold blood. Someone had to be lying.

Butler was a home run for police. Not only could he identify Maharaj, he would go on to lead the detective Buhrmaster to where he and Kris planned to meet for dinner.

MAHARAJ: I was at Deny's having dinner. And I saw Neville walk in with a man. He put on a gun and told me I'm detective Buhrmaster. You will be arrested for murder. I said, what are you talking about?

SARANDON: Kris would be with taken for interrogation and start differences would be merged about what was said during that conversation.

SMITH: Jumped in and I was this said that Kris denied ever being in room 1215 while his fingerprints were all over the place.

SARANDON: Kris's fingerprints would only be significant if he denied being in the room to the police.

MAHARAJ: I told them that I went to the hotel. I was in room 1215 for about an hour.

SMITH: Buhrmaster also said that Kris denied having a gun. He clearly did have a .9 millimeter pistol.

MAHARAJ: That is another manufactured answer by Mr. Buhrmaster. I told him, yes, I owned a gun. And I owned one when I was living in Trinidad. In England, I owned a gun.

SARANDON: But if Buhrmaster talk, Kris was trying to hide something. He never took a sworn statement during the interrogation to document that facts. And a lie detector test Kris took later that evening would support Kris's version of events.

PETRILLO: They had one of the top polygraph examiners in Florida do the tests. Kris passed. That was plain and simple.

SARANDON: Despite passing the lie detector and having numerous alibi witnesses, Kris was booked and held without bail. It would be a year before he would get his day in court.

MAHARAJ: Put it this way. I went from living like a prince to existing like an animal.

SARANDON: On the eve of trial, Kris and his investigator Ron Petrillo felt good about their chances.

PETRILLO: Kris had seven or eight alibis. I had located people and gotten sworn statements that put him squarely in Broward County some 25 miles away during the time that these murders occurred.

SARANDON: But with the trial approaching, Kris got word that one of his key alibis, Tino Geddes, was about to change his story.

PETRILLO: Everything that Tino had said, that he was with Kris, that Kris was in Broward County when the murders took the place, it was all a lie, according to Tino.

SARANDON: Gededes was now going to testify for the prosecution. And no one, including Kris, was prepared for the accusations Geddes was about to make.



SARANDON (voice-over): Kris Maharaj was facing the death penalty for the murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young when shortly before trial, Tino Geddes, one of Kris's key alibi witnesses had a dramatic change of heart.

PETRILLO: Tino Geddes worked for Kris at a newspaper that Kris owned. From day one he swore to me that he had been with Kris. Now Tino has changed his story on the day the murders were committed. He wasn't with Kris, Kris wanted the Moo Youngs dead.

SARANDON: Tino was now claiming Kris's actions in the murders had been premeditated. John Kastrenakes was a prosecutor on the case.

JOHN KASTRENAKES, PROSECUTOR: Mr. Geddes told us he had been with Kris Maharaj on several occasions when he had tried to kill the victims and members of their family. And that in fact that Kris Maharaj's saw motive in life at that point in time was the death of Derrick Moo Young.

SMITH: Tino said Kris did a dry run at the Dupont hotel where he prepared to murder the Moo Youngs and Kris was going to burst through from room 404 to room 406 to do it. I went to the Dupont Plaza hotel and there is no door between 404 and 406. There are all sorts of reasons why Tino is lying. The question was why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think Geddes changed his story?

PETRILLO: Tino Geddes had a DUI trial coming up. And he was also being charged for smuggling guns and ammunition.

SMITH: If he was smuggling a bunch of guns into Jamaica at a time of a very, very harsh sentencing, my experience is the vast majority of people when they face life in prison are willing to say what the prosecution wants them to say about pretty much anything, probably about their grandmother.

SARANDON: In Tino Geddes's misfortune, the prosecution sensed an opportunity and flew to Jamaica to help their new witness.

PETRILLO: (INAUDIBLE) and John Kastrenakes went to testify on his behalf and got him off with, I think, just a fine instead of doing jail time. And I thought, well, OK. They're doing their job. Until I found out they and Tino went to a strip club. A lot of people would say, well, what they do on their time is their business. But they are there on my dime as a taxpayer testifying on behalf of this man and they go to a strip club with him? Yes, I say that that they got a little too close.

