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Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America [Kindle Edition]

Clive Stafford Smith
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Shortlisted for the 2013 Orwell Prize.


In 1986, Kris Maharaj, a British businessman living in Miami, was arrested for the brutal murder of two ex-business associates. His lawyer did not present a strong alibi; Kris was found guilty and sentenced to death in the electric chair.

It wasn't until a young lawyer working for nothing, Clive Stafford Smith, took on his case that strong evidence began to emerge that the state of Florida had got the wrong man on Death Row. So far, so good - except that, as Stafford Smith argues here so compellingly, the American justice system is actually designed to ignore innocence. Twenty-six years later, Maharaj is still in jail.

Step by step, Stafford Smith untangles the Maharaj case and the system that makes disasters like this inevitable. His conclusions will act as a wake-up call for those who condone legislation which threatens basic human rights and, at the same time, the personal story he tells demonstrates that determination can challenge the institutions that surreptitiously threaten our freedom.

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"True stories of wrongful convictions are by their nature utterly compelling. In Injustice, Clive Stafford Smith details a spectacular example of a bogus conviction, and the many lives ruined by it...A superbly written account of only one case, but one of thousands." (John Grisham)

"Clive Stafford Smith is an extraordinary lawyer, but he is also a great storyteller and his account of the Kris Maharaj death row case is a powerful thriller, beautifully told." (Helena Kennedy Q.C.)

"Stafford Smith is a true hero and this book helps explain why." (Jon Ronson)

"If you believe in the death penalty, read this book. It will change your mind and change your life. A book that zaps through you at 2,000 volts – just like the current used to execute a man in the electric chair." (Susan Hill)

"An empowering read for anyone who cares about the humane implementation of justice - no matter where it is." (Colin Firth)

Book Description

A man wrongly convicted of murder, a crusading lawyer determined to overturn the death penalty and an investigation that reveals corruption at every turn. This remarkable book reads like a page-turning detective story, with one crucial difference: can we be sure that justice will be served?

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is about more than capital punishment 24 July 2012
By Maggie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Clive Stafford Smith is a name I know and respect, but I didn't know what to expect from this book. What I found was a compelling read, a book I didn't want to put down until it was finished.

The core of the book is the story of Kris Maharaj, a British businessman convicted in Miami of the murder of Derrick Moo Young and his son Duane in 1986. For Derrick's murder he was given life imprisonment. For the murder of Duane he was sentenced to death. Clive Stafford Smith takes us through the whole story of Kris's involvement with the Moo Youngs, and how he came to be convicted; in doing so he lifts the lid on every aspect of the American legal system and what can go wrong with it, including the Defenders, the Prosecutors, the Police, the Witnesses (including the Experts), the Jury and the various legal processes, from arrest through trial and appeal to execution. And we get an insight into how illicit drugs are trafficked, and how (in all likelihood) they led to the conviction of Maharaj for murders which (in all likelihood) he did not commit. I have to say "in all likelihood" because all of his appeals have failed, and he long ago reached the end of the legal road, despite the fact that Clive Stafford Smith has produced enough evidence to convince any reasonable person that Kris Maharaj is an innocent man. (And, in case you're wondering, not just innocent of these murders, but also innocent of any other criminal offence.)

What appals me, as a UK citizen, is the strong similarity which Clive Stafford Smith points out between the US legal system and ours in the UK. We no longer indulge in judicial killing, but there are many depressing ways in which the UK matches the US in promoting injustice, and as a result keeps people in prison who really should not be there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars US OR UK JUDICIAL SYSTEM ?. 6 Jan. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book highlights the huge difference between the legal system in operation between our two countries.
The law applied in the uk i think would on the evidence provided have cleared Kris Maharaj of the charge of murder
The law applied in the different states of the USA has left this man languishing on death row.
The author has explained these differences in great detail using his personal expertise in the British legal system.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is not an easy book to read. It's hard work. And the subject matter is challenging. I was bought to tears more than once. Clive writes with an honesty that is quite startling at times. I can't say I enjoyed the book, and I'm not sure that is it's aim anyhow. I was moved, provoked to anger, sorrow, action and shame all at once. Well worth a read and I'm pleased I've done so.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pity and terror 24 July 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful, shocking, compelling book. I have read many legal thrillers, including those by John Grisham (who endorses this book) but it is one thing to read about injustice, legal corruption and police incompetence in a fictional setting, and quite another to see it ruthlessly, thoroughly exposed, in a real case which has led to the British defendant, Kris Maharaj, spending 26 years of his life in an American prison, much of it under the threat of the electric chair; and all of this for a crime which, as the author explains in compelling detail, he almost certainly did not commit. 'Almost certainly' is a feeble phrase, but I use it to point out that at the very least there is reasonable doubt here, and that in itself should have been more than enough to set this man free a quarter of a century ago. Any reasonable system would have done just that.

