Jamaica: Senior Attorneys Highlight Legal Precedent That Could Have Guided Vybz Kartel Case

(JAMAICA GLEANER) – Two senior attorneys have described as “regrettable” the fact that the existence of a precedent within the Jamaican legal system on the issue of discharging a compromised jury was never raised during the Vybz Kartel murder case.

Last week Thursday, the UK’s Privy Council quashed the 2014 murder convictions of Vybz Kartel, real name Adidja Palmer; fellow entertainer ‘Shawn Storm’, real name Shawn Campbell; Kahiro Jones; and Andre St John, also known as ‘Mad Suss’, for the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.

In its ruling, the Privy Council noted that it had “considerable sympathy” for the dilemma faced by the presiding judge in Kartel’s murder trial after the attempts to tamper with the jury were discovered, but said allowing the tainted juror to continue in the case was “fatal to the verdict”.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, King’s Counsel PJ Patterson and Hugh Small drew attention to the 1983 libel case The Gleaner Company Limited and John Hearne v, Michael Manley, in which they both appeared as counsel.

They said neither the trial judge Lennox Campbell nor the three judges who heard the Kartel appeal were apparently aware that there was a judgment in the Court of Appeal of Jamaica that ruled in similar circumstances that the duty of the court was to discharge the entire jury and order a new trial.

In the 1983 case, after three weeks of evidence the judge discharged the jury foreman after The Gleaner produced evidence that the foreman had been employed to the National Workers Union when Manley was island supervisor at the union.

The judge decided to discharge the juror and continue with the six other jurors, however, it was contested by The Gleaner and the Appeal Court later ruled the entire panel should be discharged.

The Appeal Court said “One cannot tell the extent to which the bias of the foreman may have influenced the remaining jurors.”

Patterson and Small say it’s regrettable that the case was not brought to the attention of the trial judge, the Appeal Court judges or the judges on the Privy Council.

The attorneys say to have continued with the jury in the Vybz Kartel case was “not merely a risk, but a fatal error to render any final verdict unacceptable in accordance with the tenets of justice.”

After a 64-day trial in the Home Circuit Court in Kingston, Palmer, Campbell, Jones, and St John were convicted for Williams’ murder in 2014.

There were three incidents involving members of the 12-member jury during the trial, including attempts by one juror, Livingston Caine, to bribe his counterparts to return a verdict of not guilty.

One juror was excused from the panel after she complained that St John recognised her while she was at the Horizon Adult Remand Centre visiting her son. She said her son told her, during another visit, that Kartel approached him and told him that St John saw his mother at the prison facility.

Caine has since been convicted and there has been no evidence linking Palmer, Campbell, Jones, or St John to his actions, the Privy Council noted.