SARANDON: Kris's trial began October 5, 1987. Almost exactly one year after the murders occurred. It was presided over by Judge Howard Gross, known to friends as mousey because of his small frame and large ears. Kris' attorney was Eric Hendon who helped other accused killers avoid the death penalty.

During opening arguments the prosecution contended the Moo Youngs were innocent businessmen gunned down by Kris, the cold-blooded killer. Eric Hendon told the jury they would hear fictional stories from the prosecution worthy of a Hollywood drama. But on the third day of trial, the proceedings came to a sudden halt.

SMITH: What happened on day three of the trial, if you can believe it, is that Howie, the mouse, doesn't show up because he's been arrested taking kickbacks in another case. And he'd been caught by enforcement agents posing as drug dealers.

SARANDON: Mousey's removal was a golden opportunity for Kris' lawyer, Eric Hendon to call for a mistrial. With a new trial, Hendon would know the prosecution's arguments ahead of time. Without a new trial, the judge replacing Mousey could face deciding the death sentence without hearing all the evidence.

MAHARAJ: I wanted a mistrial. Then Hendon, to me, my advice to you, not to ask for a mistrial.

SMITH: He said they would go on with the trial because he felt he made some headway and they had a good jury.


SMITH: Probably the main motivation was he was on a set fee. You're going to have to start over and that cuts into your fee.

SARANDON: Hendon would maintain he worked hard on behalf of his client, but letting the trial continue seemed like an unusual choice and the jury would go on to hear six days of testimony, all directed against Kris.

Neville Butler testified about the graphic details of the murders he said he'd watched Kris commitment. Tino Geddes told prosecutors Kris asked him to fabricate an alibi. And Detective John Buhrmaster said Kris had tried to cover up the crime during his interrogation. When the case was finally turned over to the defense, Hendon's judgment would, again, come into question.

PETRILLO: And Eric said to me that if he didn't call any witnesses he would have two shots at the jury in closing argument. I said, you're not going to do that. I have all these witnesses. You're not going to do that. He didn't answer me.

SARANDON: Eric Hendon's defense case for Kris would consist of only nine words.

PETRILLO: Eric stood up and said, your honor, the defense rests. Eric didn't call a single witness. Nothing. I thought Kris was going to rip the skin off my forearm.

MAHARAJ: I just couldn't believe it. I was shocked.

SMITH: It's not often in a capital case you get six alibi witnesses putting your client somewhere else. Why on earth did the client not put those on?

PETRILLO: I have never wanted to hit another human being, physically attack another human being like I did that day with Eric Hendon.

SARANDON: The jury responded to Hendon's strategy by returning guilty verdicts for two first-degree murders. They would also vote whether to recommend the death penalty. And with Florida being the only remaining state where a simple majority is needed in sentencing, the vote in favor of death passed by a count of 7-5. The judge who replaced Mousey agreed. Kris would be sentenced to die in the electric chair.

PETRILLO: Kris fainted. Kris hit the floor, passed out completely.

MAHARAJ: When the verdict came, I thought, this can't be real. It is unreal. I couldn't believe in America you could be found guilty for something you didn't do.



SARANDON (voice-over): When Clive finally got the chance to appeal Kris's case in 1995, he immediately set out to present all the alibi witnesses who were never called at trial.

SMITH: I talked to the alibi witnesses. They were very convincing. They said, it's true. Kris was not at the Dupont Plaza hotel at 12:00 noon that day because he was with us out in Ft. Lauderdale.

SARANDON: But Kris' alibis fell on deaf ears as the courts would only consider whether Kris had received a fair trial in 1987.

SMITH: It's very hard to win a case on just saying the facts of it. Mostly it's all about where people discouraging the call legal technicalities.

SARANDON: But Clive did have an opening. If he could show Kris' attorney, Eric Hendon, had been ineffective in representing Kris, he would open the door to a new trial and new witnesses. Ben Kuehne also worked on Kris' appeals and would cross-examine Hendon.

BEN KUEHNE, ATTORNEY: Eric Hendon was over his head at that time. He needed help in a case of this magnitude. And Kris just suffered the consequences as a result of his lawyer's errors.

SARANDON: But Hendon needed to admit under oath that he made mistakes. And when Ben asked him why he didn't present Kris' alibis, Hendon told the court, it appeared to me as if these were alibi witnesses who have been sought out. It seemed all too convenient. In other words, Hendon didn't believe any of Kris' alibis.

