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High profile witnesses testify for killer

A British racehorse trainer, member of Parliament and retired wrestler testified Monday about their friendship with a former British millionaire trying to avoid the death penalty for a double murder.

Trainer Clive Brittain, a friend of defendant Krishna Maharaj for 30 years, said, "You couldn't help but be friendly with him because he was a friendly guy."

The British witnesses appeared by a two-way satellite transmission that showed them on a TV monitor and relayed live video from the courtroom to London so Brittain could see his questioners.

The prosecution successfully blocked Brittain from answering questions about how Maharaj handled loss and adversity.

Maharaj was convicted of killing father-and-son business rivals Derrick and Duane Moo Young at a Miami hotel room in 1986.

Maharaj maintains his innocence, but his murder conviction was upheld on appeal. The jury must recommend either the death penalty or 25 years to life in prison. Since this is a sentencing trial, defense attorneys cannot try to argue that Maharaj is innocent, only that he deserves a sentencing break.

A parade of character witnesses said they knew him as a generous, gregarious importer who owned a string of British racehorses and 24 Rolls-Royces.

Peter Bottomley, a member of the British House of Commons, met Maharaj in 1997 while he was appealing his death sentence.

"I both like him and respect him," Bottomley said. "I find him the kind of person who I'm pleased to be associated with."

Retired wrestler Mick McManus described his dealings with Maharaj at charity fundraisers and called him "a very genuine, honest, generous man."

Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley planned closing arguments today.

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