Kartel retrial hearing starts, judge issues warning to media

June 10, 2024

Justice Marva McDonald-Bishop declared, "school has started," as she warned the media to observe court rules while covering the hearing on whether entertainer Vybz Kartel and three others should face a retrial for murder.

The hearing started this morning in the Court of Appeal, and is expected to last for five days. 

McDonald-Bishop, along with Justices Paulette Williams and David Fraser, will decide the case. 

She said the court "will not hesitate" to take action against persons who breach the rules in providing coverage of the hearing.

"On our reading of the Grant case, I just learnt that the court had such wide powers to initiate proceedings on its own to ensure that there is objective and accurate recording of the proceedings so that we do not inflame public opinion that can be prejudicial to the parties in this case, especially the appellants," she said. 

The judge added: She said the court recognises persons' right to freedom of expression but "while you report, you cannot comment in any way that would cast any aspersion on the integrity of the court and the purity of the proceedings".  

Justice McDonald Bishop said while "we have allowed, in this country and in the world at large, social media in particular, to run wild", it is the provider of the information who will be held liable for contempt of court.

The court is currently confirming the documents filed in the matter before the substantive arguments start. 

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is pushing for a retrial while the accused are arguing against it. 

Among the considerations for a retrial are; the availability of witnesses; any prejudice to the accused; the interest of justice and what is in the public interest. 

Reference to 'schooling' came recently in a Supreme Court case in which a judge said she would "school" lawyers who applied for Kartel and two of the co-accused to be released. 

The lawyer Isat Buchanan first used the term. 

The court rejected the application on May 30.

Dancehall star Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer; Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell; Kahira Jones, and Andre St John were charged with the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams in September 2011. 

Kartel and St John are being represented by Buchanan; Jones by John Clarke and Campbell by Bert Samuels. 

The four men were convicted in March 2014 for Williams' murder and sentenced to life in prison a month later. 

The Court of Appeal upheld their convictions in 2020.

However, on March 14, 2024, the United Kingdom-based Privy Council, Jamaica's final court of appeal, overturned the convictions on the grounds of juror misconduct.

It said the trial judge should have dismissed tainted juror Livingston Cain, who was later found guilty of accepting a bribe to try to influence the panel. 

However, the Privy Council did not free the men.

It ordered that the Court of Appeal should decide whether there should be a retrial. 

Kartel and his co-accused have denied any involvement in the killing. 

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