KUEHNE: How is one lawyer going to be the judge of the credibility of a witness who could be the key to a not guilty verdict? That's not a decision for a lawyer to make. Not with the stakes this high.

SMITH: Hendon said he had a strategic reason for not putting on the alibi. He thought the alibi was too good. Now, once a lawyer says that, and it takes it out of the realm of ineptitude and you have to comes a strategic lawyer that the court made a second guess.

SARANDON: Ultimately, the court disagreed with Clive and Ben, refusing to find that Eric Hendon had been ineffective.

Clive was still convinced Kris was innocent and while preparing further appeals, he came across the prosecution's files and discovered evidence he felt police and prosecutors apparently didn't want Kris to have.

SMITH: I start going through it. And I discovered the police knew Kris had lost his gun before the murders ever took place. I discovered that Kris had actually told them from the very beginning he'd been in room 1215. So all the fingerprints, there was a perfectly innocent explanation.

SARANDON: Clive had also seen photographs from the crime scene of a briefcase belonging to the Moo Youngs. The contents were something Ron Petrillo had requested to see before Kris' trial.

PETRILLO: I went to the detective bureau. Buhrmaster was too busy to see me. And he sent out a young girl. And I opened the briefcase and it's empty. And I said to her, where are the contents? She said that detective Buhrmaster told her to tell me that he didn't find anything of any evidentiary value and returned the contents to the family.

SMITH: Buhrmaster said they got rid of the Moo Youngs' briefcase. That wasn't true. Here in the file were hundreds of pages of notes of the Moo Youngs. These all sorts of intriguing stuff. It was like Christmas, really. Far from the innocent people making $24,000 a year that they were portrayed at trial. They were offering loans around the Caribbean to the tune of first $100 million, then $250 million. It's just extraordinary stuff.

PETRILLO: They didn't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out. Where were they coming up with $100 million?

SARANDON: Shortly before their deaths, Derricks and Duane Moo Young also took out over a million dollars worth of life insurance. The company that issued those policies found the timing suspicious and hired an attorney to investigate.

BENTON VER PLOEG, INSURER'S ATTORNEY: Theoretically, the Moo Youngs were engaged in import-export. But the Moo Youngs headquarters which consisted of a garage at the family home had only had left an old telex machine and no documents whatsoever. The more we learned about it, it seemed they were either selling fictitious goods entirely or they were laundering the money.

SARANDON: But if the Moo Youngs were involved in money laundering, whose money were they laundering?

PLOEG: Those kinds of dollars and narcotics go hand in hand in Miami, particularly in the 1980s. I think that is fair to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was in the early '80s.

SMITH: I didn't really get that. I really didn't understand Miami in the '80s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say hello to my little friend!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal agents seized 25,000 pounds of cocaine.

SARANDON: In the early 1980s the Moo Youngs were operating in a city where drug smuggling was bringing in an estimated $7 billion to $12 billion a year.

EDNA BUCHANAN, JOURNALIST: The banks in Miami had more money than all the other banks in the country put together. People were walking in and buying Mercedes and Porsches for cash.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miami could be described as the overseas corporate headquarters for money laundering for the Columbian.

SARANDON: With so much drug money at stake cartel violence ballooned into what would be known as the cocaine wars. And law enforcement was quickly overwhelmed.

JOHN HANLEN, FORMER FBI AGENT: We had bank robberies, kidnapping, extortion. One with of the guys shot me through the fingers, in the back of the arm. Standing between my legs, I went to kick him and he shot me in the groin. I figured he would kill me.

BUCHANAN: These drug dealers were the most violent, desperate criminals we ever had in South Florida. They'd see a pretty girl in a car. They would rape and kill the girl and keep the car.

SARANDON: In 1980, Miami's homicide rate doubled turning the city of sun and beaches into the murder capital of the nation.

There have been so many murders throughout greater Miami lately that a special refrigerated truck is now being used to store all the bodies.

BUCHANAN: It turned out it was a refrigerated truck that they have rented from Burger King to hold the overflow of bodies.

SARANDON: Clive was beginning to see the frame around the picture of the murders. And he now wondered whether the Moo Youngs have found themselves caught in the cross hairs of Miami's cartel violence. Clive felt the road map to Miami and the '80s could be found in the Moo Youngs' briefcase.

