What happened at Vybz Kartel's appeal hearing?

During Wednesday 14 and on thursday 15 February took place in Privy Council from the United Kingdom the appeal hearing of the Jamaican singer Vybz Kartel and three co-defendants convicted in 2014 for the crime of Clive “Lizard” Williams.

The Privy Council, based in London, It is the last resort of many Commonwealth countries, including Jamaica - sort of like our Supreme Court- and it will be taken at least 3 months to issue a decision on this case that keeps the followers of the popular musician who remains imprisoned attentive.

The defense requested to go to this judicial instance after the Court of Appeal of Jamaica confirmed the sentence of the first trial, condemning the 4 accused with sentences ranging from 23 Y 32 years in prison.

The Privy Council assigned a panel of five judges to this case -Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Briggs, Lord Burrows y Lady Simler- who listened to the arguments of the defense and the pursuers.

What did the defense say??

The arguments of the defense lawyers were based mainly on the fact that they consider that Crucial mobile phone evidence was improperly obtained and that the trial jury was tainted and compromised by bribery attempts Y, later, “pressure” by the judge to reach a verdict.

Lawyer Isat Buchanan He also stressed that they are not asking for a new trial, but rather the annulment of the conviction against Vybz Kartel and the other defendants.

While another of the defenders, Hugh Southey, He also refuted the idea of ​​a new trial, stating that the passage of time and the high-profile nature of the case make a fair trial unfeasible.

“Those difficulties have not diminished, They have grown older with the passage of time. This is something that now has a high profile. Our submission supports our argument that there is no point in forwarding this (…) because a fair trial now is very difficult, impossible, we would say“, Southey said during the hearing.

Jury tampering

Regarding the allegations about the alleged manipulation of the jury during the trial, they are related to the situation of the jury Livingston Caine, who at the end of 2022 was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice by offering a bribe of 500.000 Jamaican dollars to the forewoman of the jury to influence other members to issue a verdict in favor of Kartel.

The Jamaican Jury Act requires at least 11 members for a duly constituted jury, so firing Caine would have meant the trial could not continue, since a member of the jury was dismissed earlier.

Juror Allowed to Leave Trial After Expressing Fear for Her Son, who at that time was imprisoned in the same prison as the accused.

For the rest, it was a trial that lasted for 64 days, so his suspension was a major problem for the Prosecutor's Office..

The arguments of the Prosecutor's Office

Meanwhile, lawyer Peter Knox, who appeared on behalf of the Jamaican prosecutor's office, maintained that, beyond the defense arguments, hay “overwhelming evidence” against the accused, as incriminating audio recordings of Vybz Kartel, text messages from the deceased, and reported damage to the singer's residence, where the murder supposedly occurred.

Regarding the situation of the jury, Attorney Knox argued that “a rotten apple” should not lead to the dismissal of the entire group and that the judge had acted sensibly after “deliberate misconduct on the part of an accused with the aim of achieving an acquittal in circumstances where the trial was going badly”.

“Hay 10 innocent jurors who have performed their duty to an adequate standard without prejudice. It would discredit the system if the verdict had been overturned because of a bad juror who failed to do his duty.”, Knox added.

Given that, Privy Council judges noted that a judge cannot avoid the requirement to dismiss a juror in cases where he is deemed unfit, as if he suffers from a mental illness. One of them said that “the normal scenario is to get rid of that juror”.

If the convictions were annulled, The Prosecutor's Office expressed its desire for a new trial to be held, highlighting the importance of considering the decisions made by the Court of Appeal of Jamaica - which upheld the convictions in the first instance of appeal - which is the one that best knows the Jamaican legal system.

The final sentence

Once this stage is completed, the 5 Privy Council judges will deliberate and must reach a majority decision, not necessarily unanimously.

Then, one of them writes the primary sentence, reflecting the opinion of the majority, while others may write concurring or dissenting opinions.

Finally, The sentence will be announced publicly on a scheduled date, normally 12 weeks after hearing, so the ruling could be known during the second week of May.