But as the author explains, in well researched, shocking detail, the American legal system just doesn't work that way. Take just one appalling detail among hundreds: when an appeal is finally arranged before a new jury, that jury is forbidden to hear any suggestions that the man making the appeal might possibly be innocent. That's right - the word 'innocent' cannot be used in court! So when a British MP, Peter Bottomley, tells the jury 'This is a miscarriage of justice' his video link is cut off and the defence lawyer threatened with jail!

What has that got to do with justice? Exactly. That is the question that comes up again and again, throughout this terrible story. As I was reading, I often laughed out loud, not because what I read was funny in an amusing way, but because it was totally absurd, unbelievable, like a tale from Alice in Wonderland or a justice system designed by Franz Kafka.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Question of Justice 26 Sept. 2012
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
I was drawn to this book through admiration for lawyer Clive Stafford Smith's dedication to fighting and exposing injustice. It focuses on the case of Kris Maharaj who was sentenced to death for the murder of two business associates in 1986, and as at 2012 has spent a quarter of a century in security gaols, his sentence having been commuted to life on a technicality. As a formerly successful businessman, a British subject whose racehorse once beat the Queen's at Royal Ascot, Maharaj is a far cry from the usual Death Row inmate: poor, black and ill-educated.

By covering the case from every aspect, witness, prosecution, defence and so on, Stafford Smith shows in detail how a man who appears to be innocent could have been found guilty. Maharaj's main error seems to have been that, overconfident of acquittal, he hired a cheap fixed fee defence lawyer. To get a reasonable hourly return, this man cut corners e.g. failing to call vital witnesses to prove an alibi, giving prosecution witnesses an easy ride, not digging out evidence held by police which would have indicated that Maharaj was framed for murders actually committed by a Colombian drugs cartel. There is a also a suspicion that the defence lawyer himself may have been intimidated. Add to this a corrupt judge and police at various points, and a prosecution "conditioned" to regard defendants as guilty and determined to "refashion the evidence to fit their view of the truth", and we see how the guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion.

Stafford Smith also explains how the appeal system is loaded against the defendant. For instance, evidence which was not challenged in the first trial cannot be raised on appeal.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars On-going fight for justice
Quite a studious book but you cannot fault Clive Stafford Smith and the amazing work he carries out for the inmates of Death Row. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Ann2shoes
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read!
Huge fan of Clive Stafford Smith and his passion for justice. This book is insightful and shows you a completely different side to the 'justice' system in America. Read more
Published 5 months ago by rebecca chauhan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book. Well written
Published 8 months ago by Andrew J White
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I originally downloaded the sample thinking it would be the same nonsense. I was immediately gripped by the sad, unjust story that unravelled. A must read!
Published 13 months ago by ladybird
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and well written
I can't say that this was enjoyable due to the subject matter, but it opened my eyes to this practice and I learned a lot. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Musky
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant analysis
forensically (but with emotion too) analyses the excellent antidote to the normal unthinking sycophancy normally given by UK opinion formers. Read more
Published 16 months ago by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Such an eye opener into justice and injustice! So sad that a clearly innocent man is still suffering today despite all the evidence his incredible lawyer has uncovered. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Louise Hampson
1.0 out of 5 stars Injustice by Clive Stafford Smith
Having not read the paperback edition I am unable to comment on that, but from my researches into the saintly figure of Clive Stafford Smith I have no doubt that it is more of the... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. A. Baron
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally fascinating
This book provides an insight into the workings of the justice system in the USA using a specific trial as the focus for the narrative. Read more
Published 17 months ago by traveller
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling
Not sensational in presentation, but revealing unpalatable truths about the "legal" system of our greatest ally. A study which no-one should miss.
Published 20 months ago by Mr. Roger Francis
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