Kartel attorney rips into trial judge

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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One of the attorneys representing incarcerated deejay Vybz Kartel yesterday accused the judge who had presided over his murder trial of committing several errors and missteps which, combined, resulted in the entertainer being placed at a disadvantage.

Queen's Counsel Valerie Neita-Robertson, during her argument before the Court of Appeal, also accused the trial judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, of being biased, speculative and prejudicial towards her client and his co-accused.

She also argued that not only did the trial judge misquote the evidence, fail to properly instruct the jury, and err in his summation of the evidence, but he also raised non-issues and elevated them to live issues while presenting a one-sided view of the case.

“A judge is not entitled to sum up the evidence in a way that it appears unbalanced,” said Neita-Robertson, who along with Queen's Counsel Tom Tavares-Finson is representing the popular entertainer, whose real name is Adidja Palmer.

Palmer, Andre St John, Kahira Jones, and Shawn “Shawn Storm” Campbell were convicted in 2014 of murder in relation to the death of Clive “Lizard” Williams at a house in Havendale, St Andrew, in August 2011. They are currently before the court seeking to have their convictions overturned.

According to Neita-Robertson, the judge, during his summation, pointed the jury to the evidence given by the main witness that Williams was lying motionless on the floor and said, “Imagine that: he had walked into the room on his own two feet.”

This comment, the attorney argued, was speculative and prejudicial and suggested that there was some new discovery about Williams lying motionless on the floor.

Neita-Robertson also pointed to another comment she said was made by the judge, arguing that he inserted himself into the mix when he was summing up the evidence for the jury in relation to a text message found in one of the phones seized from Vybz Kartel, which said that Williams's body was chopped up “fine fine”.

She said the judge started by saying “This is what we are saying,” then went on to say that the author of the text must have known that Williams was dead to have sent such a message and that if it was the police who had sent such a message, it would have had to be an uncouth one who was sure that Williams was dead.

Neita-Robertson said the judge “crafted out a view to show that the police could not have interfered with the text”.

In citing examples where the judge, in her estimation, had erred or had elevated non-issues in the trial, Neita-Robertson said the judge had wrongly identified one of the co-appellants as one of the men who had been standing over the motionless body of Williams, but when an objection was raised he adjourned the matter and on resumption did not correct the inaccuracy.

The lawyer said the judge had also pointed to a girl who was reportedly seen at Kartel's residence by the main witness on the day of the murder and questioned why she had not taken Kartel to hospital after he was attacked and bitten by one his dogs.

Neita-Robertson, who argued that the judge's comment was prejudicial, said the judge speculated in the absence of any evidence about the female. The lawyer also claimed that the judge's comment had affected the jury's impartial examination of the evidence.

Neita-Robertson also criticised the judge for what she said was his failure to make the right judgement calls during the trial.

She pointed to the Crown's “surprising” introduction of evidence relating to Vanessa “Gaza Bling” Sadler, as well as text messages supposedly received from Williams by his girlfriend which were put into evidence without the proper foundation being laid or without the witnesses themselves being called.

She argued that the judge failed to rule that the evidence was inadmissible despite objections from the defence.

Similarly, Neita-Robertson argued that the judge failed to make the proper enquiries or to take time to reflect on the way forward when allegations of jury tampering had arisen a third time, and instead ruled that the trial should continue.

She also described as a miscarriage of justice the judge asking the jury to begin deliberations on their verdict at 3:42 pm. It is a standard rule that the jury should not be sent out to start deliberations beyond 3:00 pm to avoid the verdict being rushed.

Meanwhile, Campbell's attorney, Bert Samuels, yesterday urged the appeal court judges not to order a retrial, as that, he said, was not in the best interest of justice.

Arguing that the case was riddled with multiple “incurable” deficiencies, he said a retrial would only serve to give the prosecution another bite at the “poisoned cherry” and to correct its deficiencies.

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