In a significant development, the legal team representing acclaimed dancehall artist Vybz Kartel, born Adidja Palmer, and his co-convicts Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St John in their appeal against their murder convictions, has successfully petitioned to fast-track the hearing process. Spearheaded by concerns over Kartel’s deteriorating health, the hearing, initially scheduled for April 2024, will now take place in February 2023.
Attorney Bert Samuels, who is representing Campbell in this high-profile case, acknowledged the complexity and length of this legal battle. The decision by the United Kingdom (UK) Privy Council to advance the case was anticipated by Samuels, who noted, “Humanitarian grounds hold significant sway in such matters.” The legal team had presented detailed medical reports highlighting the health challenges faced by the artist, particularly Kartel, who, according to his lawyer Isat Buchanan, is grappling with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder he has battled for seven years, along with reports suggesting he suffers from two heart conditions.
The push for an expedited date was a concerted effort, though the team initially sought an end-of-year hearing. “While our compromise is February 14 and 15, we are fully prepared to present our case,” affirmed Samuels, underscoring the urgency prompted by Kartel’s medical condition.
While Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn did not confirm the new hearing date, she emphasized that any such advancement would hinge on the compelling nature of the presented affidavits and medical reports.
The spotlight has been on this case since the life sentence verdict was handed down in April 2014, attributing the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams to Palmer, Campbell, Jones, and St John. The incident, as stated by prosecutors, occurred at Palmer’s residence in Havendale, St Andrew. After a series of legal maneuvers and an upheld conviction by Jamaica’s Court of Appeal in 2020, the decision was made to take the fight to the Privy Council, Jamaica’s highest appellate court.
Reflecting on the gravity of this case, Samuels highlighted that it represents the longest murder trial in Jamaican history, with an extraordinary compilation of 6,500 pages of evidence. “This case demanded an unprecedented level of scrutiny from us. It is monumental in comparison to average cases which clock in at around 1,000 pages,” he elaborated.
As February approaches, the nine-member defense team, including Jamaican-based attorneys and their UK counterparts, is gearing up for a rigorous presentation before the Privy Council. However, not all attorneys will make the journey to the UK, pointing to the exorbitant costs and logistical hurdles involved in such international legal battles.
Samuels lamented the systemic barriers implied, stating, “The reality of appealing to the Privy Council poses a daunting financial challenge. The necessity for visas, flight tickets, and accommodation underscores the immense economic burden faced by individuals navigating this legal pathway.”
This case, beyond its legal implications, has brought to the forefront discussions about health and human rights within the penal system, the immense resources required to pursue justice through appeal, and a spotlight on the judicial processes that govern international appeals. The upcoming hearing is not just a significant moment for the defendants, but also a point of reflection on broader systemic issues