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THE INJUSTICE SYSTEM by Clive Stafford Smith Kirkus Star


A Murder in Miami and a Trial Gone Wrong

by Clive Stafford Smith

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-670-02370-7
Publisher: Viking

Stinging account of a questionable 1986 death penalty case by the lawyer who tried to get it overturned.

By the time Smith (Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantanamo Bay, 2007, etc.) became involved in the case of Kris Maharaj, the once-wealthy Trinidadian businessman of Indian heritage had been convicted and sentenced to death in Miami for the murder of a former business partner and his son. Smith received a request to examine the conviction from British diplomatic officials. Despite an already overwhelming workload at his New Orleans public-interest law firm (which seeks justice for indigent defendants victimized by unfair trials) and the lack of a budget to pay him, Smith said he would investigate. He sensed quickly from reading the trial transcript that Maharaj had been railroaded. While gathering evidence, Smith pieced together a grim scenario of a conviction based on the machinations of a crooked homicide detective, cheating prosecutors, biased forensic experts, a dishonest judge and appellate justices determined to uphold it no matter how strongly new information suggested Maharaj's innocence. Worst of all, the author determined that the defendant's original trial lawyer had been grossly incompetent and may have intentionally lost the case because of threats made against his family. As the chronicle ends, Smith sees no realistic hope for exoneration, even though he can present an alternative solution that involves South American drug dealers (who had nothing to do with Maharaj) and includes the identities of the actual murderers. In the author’s view, the case is a glaring, but by no means unique, example of massive flaws in the American criminal justice system.

A wrongful-conviction saga different from most others because there is no justice at the end.