November 13, 2014 / 9:42 PM / 5 years ago

Fate of Briton serving life term for Florida murders now in judge's hands

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida judge on Thursday wrapped up a three-day hearing to re-examine the 27-year-old conviction of a British man serving a life sentence for an execution-style double murder in Miami that his lawyers say he did not commit.

Krishna Maharaj sits in Circuit Court during a legal hearing in Miami, Florida, November 10, 2014. REUTERS/ Chris Bott/Pool

Attorneys for Krishna Maharaj, 75, said new evidence showed the killings of father and son Derrick and Duane Moo Young at a downtown Miami hotel in 1986 were actually carried out by a hit man working for notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

The defence hopes to persuade Florida Circuit Court Judge William Thomas to overturn Maharaj’s conviction, saying the new evidence indicated the Moo Youngs were money launderers who stole from Escobar’s Medellin cartel. Thomas has not said when he plans to rule, but lawyers said it would likely take several weeks.

On Thursday, an alleged former Medellin cartel enforcer, Jorge Maya, testified in a taped Skype interview from Colombia that Escobar ordered the hit. “I am 100 percent sure that ... Kris Maharaj had nothing to do with the assassinations,” Maya said in a court deposition.

A former U.S. government informant, Baruch Vega, said on Wednesday he learned at the time that the killings were arranged by a top cartel boss who had the hotel room across the hall from where the Moo Youngs were slain.

An American pilot who flew cocaine shipments for the cartel also testified that he heard Escobar say he ordered the killing, telling prosecutors: “You got the wrong guy.”

A lawyer who investigated the Moo Youngs’ finances for a life insurance company, testified that their business records suggested they were money laundering, although they were depicted as legitimate businessmen in the 1987 trial.

Prosecutors said the defence case consisted entirely of hearsay and unproven allegations. The Moo Youngs’ financial records did not change the case “one iota,” said prosecutor Penny Brill.

The fingerprints of Maharaj, a once wealthy businessman who divided his time between Britain and Florida, were found in the hotel room where the murders took place and he had a long-running feud with Derrick Moo Young, prosecutors said.

The money-laundering evidence was “absolute rubbish,” said Shaula Ann Nagel, the daughter of Derrick Moo Young, who sat through some of the hearing. As for the new witnesses, “why weren’t they here 27 years ago?” she said.

Reporting by David Adams; Editing by Peter Cooney

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