Thursday 26 November, 2020

Vybz Kartel: From 'teacha' to prisoner - a timeline of events

In this file photo, Vybz Kartel flashes his trademark 'Gaza' hand symbol before entering court.

In this file photo, Vybz Kartel flashes his trademark 'Gaza' hand symbol before entering court.

On Friday, the appeal by dancehall powerhouse Vybz Kartel and his three murder co-convicts was dismissed.

The decision is a big disappointment for Kartel fans who had high hopes of seeing the self-proclaimed ‘World Boss’ walk free.

The Court of Appeal had agreed to take another look into the details of a trial that found Kartel, Shawn 'Storm' Campbell, Kahira Jones and André St John guilty of murder in March 2014.

The three-member panel of the court, headed by president, Dennis Morrison, Frank Williams and Patrick Brooks, announced their decision to dismiss the appeal shortly before 10am Friday. They did not immediately offer reasons for their decision.

Kartel and his co-accused have been languishing behind bars for nearly nine years. They may still have a glimmer of hope as Kartel’s attorney, Tom Tavares-Finson, has indicated that he will be taking the matter all the way to the United Kingdom Privy Council.

Loop News has gone back in time to remind our readers just how this talented but controversial dancehall deejay found himself in this predicament.


Origin and Early Career

- Born January 7, 1976 Adidja Palmer is the product of working class parents who made the community of Waterford in Portmore, St Catherine their home.

- He attended Calabar High School in St Andrew before dropping out to pursue his dream of becoming an entertainer. Starting out with the moniker Addie Banton, a young Vybz Kartel released his first single 'Love Fat Woman' at the age of 17.

- Kartel steadily rose through the ranks and caught the attention of dancehall heavyweight Bounty Killer, who incorporated him into his Alliance crew. While there, Vybz Kartel’s talent for penning hits came to the fore as he was the main writer for Bounty Killer and other members of the Alliance.



Gaza vs Gully 

- His rivalry with Alliance team member, Mavado and a falling out with Bounty Killer saw the deejay beating an exit from the Alliance to work on building his own Gaza Empire. Things took a turn for the worst after the rivalry spilled over into the streets and a bitter feud, dubbed the Gully/Gaza war, erupted between gangs from the communities of Big Yard and Cassava Piece on Mannings Hill Road in Kingston - resulting in several shootings and injuries. The violence even spread to schools and prompted the intervention of Prime Minister Bruce Golding and high ranking members of the constabulary who warned both men to quit the fighting or face the consequences.

- After his departure from the ranks of the Alliance, Vybz Kartel rose to become dancehall’s leading light (the self-proclaimed 'Teacha') and at the same time built his commercial empire which included his own record label, line of shoes, cake soap and alcohol.


Arrest and Murder Trial

- In September 2011, the deejay was arrested after cops from the now retired deputy Superintendent Cornwall ‘Bigga’ Ford-led Flying Squad corralled a hotel in New Kingston and took the entertainer - who was in a room with a female companion - into custody. He was slapped with the 2011 murders of Gregory Park strongman, Barrington ‘Bossie’ Bryan and his former crony Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. However, the charges in the Bryan murder were dropped after the prosecution failed to make a case against the deejay. His troubles, though, had just begun after he was remanded in custody as the prosecution built a case against him for his part in Lizard’s demise.

- He had already spent more than a year in jail when, in November 2013, the murder case against Kartel and his four co-accused began. It would go down in history as the longest murder trial ever to take place in Jamaica.

- Damning evidence was given by star prosecution witness, Leonard Chow, whose sister bore a child for Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell. Chow claimed he was taken to Kartel’s Kirk Avenue home in Havendale by Campbell and was present when Lizard was being mauled to death. Chow said he was next in line but escaped with his life after he managed to scale a high metal gate and scamper towards Mannings Hill Road, where he hailed a taxi. But not before assisting Kartel to the hospital after the deejay was bitten by his own pit bull. Chow gave evidence that the beatings and subsequent death were ordered by Kartel, who was angered that two firearms he had handed over to himself and Lizard for safekeeping had gone missing. The court was told that the code name for guns were ‘shoes’.

- Evidence was also given by police, handwriting experts, executives from telecommunications companies, and police investigators. Several voice note recordings, video footage and text messages were also handed into evidence by the prosecution.

- The defense argued that their clients were not being given a fair trial due to the fact that Chow gave two different times when he arrived at the Kirk Avenue premises, police had tampered with evidence and left cellular phones which were seized from Kartel and used them to make phone calls.

- Williams’ sister also appeared in court and tearfully testified that her brother and the accused men were friends and that his loved ones were not given the privilege of giving him a decent funeral as his body has never been found.

- Kartel’s sister, who was a vice principal of a secondary school at the time, also gave character reference on behalf of her brother.

- Vybz Kartel himself, in an unsworn statement from the dock, pleaded his innocence and asked Justice Lennox Campbell, members of the panel of jurors and the general public to separate the image of Vybz Kartel from Adidja Palmer.

- The accused men were found guilty and were remanded for sentencing. However before justice could be handed down, news broke that a member of the 12-member jury panel had attempted to bribe a fellow juror in a bid to sway the verdict in the accused men’s favour. That juror was arrested and charged for attempting to pervert the course of justice.


Sentenced to Life 

- On April 3, 2014, Kartel was sentenced to life in prison and told that he would not be eligible for parole until 35 years had elapsed. His co-accused were also sentenced to life but were told that they would be eligible for parole after 25 years.

- The guilty verdict was welcomed by the prosecution but was met with anger and dismay by the dancehall faithful who were adamant that Kartel was being targeted unfairly and called for him to be released.

- In the aftermath of the sentencing, police went to Kartel’s stomping ground of Waterford in Portmore, St Catherine and painted over murals of the entertainer.

- Two journalists also received death threats for their role in the coverage of the historic trial.

- Vybz kartel has been incarcerated for almost nine years, but imprisonment has not dented his growing popularity in the dancehall world and he continues to be hailed as the ruler of the deejay idiom.


- In April 2018, 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.

- In July 2018, the Appeal’s Court ruled that Kartel and his three murder co-convicts have the right to enter fresh evidence and agreed to take another look into the details of the trial. The arguments were presented that same month.

- After hearing the arguments, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Dennis Morrison does not indicate a specific timeline on when the panel of three justices – Morrison, Frank Williams and Patrick Brooks – will reach a decision but stated that the case will be given “some priority attention”.

- Nearly two years later, on April 3, 2020, the judges announce that the appeal has been dismissed. Kartel’s attorney, Tom Tavares-Finson, indicates that he will be taking the matter all the way to the United Kingdom Privy Council.


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