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Deborah Friedell writes:
There are more than two million incarcerated Americans. If the system gets it right even 95 per cent of the time, more than 100,000 of them are innocent. But Stafford Smith is convinced that there are many more innocent people than that, and he uses Maharaj’s trial as a starting point for an anatomy of judicial blight, of police officers who call going to court ‘testi-lying’ and forensic experts who get away with nonsense because the defence can’t afford to hire their own experts to challenge them. Lawyers are too often venal, and so are judges. In the end, Maharaj’s sentence was reduced to life imprisonment: Stafford Smith discovered that the trial judge – the one who replaced the judge who was removed for bribery – had secretly asked the prosecution to write the order sentencing Maharaj to death even before the sentencing phase of the trial, though the law requires judges to wait until they’ve heard the evidence and then to write their own judgments.