SMITH: We figured out the Moo Youngs was laundering money for the cartels. They got greedy. They came up with a great plan to skim one percent of the money. So, if you're ripping off the Columbian drug cartels there is a strong motive for you getting killed than what was going on with Kris. It totally reframed the case. Now we have a huge alternative suspect.

SARANDON: A suspect that happened to be staying in the room directly across the hall from the murders.



SARANDON (voice-over): Clyde Stafford Smith uncovered evidence suggesting that before the Moo Youngs were murdered they may have been stealing money from a Columbian drug cartel and a photo Ron Portillo had seen from the crime scene would buttress Clive's theory.

PETRILLO: When you look at the crime scene photos, there were blood drops in the hall and there is blood smear on the door frame of 1214. It begs the question, who was in 1214?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you find out who was it?

PETRILLO: Yes. I wound up bribing an employee. I found out it was a guy named Mejia.

SARANDON: Jaime Vallejo Mejia told police he was an importer-exporter from Columbia. But the truth was Mejia would soon be busted by the drug enforcement administration for money laundering.

PETRILLO: Detective Buhrmaster said, I chatted with him for a few minutes. Standing in the hallway. And he didn't seem to know anything.

SMITH: This is the only other guy who's there, only other room occupied on the floor. We discover that Mejia was wanted at the time of Kris' trial for conspiracy to take $14 million in cash in a suitcase to Switzerland.

SARANDON: Former DEA agent Dave Larino had his own opinion about Mejia.

DAVE LARINO, FORMER DEA AGENT: Mejia was involved in the money laundering business, not only was he working for Escobar but there was money being done for the Ochoyo organization as well. Jaime told the police that he ran an import-export company and works for U.S. insurance companies. That doesn't make any sense. People who sell insurance don't run an import-export business. And why is there blood on his door if everything happened across the hall? It doesn't add up. There were a series of questions that should have been asked of him that weren't asked.

SARANDON: Officers took a brief statement from Jaime Mejia and let him go.

Would the jury had Kris' trial have found an alternate explanation for murder if they had seen evidence about the Moo Youngs and Jaime Mejia? While preparing Kris' appeals, Clive pieced together his own theory of the scheme that played out that day.

SMITH: And what happened was this in my mind. The Moo Youngs were laundering money for the cartels. They started skimming money off the top. They then got in trouble. They were set up so they would meet in the Dupont Plaza Hotel and Kris was meant to be there, too. All three were meant to die. It was going to be left as a murder-suicide where you've got the two guys you like killed and someone else fingered for it. Clearly Neville Butler was there. Somehow Mejia must have been supervising it.

SARANDON: But the courts weren't the least bit interested in Clive's theoretical suspects or the evidence he'd uncovered. Innocence wasn't the issue.

SMITH: One of the bizarre things I think most Americans have no idea about is that whether you are innocent or not is not a legal issue. You go in to federal court on that petition and say, my guy is innocent. They say, too bad, mate. That's got nothing to do with it. And the judge actually said that in Kris' case.

SARANDON: But Clive did managed to introduce a document in to the preceding that the courts could not ignore. A document showing Kris' death sentence had been written by someone other than Kris' judge.

SMITH: I had seen a certain amount of judicial corruption. And I find in the prosecution files orders sentencing Kris to death that were dated 13 days before the sentencing hearing. They were written by the prosecutor. It said JSK. And that's obviously John Kastranakes.

SARANDON: In allowing the prosecutor John Kastrenakes to write Kris' death sentence, the judge who replaced Mousey had apparently decided to impose the death penalty before hearing Kris's character witnesses at the sentencing phase of trial.

KUEHNE: The judge asks the prosecutor, would you prepare a proposed sentencing order imposing the death penalty before the sentencing had been completed. Anybody in the world would say, what? That's not allowed.

SARANDON: The evidence was enough to vacate Kris' death sentence. He would no longer be scheduled to die in the electric chair. But Kris was far from a free man.

Clive and Ben would now argue for a more lenient sentence for Kris in front of a judge and jury who could once again sentence Kris to death. This was not a trial about innocence or guilt, only the proper punishment and Kris' wife would look on. At the hearing the state brought back Kris' familiar detractors, detective John Buhrmaster and Neville Butler who reconfirmed their original testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you observe about him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That he had a gun in one hand, a pillow in the other.

SARANDON: The jury was not allowed to hear any of the new evidence Clive had discovered. They did the listen to 24 character witnesses in support of Kris, including Peter Bottomley, Kris' friend from the British parliament who testified via satellite.

