Vybz Kartel Jury Issues Dominate First Day Of Privy Council Hearing

(JAMAICA GLEANER) – The question of whether Justice Lennox Campbell was obligated to dismiss a tainted juror in the Vybz Kartel murder trial appears to be the issue which could determine the outcome of the entertainer’s appeal of his 2014 conviction at the UK-based Privy Council.

The court on Wednesday morning began hearing arguments in the appeal filed by Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones and Andre St John.

They were convicted in March 2014 of the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.

One of the jurors in the case, Livingston Caine was found guilty of offering a $500,000 bribe to the jury foreman to influence other jurors to return a not guilty verdict in the case.

The law lords on Wednesday asked attorneys to focus on the attempted jury tampering issue. The two questions being considered in relation to the attempted bribery are whether the judge was obliged to dismiss the jury and, if not, whether his actions to manage the situation were sufficient.

Attorneys for the appellants argued in the morning session that Caine should not have been allowed to continue as he was tainted, and that knowledge of the offer of the bribe might have influenced the other jurors to return a guilty verdict.

However, King’s Council Peter Knox, who appeared on behalf of the prosecution, argued that “one bad apple” should not lead to a dismissal of the entire jury. Caine’s dismissal would have meant the trial could not continue, as there would be only 10 jurors remaining following the earlier discharge of a female juror.

“Defendants can’t derail trials just by making bribes to juries,” Knox argued, adding that it would bring the jury system into disrepute if an entire panel were to be dismissed because of one bad juror.

He also said the trial judge was placed in a challenging situation which he handled “most sensibly”, as the information about the attempts to tamper with the jury came “right at the end of the trial”.

Knox said it would be very difficult to get a retrial and the prosecution had stated that it was prepared to take the risk of going forward.

However, the Privy Council judges questioned whether the fact that the case would have to be restarted was enough reason for the trial judge not to dismiss Caine. They noted that a judge cannot sidestep the requirement to dismiss a juror in instances where they are found to be unfit, such as if they suffer from a mental illness.

The judges also had questions about Justice Campbell’s directions to the jurors following discovery of the bribe attempt. They questioned whether he had instructed them not to hold the issue against the defendants in the case.

Knox noted that the judge had persistently issued “very strong warnings” to the jurors throughout the trial and had spoken to the jury foreman and asked her to tell her fellow jurors to remember their oath.

However, the law lords questioned whether the trial judge had “delegated his duties” to the foreman.

Earlier, attorney for the appellants, Isat Buchanan, said they are pushing for their convictions to be quashed.

“There is no cure, no proviso or no thought of a retrial or a second bite of the apple,” he stated.

The hearing continues on Thursday morning.