Vybz Kartel’s Appeal Verdict Expected By May 2024, Lawyers Against Retrial

Lead Counsel for appellants Vybz Kartel, Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St. John are against the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruling that their conviction should be remitted to the Court of Appeal in Jamaica for a retrial. The Privy Council ruling on the matter is expected to arrive within the next twelve weeks, which means the appellants can expect a verdict by May 2024.

On Thursday, the court convened for the second day of the hearing brought by the appellants against the Crown. The appellants are contending that their right to a fair trial was impugned after the Judge continued the trial despite learning one juror had offered to bribe others, the Judge allowing the jury to return with a verdict late in the day and whether the Crown by accessing cell phone evidence supplied by Digicel, breached the appellant’s constitutional right to privacy.

On Thursday, the prosecution was under pressure as the lead attorney for the Crown, King’s Counsel Peter Knox, was grilled by the judges regarding the Judge’s directions to the jury after learning one of the jurors offered to bribe the foreman.

During his submission, Knox asked that the appellants be sent back for a retrial should the panel find that the appellants did not receive a fair trial. He read several texts, including a text message taken from Kartel’s Blackberry sent to unidentified persons days after the alleged killing of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams, in which he seemingly admits to killing the victim.

“Between me and you, ah chop me chop up the bwoy Lizard fine fine and dash him weh. As long as you live dem can never find him,” Knox reads the text and references another from Shawn Storm which says, “ah who tief dem (guns) ago dead.”

Knox also raised the appellants’ position that the police had fabricated evidence to convict Kartel and the others.

“There is no explanation as to why the police would have done any of this at all. I respectfully submit there is nothing to support that,” he said.

He added, “There’s a question asked- is there a real risk the verdict was influenced by prejudice? But I say there is no real risk about it. As far as the jury retirement point is concerned, if you can be satisfied that the 10-1 verdict was a verdict given by the ten jurors, uninfluenced by prejudice, if that’s right, I submit the appeal must be dismissed.

As for the jury deliberation point, Knox added that in “real life, juries never take more than about a couple of hours or so to come up with verdicts even after long trials and it is unheard of for them to have to be sequestered of in a hotel room overnight.”

He also said the Judge never pressured the jury to come back with a verdict, and the court of appeal also upheld the trial judge’s ruling.

“Even if let us say the Judge’s directions were not in the strong as they could have been or should have been, or even if the retirement was too late in the day, there is still no reason to suspect that the jury was infected by bias or the risk of bias. Given all the matters I have spoken of, that being so, even if there was some irregularity or imperfection with the way the trial was conducted, this is a case where there has been no, to use the words of the statute- ‘no substantial miscarriage of justice’” Knox said.

However, the Crown’s lead counsel said that given the high-profile nature of the case, a big part being of a “technical nature,” the matter should be remitted to the Court of Appeal for a retrial.

Counsel for the appellant’s King’s Counsel Hugh Southey rejected the submissions by KC Knox, who said that the Crown was incorrect on the test for bias, which is not based on whether the Judge acted reasonably but rather on the ‘fair-minded bystander test.’

He also rejected the matter being sent for a retrial.

“Retrial, one thing that I wish to highlight about that. My learned friend’s submissions yesterday about why the Judge was entitled to adopt the approach he did correctly and fairly pointed to the potential difficulties of a retrial in light of matters such as a profile. Those difficulties have not diminished; they’ve become greater because of the passage of time…there is no point remitting it at this point because a fair trial is now very difficult or impossible,” Southey said.

The Privy Council’s ruling is likely to come within the next two months.

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