Vybz Kartel: Jamaican dancehall star wins appeal against murder conviction; he had been jailed for 35 years

Vybz Kartel: Jamaican dancehall star wins appeal against murder conviction; he had been jailed for 35 years

By Sky News

LONDON: Jamaican dancehall star Vybz Kartel has had his murder conviction overturned, after a London court ruled a juror’s attempts to bribe the trial jury had made the conviction unsafe.

The musician, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, has been in a Jamaican jail since 2011 over the disappearance of his associate Clive “Lizard” Williams, whose body has never been found.

Kartel and three others were convicted three years later, after a 64-day trial in Kingston, and he was jailed for life with a minimum of 35 years.

But last month he and his co-defendants launched an appeal at the Privy Council in London – the final court of appeal in Jamaica and some other Commonwealth countries.

His lawyers said the trial judge had not properly handled allegations that a juror had tried to bribe other jurors to return not guilty verdicts.

The claims came to light on the final day of the 2014 trial, leaving the judge with a dilemma – another juror had been discharged earlier and it was not possible to continue with only 10.

So the judge had to choose whether to continue with 11 jurors – including the one accused of attempted bribery – or to discharge the jury completely, with a possible retrial. He chose to carry on with the 11 members.

In London on Thursday, Judge Lord Lloyd-Jones said allowing the juror to remain on the jury was “fatal to the safety of the convictions” and that the directions given to the jury on the final day over the issue were “inadequate to save the situation”.

The trial judge should also have considered whether the remaining jurors would be influenced by what had happened, Lord Lloyd-Jones said, adding that “no account” was taken of the risk.

The Court of Appeal in Jamaica will decide if Kartel and his co-defendants must stand trial again.

Kartel is a major star in the dancehall genre and is known for his prolific output but often violent, X-rated lyrics.

He has collaborated with international artists including Jay-Z, Rihanna and Busta Rhymes.

Rhymes travelled to Jamaica to attend the last day of Kartel’s 2014 trial as a show of support.

Although he has been jailed since 2011, Kartel recorded numerous new songs from his cell using a smartphone and co-wrote a book about himself titled The Voice of the Jamaica Ghetto.

As his popularity grew, he increasingly got in trouble with the law. Last year, another murder case against Kartel collapsed after prosecutors failed to produce enough evidence to support allegations that he and two others killed businessman Barrington “Bossy” Burton in 2011.