'That is frightening to me' - Tavares-Finson questions how Vybz Kartel juror on witness protection contacted media
Attorney Tom Tavares-Finson has raised concerns about revelations in an article carried in The Sunday Gleaner yesterday, which focused on the plight of a juror in entertainer Vybz Kartel's 2014 murder trial, who has since been placed on the witness protection programme.
The Sunday Gleaner article, headlined 'Bad Vybz', outlined the pressures faced by the female juror as she adapts to life away from family and friends. In the article, another juror, who was not placed on witness protection, revealed that he received special migration privileges after outlining to authorities his role in the case and concerns he had for his safety.
The jurors are witnesses in the corruption case of Livingston Cain, a fellow juror accused of offering them $500,000 to return a verdict of not guilty against the entertainer.
But yesterday, Tavares-Finson, a Queen's Counsel and attorney for Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, questioned the timing of the disclosures made in the article and noted that at no point in their expressions of fear did the jurors cite any threats against their lives.
"One issue that concerns me is that one of the jurors is on the witness protection programme, leaving one to wonder how it is that The Gleaner was able to contact a witness on the programme," Tavares-Finson said. "That is frightening to me."
The attorney suggested that the jurors being made available for an interview with The Sunday Gleaner at this time appeared calculated to be prejudicial against his client's appeal, which is currently under way.
POTENTIAL FOR PREJUDICE
"What I can say is that it would not, in my view, have an impact on the matter currently before the court, simply because of the quality of judges of the Court of Appeal and their ability to ignore matters such as this," Tavares-Finson stressed.
"However, it certainly has a potential to prejudice the position of the appellants, especially where there is a possibility that there may be a retrial in the matter. This could prejudice a potential jury pool [in a retrial]."
He also took aim at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, questioning certain actions that could expose jurors.
"Usually, the only thing the public would know of an empanelled jury is their name and occupation. There was a particular allegation made against one of the jurors [attempting to bribe other jurors]. The director of public prosecutions took an unfortunate decision to prosecute the accused member of the jury. By taking that decision, the veil of secrecy which protects a jury was lifted. Other jurors had to write statements concerning deliberations and allegations of interference by the accused.
"They were required to attend trial in the Half-Way Tree Resident Magistrate's Court to give evidence. Under normal circumstances, a juror would be allowed to go about his business and that would be it. Instead, they were required to attend court on a number of occasions and give evidence in public," Tavares-Finson said.
Kartel and three co-accused were convicted of murder for the 2011 death of Clive 'Lizard' Williams.