Wednesday 23 September, 2020

Defence team in good stead for Kartel appeal, says Bert Samuels

Vybz Kartel

Vybz Kartel

The appeal hearing for dancehall sensation, Vybz Kartel, who was convicted of murder along with three of his associates in 2014, is scheduled to begin on Monday in the Court of Appeal.

Lawyers for all four appellants are primed to attempt to bore holes in the convictions of their clients, and numbered among them is prominent attorney, Bert Samuels.

"There are four appellants, and my firm is representing Shawn Campbell,” said Samuels on Sunday in relation to his client, who is better known as recording artiste, ‘Shawn Storm’.

“My team of attorneys will be arguing that fresh evidence should to be admitted in the case. We are a team working for all four appellants, and we believe that there is sufficient grounds of appeal that will spur the Court of Appeal to look seriously at this matter," outlined Samuels to Loop News reporter, Claude Mills.

"The grounds of appeal span between the judge being biased, the accused, Shawn Campbell, not being present for the composition of (the) jury, and also being denied the right of hearing and right to be present when material evidence was being presented against him," Samuels added.

He pointed to key cell site evidence as a major point which could have swung the case in the appellants' favour.

"…, the main witness of fact, actually said two different things. One statement said that he got to Swallowfield (Avenue) at 5:30 p.m., and then to the police, he said he got there at 8:00 in the night. And we have the cell site evidence that shows that Williams, rather than being at Swallowfield (Avenue), was in St Catherine at the time he was allegedly being assaulted. The cell site evidence proves that way after 7:00, the deceased was still in St Catherine, that is scientific evidence," Samuels said. 

In April, an all-star legal team filed supplementary grounds and skeleton arguments in the Court of Appeal in downtown Kingston to have the 2014 murder convictions overturned.

The team, comprising attorneys Tom Tavares-Finson, Valerie Neita-Robertson and Bert Samuels, reportedly raised a dozen reasons why the appellants should be freed. The documents submitted by the attorneys outlined what has been described as a litany of errors that were supposedly made by the trial judge, Justice Lennox Campbell, which were said to have led to the convictions.

The Supreme Court in downtown Kingston, where the Vybz Kartel appeal is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Samuels suggested that the judge’s bias came out through inadequate directions to the jury in respect to the law of interference, or in applying the law relating to it, which the attorney said denied the jury appropriate tools to ensure a fair and balanced assessment of the case.  He argued that this was an abrogation of established principles designed to protect the rights of citizens on trial.

"Justice Campbell did not remind the jury of the cell site evidence. He should have reminded them of what we lawyers call exclusionary evidence, and how the cell site evidence proved that the main witness' testimony claimed that Williams was at Swallowfield Avenue where men were supposed to be killing him at the time he was in St. Catherine; come on!" Samuels said.

Exclusionary evidence is said to be a rule of evidence that excludes or suppresses evidence obtained in violation of a defendant's constitutional rights.

Samuels also raised other general issues with what he cited as contaminated cellphone evidence that was allowed at the trial, along with what he viewed as prejudicial video evidence that was also allowed.

The attorney said the judge erred when he did not allow Shawn Campbell to be present when key material evidence crucial to the case was being presented.

"Whenever evidence that is material to the case is being presented, the accused must be present. He was not invited by the judge to be present, and the judge is responsible for the fairness of a trial, as laid out under Section 16 of the Charter of Fundamental rights, that the accused should be entitled to examine evidence that deals with determination of guilt," he said. 

Section 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms reads:  “Every person charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to examine or have examined, at his trial, witnesses against him, and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.”

The lawyers also believe that the sentence was "manifestly excessive", and that the trial judge made errors which amounted to serious constitutional breaches.

Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. Outside of his appeal prospects, he will be eligible for parole after serving 35 years.

He is presently at the St Catherine District prison in Spanish Town.

Kartel and Shawn Storm were convicted along with co-accused Kahira Jones and Andre St John. All received life sentences.

St John is to do 30 years before being considered for parole, while Jones and Campbell are to serve 25 years before they will be eligible for parole consideration.

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