JUSTICE Lennox Campbell yesterday came under more fire for his handling of the murder trial of dancehall star Vybz Kartel (Adija Palmer) and his co-appellants as another defence lawyer yesterday accused him of not having an understanding of the law.
Attorney Robert Fletcher, who represents Kahira Jones — one of three men convicted along with Kartel for the August 2011 murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams — argued in the Court of Appeal that Justice Campbell because of his lack of understanding of the law made several errors during the trial. The veteran attorney pointed out that the judge's acknowledgment that one of the phones was tampered with and his subsequent acceptance of the said phone as an exhibit demonstrated his lack of knowledge regarding the law. “How is that the learned trial judge can put to the jury the fact that the phone was contaminated, tampered and compromised and then ask them to decide if it was contaminated?” Fletcher asked. “I cannot find a word to describe that, except maybe redundant, and what special skills do they have that would allow them to make such a decision?” he further asked. According to Fletcher, the judge did not show any regard for the new developments in the case law that speak specifically to the issue of the integrity of the exhibits and went beyond mere breaks in the chain of custody of the exhibits. He also pointed to other questionable exhibits being admitted into evidence by the judge, such as the video of the alleged murder in which he said no one was clearly identified, and two discs on which materials from one of the phones that were seized were downloaded but the phone went missing.
The attorney also argued that the judge had erred during the sentencing process when he sentenced the co-appellants without having a social enquiry report, which he said is a fundamental principle that is to be observed. “You can't sentence somebody unless you know who they are,” he said, while noting that a social enquiry report would provide all the necessary details about an individual including his or her character and how he or she is viewed by community members and relatives. Fletcher also argued that the judge in sentencing the appellants did not take into account the mitigating circumstances in the case and only focused on the aggravating issues such as the level of planning of the murder, concealment of the deceased body and threats that were reportedly issued prior to the death of the now deceased. Meanwhile, Kartel's attorney Valerie Neita-Robertson urged the court to quash his conviction and that of his co-appellants as their case was prejudiced by the widespread, adverse publicity, primarily from the police.
Some of the adverse publicity which came from the police, she said, were press releases from the then Constabulary Communication Network which linked a report about a firebombing of a witness's home and vandalisation of a Digicel cell site to the high-profile case, as well as a statement made by the then commissioner of police. Neita-Robertson argued that the judge dealt with the complaints about the adverse publicity in a flippant manner and should have terminated the trial. In asking the judge to quash the conviction she also pointed out that, based on the evidence presented during the trial, her client would not have been at the house in Havendale at the time of Williams's murder. She said that contrary to evidence provided by the cell tower analysis, which indicated that Kartel was in Havendale at 7:52 pm, hospital phone records showed that he arrived there at 7:48 pm.
Pointing to the evidence given by the eyewitness in his statement that he had arrived at the house at 8:00 pm she said, “It would mean that Mr Palmer would not be at the house when Williams's death happened.” Kartel, Shawn Campbell, Jones and Andre St John were convicted in April 2014 and given mandatory life sentences. Kartel was ordered to serve 35 years before being eligible for parole while Campbell, Jones and St John were ordered to each serve 25 years before becoming eligible for parole.