Justice Severed

Page 3 of 4

"At times, in better times, Kris was fun to be with, but there was a dark side, and he had a temper," Geddes said in a thick Jamaican accent during a recent telephone interview with New Times. "The day he was arrested, he said, 'If anyone asks, you were with me.' At the time, I thought I was helping him; it was the sort of thing to do."

Geddes says he was responsible for placing Maharaj in Fort Lauderdale at the time of the murders. "I convinced a businessman in Fort Lauderdale that events that actually happened on Wednesday were on the Thursday. It gave Kris an alibi."

When he realized the severity of the crimes with which his boss was charged, though, Geddes called his initial statement a lie. "Krishna Maharaj had solicited my assistance to murder certain people, including the Moo Youngs, at the very same hotel not two weeks before, but the Moo Youngs never turned up," Geddes told New Times. "On the second occasion, he used Butler... The rest is history. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he is guilty."

Defense investigator Ron Petrillo, who got to know Geddes in the run-up to the trial, offers a different take. "A few weeks before the trial, [Geddes] disappeared," Petrillo recalls. "My first reaction was that something had happened to him. Then he called me late one night at my office, and I could tell by the crackling on the line that he was overseas.

"He said 'I'm afraid,' and I told him I could arrange protection for him. The next time I saw him was as a witness for the prosecution."

Geddes laughs at the notion that he was threatened. "That's a lot of rubbish," he says.

But Geddes concedes that he was facing criminal charges at the time of Maharaj's trial for illegally bringing ammunition into Jamaica from the United States. The two Florida attorneys who led the prosecution against Maharaj flew to Jamaica and testified on his behalf to help him escape a jail sentence that might have resulted in his being incarcerated at the time of Maharaj's trial.

"I imagine they felt obliged; they realized with my evidence, they had their man," he says. Geddes also says that the attorneys helped him overcome a DUI charge and that while the prosecuting attorneys were in Jamaica, they accompanied their star witness to a lap-dancing bar.

Despite Geddes' damning U-turn, alibi witnesses swore Maharaj was in Fort Lauderdale when the Moo Youngs were shot. How did the prosecution convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that these witnesses were all lying? They didn't need to. Maharaj's original defense lawyer, Eric Hendon — now a Miami-Dade County Court judge — never called them to testify. (In the 20 years since the murders, these witnesses have either died, moved away, or could not be located.)

"When Eric stood up to begin the defense portion of the trial," says Petrillo, who was seated next to Maharaj at the time, "he simply says, 'The defense rests.' The prosecutor's jaw dropped, their mouths fell open, and their eyes got as big as saucers. I thought they were going to fall off their chairs. Kris was holding my arm so tight, I thought he was going to draw blood."

Petrillo claims that Hendon may have been under pressure.

"A few weeks before the trial, Hendon calls me early one morning," Petrillo recalls. "He told me someone had called him at home and threatened him." Hendon offered no greater detail at the time, and though he declined an interview with New Times, he told an appeals court that the witnesses had retracted their statements.

The assertion made Petrillo laugh. "They didn't retract their statements, no way."

During Maharaj's trial, the prosecution presented the Moo Youngs as honest and hard-working. Their tax returns showed an annual income of $20,000. Yet documents found in their briefcase the day they were shot dead suggest that the Jamaicans were not what they appeared.

The contents of the Moo Youngs' briefcase — which were mysteriously not available during the trial — included $1 million in life insurance policies underwritten just three weeks before the murders and $1.5 billion in loans. A senior manager from Ernst & Young later studied the documents and concluded that it "was difficult to rationalize how the Moo Youngs could have become involved in legitimate business dealing of this magnitude." They were, she deduced, either selling drugs or laundering money.

"It is a shame to have to speak ill of the dead, but unfortunately, there were a large number of people who had a motive to kill them," Maharaj's defense team told an appeals court two years ago. They then drew particular attention to another Trinidadian native who was living in South Florida at the time of the killings, Adam Hosein.

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Joanne Green