A three-member Jamaican appeals court jury upheld the 2014 murder conviction of reggae dancehall recording artist Vybz Kartel. Friday (April 3), the Kingston court issued a 235-page opinion outlining its rationale in denying Kartel’s and his co-defendants, Shawn Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St. John’s appeals, and in affirming their convictions.
The hearing was conducted via teleconference because of the ban on public meetings in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The court is now considering the length of sentences imposed on Kartel and the other co-defendants in view of the time they have already spent in custody.
In 2011 Kartel (real name: Adidja Azim Palmer), Campbell (known as Shawn Storm), Jones and St. John (known as Crazy Suss) were charged with the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams in Jamaica. The body of Williams has never been identified.
The case against them had been based on a mixture of direct and circumstantial evidence, according to court papers. The witness to the prosecution presented proof that Kartel had given him, along with the deceased, two unlicensed weapons. They were summoned to Kartel’s house when they were unable to account for the weapons, and questioned. The witness of the prosecution said he was able to hide in a room in Kartel’s home, and when he emerged his friend was lying motionless on the ground trying to talk. All the defendants upheld their innocence. Kartel denied seeing the deceased in his home, telling police that he had only seen him at a stage show once.
After a 64-day long trial, all three were found guilty of murder and sentenced to jail for “life at hard labour.” Specifically, the court sentenced Campbell and Jones to a total of 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole and Kartel and St. John to serve at least a minimum of 35 years and 30 years, respectively.
In 2017, Kartel and the other three defendants challenged their convictions, alleging, among other things, the dependence of the prosecution on a single eyewitness; the mismanagement by the trial judge of various jury-related matters; the effect of publicity on the fairness of the court; and whether the sentences imposed were manifestly disproportionate.
Essentially, the judges of the appeals court determined that, in the absence of a actual body, the jury found the facts of an organized scheme by the prosecution along with the proof of technology and witness testimony in rendering its finding of guilt. However, judges of appeal found that ads did not stop the accused from getting a fair jury.