Krishna Maharaj's Conviction Upheld, Lawyers Plan Appeal in 1986 Double Murder Case

Krishna Maharaj, the British millionaire imprisoned since 1986 for a double murder, won't be getting out any time soon.

Despite dramatic courtroom testimony from crooked cops and retired drug runners, circuit judge William Thomas shot down Maharaj's motion to overturn his conviction for killing two businessmen in a downtown hotel room.

Thomas ruled that newly presented evidence linking the killings to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar "falls dramatically short of establishing that the murders were committed by anyone other than Mr. Maharaj. Mr. Maharaj presented a very intriguing theoretical construct that unfortunately lacks a sufficient substantive evidentiary accommodation that would possibly show he is actually innocent and or otherwise entitled to the relief that he seeks."

Thomas clarified that much of the new evidence was interesting but wouldn't be allowed in case of a retrial.

"I didn't find that all of Mr. Maharaj's claims were not supported by factual evidence," he said. "I just found that they were either severely weakened by their admissibility issues."

Shaula-Ann Nagel, whose father, Derrick Moo Young, and brother Duane Moo Young, were found dead in the Dupont Plaza Hotel on October 16, 1986, said the decision was a relief.

"It's another step in our process but I definitely believe in our judicial system and it never wavered for me," she said. "Our attorneys worked very hard and the judge saw the truth. He looked at everything that was presented and this truth speaks for itself."

Nagel's mother, Jeannette Moo Young, passed away in November just as testimony began. Nagel said she felt her mother watching over the trial from above.

"I think my mom helped," she said. "I think by her being up there in heaven and she was tired and god took her at a good time. She was looking down and she was just tired of it. We are all tired of it, and it keeps raising it's head every few years."

In fact, Maharaj's attorneys promised to keep fighting their case.

"Of course there is an appeal," said Clive Stafford Smith. "The guy didn't do it. I don't know what we have to do to convince people of that. Kris is as innocent as any person I've ever met."

Smith took issue with Thomas's decision.

"I don't know under what standard one can possibly deny a person a retrial given the evidence that we presented, so there is clearly room for an appeal," he said. "I'm still totally shellshocked by the idea that, after everything we presented in court, he doesn't get a new trial."

Maharaj's wife, Marita, was also stunned by Judge Thomas's decision.

"I can't believe that this could happen," she said. "Right now I'm completely confused. After all the evidence that we have and everything, how could they say [that]?

"The evidence that we have is so strong and so good, how could we have to appeal?" she said in the courthouse hallway after the decision. "To me, it's just the same story: the corruption continues. I was believing that we had a fair judge but now I see we don't."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.