Vybz Kartel’s final stance

Jamaica and global Dancehall superstar Vybz Kartel will know whether he is a free man from a 2014 murder conviction and jail sentence after the British Privy Council wrapped up two days of appeals in London last week, with the main focus on whether there was jury tampering during his trial.

Real name Adidja Palmer and two others were convicted a decade ago for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams. Kartel had accused Williams of failing to return two unlicensed pistols he had given him for safekeeping back in 2011. Prosecutors argued that he then ordered his murder. His body was never found but Kartel was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 35 years. This was later reduced to 32 and one half on appeal.

Anxious to be free, his attorneys have taken the case to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s apex or final court, contending that their clients did not have a fair hearing because of jury tampering and attempted bribery of at least one juror. This was the crux of the appeal during the two days of hearings on Wednesday and Thursday. The judges are to rule in the coming weeks. His original trial had lasted 64 days, making it one of the longest in Jamaican history.

During the hearings, the panel of law lords appeared to be zooming in on issues pertaining to the jury based on the allegations that a juror had been offered nearly $3,000 to return a not guilty verdict. A second had to be discharged from the panel. Therefore, rendering of a verdict could not have been considered credible and valid, the attorneys argued as the suspected jury member had been allowed to remain on the panel and to vote for a verdict.

Word about a jury member being tainted came to light on day 56 of the trial but despite demands from the defense to discharge the entire panel, the trial judge ordered that proceedings be continued. Kartel’s eight-member team of attorneys have pounced on this, contending that the trial was tainted and should have been abandoned.

Kartel was arrested along with the others in September of 2011. Messages taken from mobile phones of the convicts had helped to build the state’s case against the men and police had said these had provided them with incriminating evidence against them. Telecoms provider Digicel had provided police with data and messaging from the mobile phones. The defense had railed against this as an invasion of their privacy but the judge had ruled that such evidence was admissible. The Jamaican appeals court had similarly confirmed the conviction in early 2020, leaving them only with the Privy Council as their final opportunity for freedom.