The Injustice System: A Murder in Miami and a Trial Gone Wrong

The Injustice System: A Murder in Miami and a Trial Gone Wrong

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by Clive Stafford Smith
     
 

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The maverick public defender who inspired John Grisham tells the story of his most frustrating case

A man accused of a murder he didn’t commit languishes on death row. A crusading lawyer is determined to free him. This powerful book reads like a page-turning legal thriller with one crucial difference: Justice is not served in the end.

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Overview

The maverick public defender who inspired John Grisham tells the story of his most frustrating case

A man accused of a murder he didn’t commit languishes on death row. A crusading lawyer is determined to free him. This powerful book reads like a page-turning legal thriller with one crucial difference: Justice is not served in the end.

In 1986, Kris Maharaj was arrested in Miami for the murder of his ex- business partner. A witness swore he saw him pull the trigger and a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. But he swears he didn’t do it. Twenty years later, he’s bankrupted himself on appeals and been abandoned by everyone but his wife.

Enter Clive Stafford Smith, a charismatic public defender with a passion for lost causes who calls up old files and embarks on his own investigation. It takes him from Miami to Nassau to Washington as he uncovers corruption at every turn. Step by step, Clive slowly dismantles the case, guiding us through the whole scaffolding of the legal process and revealing a fundamentally broken system whose goal is not so much to find the right man as to convict.

A bombshell whose final chapter should re-open a long closed case, The Injustice System will appeal to fans of true crime and anyone who has served on a jury.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Smith (Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantanamo Bay), a veteran defender of criminal cases, first became involved with Krishna Maharaj in 1994 as the Trinidadian man faced execution for the murders of two Jamaican businessmen in Miami. The book is organized around Maharaj's more than 25 years in the criminal justice system and the actors involved. Smith combines details of this conviction with related cases and policy issues. Using forensic accounting techniques and historical insights into the drug wars of that era, he argues that the defendant was falsely convicted. Significant but fairly technical issues about the appeals process through the Supreme Court level are raised along with a thoughtful discussion of victims' rights in the United State. VERDICT Although the narrative may be too policy-oriented for casual readers of true crime, its scope and human-interest angle will engage concerned citizens and students of the criminal justice system. This is a well-written, detailed, and intriguing case study of justice denied from a crusading insider's perspective.—Antoinette Brinkman, formerly of the Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
The New York Times Book Review - Marilyn Stasio
This is the kind of puzzle plot Bannister is known for; Gabriel is the kind of character who takes satisfying shape before your eyes; and Hazel's is the kind of classic detective work that's always welcome in a mad, mad world.
The New York Times Book Review - Abbe Smith
…Smith paints a bleak picture of criminal justice in America…There are dishonest cops, smug prosecutors, a feckless defense lawyer (now a judge) and venal witnesses…The Injustice System is…a moving tale of devotion by an extraordinary lawyer who nearly bankrupts himself and his fledgling public-interest law office to fight for his client's life and liberty. Smith is at his best when he shares small stories—his first visit with Maharaj; his talks with Maharaj's wife…and his own feelings of despair.
Publishers Weekly
Smith, a longtime defense attorney specializing in capital crimes in Louisiana, focuses on the case of Krishna Maharaj, a successful businessman convicted of the 1986 Miami murder of his former partner, Derrick Moo Young, and Moo Young's son. As Smith, who handled Maharaj's appeals, digs through Maharaj's case, he uncovers a shocking web of prosecutorial misconduct, apparent defense incompetence, judicial corruption, and the possible involvement of Colombian drug cartels. Despite uncovering all of these things, Smith was still unable to get the legal system to give Maharaj a fair retrial, and while his sentence has been reduced to life imprisonment, he is still in jail for a crime insists he did not commit, a claim supported by several alibi witnesses. By focusing on and exhaustively researching the Maharaj case, Smith (The Eight O'Clock Ferry to the Windward Side) exposes flaws in the legal system as a whole, and forces readers to confront unpleasant truths and their preconceived notions of criminals, justice, and jurisprudence.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Injustice System

