Sun | Nov 18, 2018

Kartel's attorney blasts trial judge

Published:Wednesday | July 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/ Senior Gleaner Writer

Retired High Court judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, made prejudicial and improper comments and engaged in "imaginative storytelling" when he delivered his summation of the evidence in the Vybz Kartel murder trial, the attorney for the incarcerated entertainer has charged.

Valerie Neita-Robertson charged, too, that there was a "general free-for-all" in relation to the introduction of materials that influenced the case. Neita-Robertson cited, as an example, comments made by Campbell as he attempted to use the main prosecution witness and the victim Clive 'Lizard' Williams to convey to the 11-member jury how dangerous Kartel, Shawn Storm and the two men convicted with them must have been.

"Those are not two very soft guys, these are men who lock guns ... . In fact, on the very night of the incident on the 16th of August [2011 when Williams was killed], the evidence is that a gun was brought to Chow to lock. So these are men you would think wouldn't buckle readily, they wouldn't get frightened just so. But they were telling you here, 'We were scared, knowing the situation we were into,'" Campbell was quoted as saying, according to transcripts from the trial.

Said Neita-Robertson: "The learned trial judge, in his storytelling role, places the appellants at grave disadvantage by juxtaposing how the [main prosecution] witness was rough, an indication of how vicious the appellants must have been."

Neita-Robertson made the assertion in the Court of Appeal yesterday as she began presenting legal arguments to have the dancehall artiste's murder conviction and prison sentence overturned.

According to her, it was a miscarriage of justice when Campbell asked the jury to begin deliberating their verdict after 3 o'clock.

A transcript of the trial shows that the 11-member jury was directed to commence their deliberations at 3:42 p.m. on March 13, 2014. They returned at 5:35 p.m, but were sent back to the jury room at 5:46 p.m. because their verdict was not unanimous.

At 6:02 p.m. they returned with the 10-1 majority verdict, convicting Kartel, his protege, Shawn Storm, as well as Kahira Jones and Andre St John, of killing Williams at a house in Havendale, St Andrew, in August 2011.

Neita-Robertson argued that Campbell's decision to send the jury out after 3 o'clock goes against the benchmark that has been adopted by the Jamaican courts.

"The presiding judge acted with undue haste, thereby causing the jury to come under undue pressure to arrive at an unsafe verdict," she argued.

The attorney said it was open to Campbell to have the jury consider their verdict the following day.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com