PETER BOTTOMLEY, WITNESS: I like him and I respect him. I find him the kind of person who I'm pleased to be associated with.

SARANDON: Finally after seven days of emotional testimony, the jury would hand down a new sentencing recommendation for Kris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jury advises and recommends to the court to impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the first 25 years.

KUEHNE: The judge imposed a life sentence. That saved Kris' life.

SMITH: That just meant he wasn't on death row anymore. He was still going to die in prison.

SARANDON: Kris' appeals had gone through the Florida courts and the federal level without so much as a hearing about his innocence. So the question remained, why was there so much evidence that Kris did not commit the murders?

As it turned out, one man had an answer to that question, a cop who said he was there the day of the murders and knew all about them because he helped cover them up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Investigations will continue in the biggest police corruption scandal in Miami history.

SARANDON (voice-over): While Miami police rebutting a crime wave in the early 1980s, a new enemy suddenly emerged. Corruption within the ranks.

HANLEN: Particularly in the early '80s, Miami police rushed out and made a lot of hirings without bothering to look too deeply at the backgrounds of the people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Already, 11 officers have been arrested or relieved of duty this year.

MIGUEL EXPOSITO, FORMER MIAMI POLICE CHIEF: They put in additional background investigators. And some of those people were tied into the drug dealers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: The latest allegations go beyond cocaine and cops. Charges now of first-degree murder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can say we are trying to clean our own house.

BUCHANAN: Everybody you thought you could trust, you couldn't trust anymore in Miami.

SARANDON: As it turned out, one police officer jailed for corruption would hear about Kris' case and tell Clive he knew what happened because he was there.

SMITH: I had started courting -- that's the only word for it -- a witness who was within the police who could tell the truth. Now, this officer told me that the police back in the 1980s had a deal with the drug dealers where they would protect the murderers going around killing people in the drug cases. They would frame someone else for the crime. This officer told me, yes, yes, Kris was framed. It was my former partner did it. And he told me he'd done it.

SARANDON: It took Clive a full year to convince the former cop who asked to be called Fred to go On the Record. And in a sworn statement Fred declared, I was formerly a police officer in Miami. I was persuaded by another prisoner to tell what I know about Kris Maharaj to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith. I don't expect to benefit from doing this. I know the particulars of the Maharaj case. Indeed, I visited the scene of the crime when it happened. I know Mr. Maharaj was framed because officers investigating the double murder told me flat out they were going to do this. I have a moral duty to help free a man who had been framed and in prison for 26 years and spent many of those years on death row. He could have been executed for something he did not do.

While Fred may believe the cops in Kris' case were on the take, he has never identified the individuals involved. No evidence has been presented in court to substantiate his claim. But recently, some of Clive's suspicions about who killed the Moo Youngs were confirmed when he sent someone to Columbia to speak with the man who had been in the room across the hall from the murders.

Jaime Vallejo Mejia was flanked by four men with guns when he confirmed the Moo Youngs had run afoul of Pablo Escobar's drug smuggling operations in the 1980s. And that he has said the Moo Youngs had to be dealt with.

MARITA MAHARAJ, KRIS' WIFE: I visit Kris every week. I don't tell people about Kris' case. I don't discuss Kris' case because if I tell them, they will think I'm crazy. He's not losing his hopes, you know, that's good.

MAHARAJ: All I can say about her is God sent her to me. She's a blessing sent by God. If I would switch places with Marita, I would not have put up with what she did. She's one in a million. She's the heroine of this tragedy.

M. MAHARAJ: You could not have a better husband. Even now that he's in prison there is nothing really he can do for me. But he has a lot of hope.

SARANDON: In 2008, Clive and Ben Kuehne submitted a clemency appeal to the governor of Florida documenting the actions of police and prosecutors in the case and presenting the new evidence they had found.

SMITH: There was a very strong case for clemency. I mean, Kris had been in prison for over 20 years which is a long time to serve for anything. But the victims' family showed up en masse. And it was Charlie Crist was the governor at the time. He instantly denied clemency.

By now Kris is 70 years old. He's in bad health. His poor wife Marita has stuck by him. I have been representing Kris now for 18 years. And I have failed to get him justice. The most culpable character in Kris' case is the justice system. It is just not interested in justice. As we develop more and more evidence to prove that, a, he's innocent and, b, had an unfair trial. No one wants to listen.