“A complicated whodunit . . . In the course of recounting the crime, trial, and appeals, Smith paints a bleak picture of criminal justice in America—this is Miami after all, not some backwater town. There are dishonest cops, smug prosecutors, a feckless defense lawyer (now a judge), and venal witnesses. . . . A moving tale of devotion by an extraordinary lawyer who nearly bankrupted himself and his fledgling public-interest law office to fight for his client’s life and liberty, The Injustice System reveals the deep gap between cherished ideals and harsh reality in a country addicted to incarceration.”
The New York Times Book Review

“True stories of wrongful convictions are by their nature utterly compelling, but most Americans don’t believe them. How can our vaunted system break down so miserably? In The Injustice System, Clive Stafford Smith details a spectacular example of a bogus conviction, and the many lives ruined by it. It is a superbly written account of only one case, but one of thousands.”

—John Grisham

“An empowering read for anyone who cares about the human implementation of justice.”

—Colin Firth

 “Clive Stafford Smith is an extraordinary lawyer, but he is also a great storyteller . . . a powerful thriller, beautifully told.”

—Helena Kennedy

 “A terrific read. Stranger than any fiction and much more exciting than Miami Vice.”

—Geoffrey Robertson

 “If you believe in the death penalty, read this book. It will change your mind and change your life.”

—Susan Hill

  “Clive Stafford Smith is a true hero and this book helps explain why.”

—Jon Ronson

“A well-researched book about a suspected wrongful conviction . . . The tension within the pages is relentless. . . . Based on his own investigation, Stafford Smith alleges evidence was cooked by an overzealous homicide detective, prosecutors bending the principles of justice they are sworn to uphold, forensic examiners providing biased readings of evidence, witnesses committing perjury, a trial judge who was less than devoted to evenhandedness, and appellate justices dismissing powerful new evidence suggesting Maharaj’s innocence. . . . As in so many alleged wrongful conviction cases—and in so many documented exonerations—it is puzzling to calculate how a dozen jurors all failed to find ‘reasonable doubt.’”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Smith packages this revealing analysis of the broader justice system in a true-life legal thriller about one particularly egregious case. . . . He shines a harsh light on the conventional belief that the innocent rarely go as far as trial and are seldom convicted, and the immunity of prosecutors from accusations of wrongdoing, including withholding evidence that could prove defendants innocent.”—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101585580
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/08/2012
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A complicated whodunit . . . In the course of recounting the crime, trial, and appeals, Smith paints a bleak picture of criminal justice in America—this is Miami after all, not some backwater town. There are dishonest cops, smug prosecutors, a feckless defense lawyer (now a judge), and venal witnesses. . . . A moving tale of devotion by an extraordinary lawyer who nearly bankrupted himself and his fledgling public-interest law office to fight for his client’s life and liberty, The Injustice System reveals the deep gap between cherished ideals and harsh reality in a country addicted to incarceration.”
The New York Times Book Review

“True stories of wrongful convictions are by their nature utterly compelling, but most Americans don't believe them. How can our vaunted system break down so miserably? In The Injustice System, Clive Stafford Smith details a spectacular example of a bogus conviction, and the many lives ruined by it. It is a superbly written account of only one case, but one of thousands.”
—John Grisham
 
 

“An empowering read for anyone who cares about the human implementation of justice.”
—Colin Firth
 
 
“If you believe in the death penalty, read this book. It will change your mind and change your life.”
—Susan Hill
 
 
 “Clive Stafford Smith is a true hero and this book helps explain why.”
—Jon Ronson
 
 
“Smith packages this revealing analysis of the broader justice system in a true-life legal thriller about one particularly egregious case. . . . He shines a harsh light on the conventional belief that the innocent rarely go as far as trial and are seldom convicted, and the immunity of prosecutors from accusations of wrongdoing, including withholding evidence that could prove defendants innocent.” Booklist

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Meet the Author

Clive Stafford Smith has spent twenty-five years defending high-profile criminal cases in Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. A recipient of the Gandhi International Peace Award and a Lannan Cultural Freedom Award, he was a finalist for the Orwell Prize for his most recent book, Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice In Guantanamo Bay. He founded Reprieve, a nonprofit legal defense firm and lived for many years in New Orleans.

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