Vybz Kartel scored a small legal win in his ongoing appeal case to overturn his 2014 murder conviction.
One of the state’s most potent pieces of evidence used to convict Dancehall veteran Vybz Kartel, a Blackberry smartphone, is being reexamined. According to reports in the Jamaica Gleaner, the infamous cellular phone, which it was claimed contained irrefutable evidence in the form of text and voice messages, will be examined once again. The voice and text messages that were used to link the deejay to the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams will be analyzed by an expert for possible signs of tampering.
The phone is one of four evidential materials that his defence team has been able to get permission from the Supreme Court to examine. That court order was handed down on May 13 by Justice Leighton Pusey. It gives the defence permission to analyze both the cell phone and a marked DVD which is said to contain the video of the murder, as well as another DVD with voice notes and a compact disc.
Vybz Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, was convicted of Williams’ murder in March 2014, along with fellow entertainer Shawn ‘Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St John. They were all sentenced to life imprisonment but are appealing their case before the Privy Council.
The facts surrounding Kartel’s case have always been a source of contention for many fans, with some even offering conspiracy theories into why he was incarcerated. It’s little wonder that his case attracted so much attention, considering the fact that he had and still has a cult following even behind bars. His case spanned 65 days and was the longest in the history of Kingston’s criminal courts.
Vybz Kartel has been in jail since 2011, when he was arrested for a marijuana joint. It’s now common knowledge that he was part of an ongoing investigation into artists that produce violent lyrics, which were perceived at the time as similar to crime bosses. In 2011, then Assistant Commissioner Ealan Powel admitted that the arrest was part of a police sting on artists. “We have an interest in at least ten other members of the entertainment industry, some of whom have been implicated in a number of murders and shootings,” he said back then.
Kartel’s defence attorney Isat Buchanan has said that the defence always believed that there was “significant tampering” with cell phone evidence. In 2018, the defence argued that the evidence had been tampered with while appealing Kartel’s sentence. Justice Lennox Campbell, who was overseeing his appeal, also said that the judge in the original murder trial had already admitted that the phone evidence was compromised.
The defence lawyers blamed the police for changing the phone’s data and of even probably concocting the damning message that was sent from the phone, which read: “Between me and you a chop wi chop up di bwoy Lizard fine fine and dash him weh nuh. As long as wi a live dem can never find him.”
At one point during the appeal case, the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Orrett Brown admitted that he had no explanation for why three calls were made from the phone nine days after it was handed over to police investigators. According to him, the cell phone must have “dialled itself.”
There will be a new focus on the phone and the other items in question. One of the conditions is that the items do not leave the island and also that the examiner not tamper with or change the original exhibit or any material. The items in question also have to be examined in the presence of an officer of the court as well as an expert from the Crown. The items can only be handled by an officer of the court and the approved examiner.
Following the appeal case, Vybz Kartel was ordered to serve 35 years before parole and St John, 30 years which represented about two years off of their original sentences.