Vybz Kartel Reacts To His Attorney Privy Council Argument, Awaits Fate

Vybz Kartel refers to his Privy Council appeal as his "Grand Rising"

Vybz Kartel
Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel is optimistic that he and fellow appellants Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St. John will be freed as his Privy Council appeal hearing begins in the United Kingdom.

Vybz Kartel, real name Adidja Palmer, is presently incarcerated at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre, but the team of lawyers representing him and the other appellants led by prominent attorneys Bert Samuels and Isat Buchanan, supported by criminal law Barristers based in the United Kingdom, appeared in court on Wednesday ahead of the two-day hearing.

King’s Counsel Hugh Southey, a human rights law Barrister, led the arguments for the appellants. Southey’s biography describes him as an experienced lawyer who served as a Deputy High Court Judge and a Recorder in the Crown Court in England and as Acting Justice of the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands. He was formerly an Assistant Justice of the Supreme Court of Bermuda. Southey is active at the Bar in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Addressing the court, Southey raised several critical points of appeal. Key among them is whether the trial judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, had taken the proper legal course of action after a juror was reported for attempting to bribe the jury foreman. The juror, Livingstone Cain, was found guilty in 2022 of the offense.

“Jury direction can be important ways of keeping a trial on track. The fundamental problem in this case, though- there are two fundamental problems which explain why jury directions, even if they had been in stronger terms than the ones in this case- firstly, one of the jurors had already taken and was willing to offer bribes, he was willing to break the law, and it was assumed that the juror would comply with what they are being told. But if a juror is willing to demonstrate that they are willing to break their oath and act unlawfully, directions cannot solve that in our submissions,” Counsel for the appellants argued.

Jury directions are a set of rules which are explained to the jury by the trial. Particular instances will require specific directions by the trial judge. A failure to give or give proper directions could see a conviction being challenged as unsafe. However, Kartel and his co-appellants failed to convince the Jamaica Court of Appeal, leading to them raising the matter at the Privy Council.

According to Southey, based on the Putnam case, the law implicitly requires that the judge assess “how far the poison has spread” so he can determine as far as possible whether jury directions are sufficient in the present case.

In the meantime, Southey also raised the other ground of the appeal: that the police’s move to collect evidence from several Blackberry cellphones seized from Kartel and the other appellants by Digicel to the Police violated the appellant’s constitutional right to privacy.

“The Interception Communication Act is a breach of the Charter [of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms]. The reason is quite simply is the legislature has decided that effectively the limits of the justifiable interferences with the right to privacy by imposing a procedure that needs to be done through before there can be interferences with that right to privacy, and if there is an individual such as corporal Brown goes beyond those restrictions, in our submission it becomes clear that it cant be justified because the legislature has set the limits,” lawyer for Vybz Kartel said referencing the Osbourne case.

Vybz Kartel’s counsel, Isat Buchanan, also addressed the judges, noting that a breach had occurred.

“There is no issue before this court that there was a breach. The effect of the breach or the balancing exercise can only begin after the prosecutor has met the burden of ‘demonstrably justifiable’,” Isat told the judges.

Counsel for the Crown, King’s Counsel Peter Knox, said there is no evidence that the entire jury was tainted as evidence only showed that Cain had broken his oath.

“There was a rotten juror; does that in and of itself mean the verdict cannot stand? Can I give an example while I submit that by itself it is not a sufficient reason,” Counsel said.

He says the one rotten jury does not impugn the verdict.

One of the judges, however, raised that there is no way to know as the jury is secluded, and only the jurors are aware of what happens during deliberations.

Justice Lady Ingrid Ann Simler also questioned whether the Crown’s position was correct.

“Isn’t that the wrong way around? Doesn’t he have to be sure that there isn’t that risk rather than the way you’ve put it? He needs to be sure that justice should be done,” Lady Simler said.

King’s Counsel Knox does agree that the question is whether the appellants had a fair trial.

“I accept that he (the trial judge) has to satisfy himself that he is in the position, given what he’s already said and will say, to ensure that there will be a fair trial for the other appellants. That’s the question. And in my submission, it’s a question of fact to an extent, and on that I submit that he was entitled to come to that conclusion that the ten jurors with proper directions would not take into account the fact that one of them had been offering bribes and that’d be my submission- it was obviously a matter for the trial judge to assess and that’s how he assessed it, and my Lord, my Lady, and the court of appeal upheld the judge’s judgment on this point. So what you would be effectively saying to the local courts is that they were wrong,” he said.

Lady Simler, however, pressed, “But the Court of Appeal appears to have been comforted by the fact that there was nothing to be gained by questioning or looking into the matter any further; at best, a denial of bribery and a great deal would have been lost with the possibility of having to discharge the whole jury. Is that the right approach?”

In the meantime, Kartel seemed hopeful after the first day’s proceedings. On Instagram, he shared Freddie McGregor’s song “Prophecy,” which said, “Freedom is a must no matter how they fuss and go on.”

The post accompanied a photo of him and Shawn Storm, Kahira Jones, and St. John. In another post, Kartel shared a photo of himself with the caption, “Grand Rising #gazanation [praying hands, fingers, heart, and 100 emojis],” in all caps.