DPP To Pursue Retrial For Vybz Kartel and Shawn Storm

Jamaica's DPP announces plans to push for retrial in Vybz Kartel case

Vybz Kartel and Shawn Storm
Vybz Kartel and Shawn Storm

Days after the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ruled that dancehall artist Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer, Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St. John’s murder conviction be overturned, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paula Llewellyn says her office will ask the Court of Appeal to order a retrial.

During the ruling handed down on March 14, the JCPC allowed the appeals of Kartel and his co-accused after finding that the trial judge had not adequately dealt with the jury tampering matters.

The court, which serves as Jamaica’s highest court of appeal, ruled that the case should be remitted to the Court of Appeal to decide whether the accused should be retried or released. Kartel, Campbell, Jones, and St. John have already served 13 years in jail since their arrests in 2011 and later conviction in 2014.

However, the country’s DDP explained to the press on Monday that her office is obliged to ask the Court of Appeal to order a retrial.

“I believe we would be obliged to, given the strength of the case for the prosecution that was put up and given the authority and the case law. I think perhaps as I reflect going forward to my retirement next year, I have been too successful in seeking to, and I am happy about it, to sensitize the public, to sensitize the media to try to explain a lot of complex issues very often and I say this when you have knowledge of the state of the law in any particular area for example, retrials, the prosecutors are obliged to go on a particular path,” she said.

The DPP has been under major criticism from Kartel and his fans. In reacting to the trial via a statement sent to Urban Islandz, Vybz Kartel expressed relief at the Privy Council ruling while declaring himself an innocent man.

“I feel victorious in this very moment as the Privy council in their infinite wisdom, understood the assignment and remedied the situation by quashing my conviction! I am now back to being an innocent man in the eyes of the law. A grave injustice was done to me and my co accused in the original trial,” Kartel said.

Vybz Kartel also questioned the move to order a retrial while noting his faith in the Court of Appeal to free him and his co-accused.

“I am also very confident that the court of appeal in Jamaica will do the right thing in the name of equity, fairness and justice and free us. Some people have expressed their concern to me that a retrial may be ordered, but to them, I say ( albeit with my limited knowledge of the law ) what is there to retry?” he asked.

The DPP also explained that a retrial is not done to single out a defendant or to secure a particular judgment but instead based on many factors that affect’s the country’s justice system.

“The public has to be aware that the issue of retrial as far as lawyers, well let me say prosecutors, as far as the judiciary is concerned, has nothing to do with emotion. It has nothing to do with who the accused is. It has to do with the seriousness of the offence, the public interest, and how perhaps extensive it is to mount the retrial, it doesn’t even have to do with what the likely verdict may be but it has to do with a number of factors which have been outlined in what we outlined in the what we would call the locus classicus from the Privy Council in a case called The Crown v Dennis Reed.”

One of the concerns the defendants’ lawyers raise is the possibility that their clients may not be able to secure a fair trial given the widespread publicity of the case and the significant time that has passed for witnesses to appear.

The Privy Council declined to rule on the points raised by the appellants regarding the validity of the telecommunication evidence used to convict them. This means that the evidence, mainly from the defendants’ cell phones, will likely be re-tendered if a retrial is ordered.

A date for hearing by the Court of Appeal has yet to be announced.