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Vybz Kartel: Jamaican dancehall star wins appeal over murder conviction

Musician has been in prison in Jamaica since 2011 over disappearance of an associate whose body was never found

Kevin E G Perry
Thursday 14 March 2024 18:41 GMT
Vybz Kartel murder conviction overturned

Jamaican dancehall star Vybz Kartel’s conviction for the murder of an associate has been quashed, after a London court ruled Thursday (14 March) that the conviction was unsafe due to attempts to bribe the trial jury a decade ago.

In April 2014, Kartel was sentenced to life in prison for the murder.

The 48-year-old musician, real name Adidja Palmer, remains a popular artist in Jamaica and is well known internationally for his 2009 Major Lazer collaboration “Pon De Floor” which was heavily sampled on Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)”.

Kartel was first imprisoned in Jamaica in 2011 following the disappearance of his associate Clive “Lizard” Williams. His body has never been found.

Prosecutors alleged Williams was beaten to death at Kartel’s home in August that year after being lured there to answer for two missing illegal guns.

The trial lasted 65 days, the longest in Jamaica’s history.

This February, Kartel and his co-defendants Shawn Campbell, Kahira Jones and Andre St John mounted their final possible appeal at the Privy Council in London. The Privy Council is the final court of appeal for Jamaica and some other Commonwealth countries.

Their lawyers argued that the trial judge at the time wrongly handled allegations that one juror offered 500,000 Jamaican dollars (around $3,200) to fellow jurors to return not guilty verdicts.

Vybz Kartel performing in New York in 2003 (Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)

On Thursday, Judge David Lloyd-Jones agreed and said that the trial judge’s decision to allow the juror in question to remain on the jury was “fatal to the safety of the convictions”.

The Privy Council has sent the case back to the Court of Appeal in Jamaica, which will now decide whether Kartel and his co-defendants should stand trial again.

Kartel will remain in prison until a decision is made.

A statement from the Privy Council reads: “The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has concluded that the appeals should be allowed and the appellants’ convictions should be quashed on the ground of juror misconduct, and that the case should be remitted to the Court of Appeal of Jamaica to decide whether to order a retrial of the appellants for the murder of the deceased.”

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During the initial trial, hundreds of Jamaicans gathered outside court chanting “free Kartel” while police in riot gear guarded barricaded streets outside Kingston’s Supreme Court.

About 200 people briefly broke through barricades at one intersection shouting “free Kartel”, shortly before the jury started their deliberations in the afternoon.

In 2013, another murder case against Kartel and two other co-defendants collapsed after prosecutors failed to produce evidence to support allegations that the trio killed businessman Barrington “Bossy” Burton in 2011.

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