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on 24 July 2012
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. Just one example: the procedural bar, which is applied in the UK appeal system as strictly as in the US. If your lawyer had access (or could have had access, if he were bright enough) to information which he then failed to use at the time of your trial - for whatever reason, with or without your knowledge - you may not use that information in any subsequent appeal: so, as Clive Stafford Smith says, "if you have an inept lawyer, your chances of a fair result at trial are slim, and you have little or no chance of winning a new trial on appeal: your lawyer 'waived' the claims by failing to raise them during the original trial, so you are 'procedurally barred'." The US appeals system does not want to hear about evidence that proves you innocent, yet it is comparatively easy for a person, whether innocent or guilty, to win an appeal on the grounds of a technical impropriety in the original trial. Read Michael Naughton's book The Criminal Cases Review Commission: Hope for the Innocent? for proof that the procedural bar works equally effectively (?!) in the UK.

Clive Stafford Smith follows the history of Kris Maharaj almost up to the present. His is a case that went wrong in every conceivable way from start to finish. Before we even start on Chapter 1, we learn that he escaped the death penalty and is still in jail after 26 years, but the reader is left wondering whether death would have been the kinder option. If you are interested in discovering how the "justice" system simply doesn't work, this book will be an eye-opener.
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on 6 January 2014
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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on 2 April 2014
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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on 24 July 2012
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. All the way through I kept thinking, 'this is absurd, it's terrible, it can't possibly get any worse'. But it does. Why? Because every absurdity, every injustice, has its own logic, its own level of humanity. There are very few really evil people in this story; just a system that with a maze of rules which, as everyone follows them, leads to a result that it totally inhumane.

And Clive Stafford Smith, who has spent much of his life working for pitifully small rewards for clients on Death Row, describes exactly how and why all this happens. He is like the little guy in John Grisham's stories - the lawyer who cares more about justice than money - but Stafford Smith, and few others like him, are actually real, thank goodness. God send me a lawyer who cares, if I ever get into trouble.

It would be nice to think things are better in Britain; and certainly some things are different. We don't have the death penalty, or judges and prosecutors who stand for election, campaigning on how harsh they can be. But we've had our own scandals: the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four; the strange business (also involving Stafford Smith) of the courts and Binyam Mohammed.

And on a smaller scale, this book reminded me of another British case, less well known, not quite so cruel or nearly lethal as the injustice suffered by Kris Maharaj, but still similar in the sense of an innocent man trapped in a legal spider's web which he cannot resist or escape: the case of of John Bartlett, well described in his book Chequered Justice. Here too I kept thinking: 'this can't really happen, can't get any worse.' But it does.

Read Clive Stafford Smith's book, 'superbly written' as John Grisham says, and then, for a comparison, read John Bartlett's book too. Both endorsed by Michael Mansfield QC.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 September 2012
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. This practice is meant to discourage appeals which diminish the public's regard for the legal system, leading the author to observe, "Yet presumably the state should only be allowed to impose punishment if the punishment is just." A further problem is the lack of state funding, to finance either fair trials for penniless defendants in the first place or their appeals.

The author cites the chilling statistic that on average judges he canvassed would accept an 83% level of belief in a person's guilt as sufficient for a conviction "beyond all reasonable doubt". This is enough to lead to the execution of more than 500 innocent people currently on Death Row. Since an academic study shows that two-thirds of "capital cases" feature serious errors leading to a new trial, a fifty-fifty coin toss procedure would lead to a more reliable outcome!

Without undue sensationalism, the author makes a powerful case against the death penalty, but even if you support it, he raises clear concerns over the operation of the justice system in the US, where lawyers, politicians and police are tarnished by shoddy practice and too many have lost sight of the example they should be setting as a large and powerful democracy. We cannot know to what extent his case may be biased in favour of Maharaj, and explanations are at times too compressed when he is trying to present arcane arguments in a book which sets out to be more gripping than many courtroom crime novels. Yet, more than a hundred pages of small-print notes at the end add weight to his evidence.

Overall, "Injustice", which should disturb everyone who reads it, is a major contribution to the cause of keeping alive what freedom and democracy ought to be about.
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on 10 January 2015
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. It makes you think and change your opinion and also emphasise with Krishna as a human being. Clive does a fantastic job showcasing the continuing fight against the american legal system and his passion in fighting for real justice. An inspirational book that is a must read for any criminal justice and human rights activist!
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on 10 January 2014
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. It is meticulously researched and written and holds your attention page after page. It also highlights how the justice system can be less than objective - maybe not so surprising given it involves a wide range of people with their own perceptions, opinions and agendas.
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on 26 August 2012
I don't think I ever want to live in America as this book explicitly demonstrates that the legal system there is flawed especially in terms of capital cases. Be in the wrong place at the wrong time and if the police/district attorney want to convict you, they shalll! The use of one of clive's cases as the thread to the book helps to give a continued story to it but allows him to add in examples of other cases.

I still remember watching. "Fourteen days in May" documentary, in my mid teens, when he tried, but failed, to save a young man from the gas chamber. It doesn't seem an awful lot has changed since then in terms of legal processes. For example how can a legal system in a free and democratic system allow a judge to rule that "yes the defence lawyer did fall asleep during the trial but not during important moments"!! Just one of the main examples that Clive highlights but he also goes into the underpinning philosophy of the legal system to try to explain why such ridicoulos moments can occur.
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on 20 September 2015
I really want to say a fantastic book but I cannot with an innocent man still in prison. America, more so Mr Obama if you as a lawyer cannot see what we see reading this book the shame on you and the USA.

Kris has been the fall guy for everyone but in true American fashion the tanks as usual cannot accept the fact or admit it.

Where is democracy now Mr Obama, a man who should have access to funds cannot get access to defend himself, his lawyer is made to suffer with his client. I salute Clive Stafford Smith for keeping with it. I read this book after seeing Krishna Maharaj's plight on TV .

Surely, Americans are not that thick and they can see the case for what it really is? I hope and pray he comes out of prison while he is alive otherwise American judiciary have the blood of an innocent man on there hands putting them in the dock!
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on 29 October 2013
This lively book tapped into all the reasons why the American justice system is so seriously flawed. Yes, it concentrated on just one particular case, but this case demonstrated the problem areas with the American system at so many levels. The author, at first hand, has dealt with countless cases over the past twenty years and demonstrates the flaws simply and factually, leaving the reader to pick up any legalistic additions by reading the copious numbered notes that were made available. This, of course, adds to the considerable story of Kris Maharaj who has undoubtedly been unjustly treated. Sadly this case is yet to be completed which also demonstrates the depth of flaws that the convicted have to undertake in the American system.
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