Lawyer argues Kartel case retrial could breach constitutional rights Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday started hearing substantive submissions from the legal team arguing against a retrial for entertainer Vybz Kartel and his co-accused who are battling for their freedom. 

Attorney John Clarke submitted on behalf of the appellants that it would be a breach of the men’s constitutional rights if the court were to order a retrial. 

He outlined that the 10-year appeal process following the men’s conviction in 2014 should be taken into consideration as well as the Crown’s own admission of the unavailability of one of its main witnesses, in coming to a decision on the matter of a retrial.

Citing case law, Clarke submitted that the accused should not be placed in a worse position than they were in the first trial.

He said also that it was no fault of the appellants that there had been a lengthy delay in the appeal process and that the court will have to decide whether a retrial would be oppressive. 

Vybz Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, along with Andre St John, Kahira Jones, and Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell were charged with Williams’ murder in 2011. 

They were convicted three years later, in March 2014, and sentenced to life in prison. 

After the Court of Appeal upheld their convictions in 2020, the now co-accused took the matter to Jamaica’s final court of appeal, the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.

On March 14 this year, the Privy Council quashed their convictions due to juror misconduct and ordered that the Court of Appeal decide on whether there should be a retrial for the men.

Attorneys Isat Buchanan (left) and John Clarke (second left) seen leaving the Court of Appeal in downtown Kingston on Tuesday afternoon.

In the Court of Appeal on Tuesday, Clarke noted that the men filed their appeal shortly after the conviction and cited the slow appellate process before the case eventually landed at the Privy Council.

But when Clarke compared the the Privy Council’s relatively quick ruling, Justice of Appeal Marva McDonald-Bishop delivered a rebuke, pointing out that the Privy Council did not have to take into consideration the grounds that the local appellate court did.

She also said that Clarke was aware of the other factors that face the court in Jamaica, which prevented it from moving as fast as the Privy Council. 

Continuing his submissions, Clarke noted that fairness to the accused should also be taken into account when deciding whether or not a retrial should be granted.

Citing authorities, the attorney said that it is incumbent on any party seeking a retrial to provide material to show that a retrial should be held in the interest of justice.

Clarke also cited publicity of the case and submitted that the men may not get a fair trial, especially due to allegations of corruption for which a juror was convicted. The Privy Council had found that the accused had nothing to do with that issue. 

In that matter, a juror on the panel from the murder trial had tried to persuade other members to return a not guilty verdict for money.

However, Clarke said that this could force potential jurors in a retrial to overcompensate to not appear tainted in giving a verdict one way or the other. 

On this point, Clarke and McDonald-Bishop had an exchange on the option of a judge-alone trial, but she concluded that it’s the men’s choice if they want a jury trial. 

At another point, Clarke noted that a retrial would take an inordinately long time to get off the ground. He said also that even if accommodation is made for a speedy trial, that would affect other accused who are themselves awaiting trial. 

Clarke is to continue submissions on Wednesday.