Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Orville Taylor | Only a Ninja can stop a ninja

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Desmond ‘Ninja Man’ Ballentyne (left) reacts to the guilty verdict at the Supreme Court in Kingston last Monday.
Ninja Man, the 'gun-pon-teet don gorgon', at Sting in 2005.

He sings about guns and "murder dem". It might be art imitating life, or life imitating art, but unless someone can show me that the case against Desmond 'Ninja Man' Ballentyne was based on false testimony and wrong forensic evidence, my only regret is that he did it. So it was with the genius Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer.

We cannot be hypocrites and expect that because of our relationship with, or our personal sentiments towards, a criminal, she or he must walk free. Some of the very same persons who reviled the outcome of the X6 murder case, and, interestingly, who feel that the mothers caught 'murderating' their daughters on videotape are expressing sadness and surprise that Ninja Man, after eight years, was found guilty by a jury of his peers on the charges of shooting with intent and murder.

In January this year, at a Blast-off event organised by the minister of national security, I shared the stage with Ninja as he attempted to encourage the hard-working girls and boys in blue. The Blast-off was a good idea in principle because the cops need motivation, especially when hardly anyone seems interested in commenting objectively on the progress they are making. However, Ninja's presence was disconcerting because he was a murder suspect, and the only way in which he should have been there was if the belief of the organisers was that the foot soldiers from the Criminal Investigation Bureau had erred in charging him.

Indeed, I defer to defence lawyers, who feel that policemen and women do not understand enough law, and, thus, charge their clients for crimes that they could not possibly have committed. I even smirk with deep cynicism that a set of non-lawyers can learn enough law in a few weeks to determine whether an accused is guilty. Anyway, the jury is out on that debate.

My concern is not the duplicity which these attorneys, by necessity, have to demonstrate despite their consciences. Rather, having stepped from the comfort of the theoretical and research silo and the luxury of my journalistic bigotry to pay deep attention to the work of the homicide detectives since the 2010 Tivoli operation, I have developed a lot of respect for their professionalism and abilities.

Given what I observed, if I were a potential murderer, I would be too scared to even kill time because when they get their man, the case is usually tighter than their 'spangies'. After news broke that Kartel had been charged, given what I had seen these cops do, I thought that the World Boss was going to see a much smaller world.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn will readily admit that when these detectives put on the charges, they hold like a 12-volt battery using a 14-volt alternator. Thus, those of us who observe with our eyes and not our mouths knew that if they brought charges against Ninja Man, there was a great likelihood that they would stick like the residue in a pipe.


'Chicken merry ...'


Mark you, at the Blast-off, he said some of the right things, such as needing to get into the minds of the young criminals. However, police officers who are charged criminally are typically interdicted from duties, disarmed, and barred from all official police interactions. At best, their colleagues may keep the link. Nevertheless, where the evidence is overwhelming, it is a dark, lonely road because the majority of the force will keep their distance from him or her.

Therefore, a civilian accused getting celebrity treatment or a bye when police officers, some of whom are criminally charged for missteps in the execution of their lawful duties, seemed inequitable. However, there might have been a method in the madness because often, it is a case of 'chicken merry ...' and the cops wanted to lull him and his defence team into a sense of false security.

Nevertheless, in this fight against crime and lawlessness, the message must be unambiguous. No one is above or beyond the law. This is especially critical in regard to major crimes such as rape, shooting, and murder - the last two are those for which Ninja was charged.

Where the accused is a popular or loved individual or one who is seen as contributing to society more than the average citizen, it is easy to think she or he should get a 'bly'. Yet that is precisely where the problem lies. When my goodly academic colleague was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, my mailbox was filled with hate mail because I expressed regret that he had done it, rather than over the verdict. For the record, had the judgment gone the other way, I would have also been fine as long as there was no interference in the process.


Reinforcing behaviour


Behavioural scientists such as my colleagues, psychologist Tracy McFarlane, anthropologist Moji Anderson, and social worker Peta-Ann Baker, are all very familiar with the role that reinforcement has in solidifying human conduct. Deviant behaviour thrives with encouragement and, conversely, negative sanctions and lack of communal support help to drive down the likelihood of it occurring.

It is a relatively simple formula: dissuade the propensity to commit the crime. In law, it is called the guilty mind, or mens rea. Apart from sending the strongest signal that the society does not hug up criminals, the other part of the message must be that if you do the crime, you are going to be caught. If the 'quengas' get the memo that within a week the cops know who the killer is and that around 60 per cent of murders over the past three years have led to an arrest, even the family members and girlfriends would cough up the suspects. This is the reality, and the DPP will corroborate that most homicide arraignments result in convictions.

Therefore, with the exception that he is a well-known entertainer, Ballentyne's case and conviction are pretty ordinary and commonplace.

So, sad it is, because Ninja has been one of my favourite DJs since 1988. But, hopefully, it will discourage the mens rea of would-be killers, as well as those who hide their bloody clothes.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to and