Vybz Kartel’s lawyer seems to be treading on dangerous ground as the artiste awaits his appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 2014, Kartel was sentenced to 35 years to life for the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.
One of his Attorneys – Isat Buchanan reportedly made statements to online news site Loop Jamaica that his team was moving to gain access to the entertainer’s phone that has been admitted as evidence in his trial, but that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution was not being cooperative.
His comments, “the DPP is being very dodgy and shady, and very deliberate in their action to continue to violate the constitutional rights of Adidja Palmer, Vybz Kartel’s government name. Despite the attempts of myself and the Queen’s Counsel, we have been unable to get access to the cell phone, which we believe has evidence of tampering.”
He also accused the DPP of being “authors of delay.”
The DPP headed by Paula Llewellyn, CD, QC, has taken umbrage at the accusations, particularly because the allegations by the attorney have been a ground of appeal against the sentence, which was rejected by the court. Further, the same grounds were raised in the application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council, and that too was struck out by the Court of Appeal.
This means that Kartel’s lawyers won’t be able to rely on that ground at the Privy Council.
The cellphones in question were exhibits in Kartel’s trial. Various text messages and recordings from it were used by the prosecution to convince the jury that Kartel was guilty in the murder of Williams, although no body was found.
During the trial, allegations of tampering came up regarding the cellphone but the trial was allowed to continue. Kartel’s dramatic trial also had an incident of jury bribery where one of the jurors, being corrupted, offered to buy out other jurors for a not guilty verdict for Kartel. His efforts, however, failed.
The accusations by Kartel’s Attorney Buchanan has grave implications for not only the aspersions cast on the legal profession via the canons as they are known or the codes of conduct that govern the behavior of Attorneys-at-law on the island but also himself. He can be disciplined or suspended for maligning the other attorneys.
It also negatively reflects on the wavering public confidence in the justice system, and although the courts have not found favor with the argument by Kartel’s legal team, the court of public opinion is impacted, which can form a negative opinion of the court system and the prosecutors.
In particular, an allegation that the office of the DPP (which has 57 prosecutors) is guilty of misconduct raises serious concerns. The DPP says the claims put the security of DPP staff at risk.
The DPP says that it has never objected to access to the phones and has documented emails that the parties agree that an expert for the defense will travel to Jamaica to examine the phones in the presence of the expert for the prosecution. This agreement was made prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DPP went on to say that the Queen’s Counsel representing Mr. Palmer at the Privy Council had written to say that for Covid reasons, he has declined to travel to Jamaica but instead offered that the exhibits be sent to him in the United States for his exam. However, the DPP said it rejected this suggestion as they weren’t “comfortable with the exhibits leaving Jamaica.”
The DPP further said they do not have custody of the phones as these are lodged with the Supreme Court until an appeal is ended. Hence, they are not the authors of delay as suggested by the attorney in question.
They intend to raise the concerns regarding the Attorney’s behavior at the “appropriate for a,” possibly to have the Attorney disciplined if he is found to be in breach of the Canons of Professional conduct / Legal Profession Act.