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JAMAICA – Appeal court allows fresh evidence in Kartel case

KINGSTON – The credibility of the main witness in the murder trial of Vybz Kartel and Shawn Storm came under scrutiny yesterday as lawyers for the imprisoned entertainers successfully argued that they should be allowed to introduce fresh evidence in their quest to have their clients’ convictions tossed.

Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, and Shawn Storm, whose real name is Shawn Campbell, were convicted of murder in 2014, along with Kahiro Jones and AndrÈ St John, for killing Clive Lizard Williams at a house in Havendale, St Andrew, in 2011.

They were all given the mandatory sentence of life in prison, with Kartel ordered to serve 35 years before he is eligible for parole. Campbell, Jones and St John were each ordered to serve 25 years before they became eligible for parole.

Among the new evidence the attorneys lobbied for was the handwritten statement that the main prosecution witness gave police investigators on August 24, 2011, eight days after Williams was killed.

Bert Samuels, who, along with Bianca Samuels and Isat Buchanan, represents Shawn Storm, said in the statement the witness indicated that he arrived at the Havendale premises at 8 p.m. on the day Williams was killed. But Samuels said while giving evidence during the trial, the witness “was very definitive about arriving at Havendale between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.”.

“To compound his credibility issue, he has said he never told that to the police (arriving at Havendale at 8 p.m.),” the attorney argued.

Samuels posited, too, that forensic evidence presented during the trial not only placed Shawn Storm away from the Havendale premises “but puts the victim Clive Williams in a taxi [in Portmore] and not at Havendale being beaten to death”.

Over the objections of prosecutors, the Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Dennis Morrison, Patrick Brooks and Frank Williams, ordered that the witness’ handwritten statement should be included in the hearing.

The court also ordered that two affidavits, filed by Shawn Storm and attorney-at-law Kimberli Whittaker, should be part of the appeal.

Shawn Storm complained in his affidavits that he was denied the opportunity to give instructions to his attorney midway the murder trial after it was alleged that one member of the jury attempted to influence others on the seven-member panel to return a verdict of not guilty.

“The judge found himself thinking about expediency rather than a fair trial,” he argued.

Kartel’s attorney, Valerie Neita-Robertson, in her application to have Whittaker’s affidavit included, said that it included statements from two jurors about the alleged bribery. According to Neita-Robertson, the alleged incident was recorded and played for all the jurors to hear.

She said that in light of this, the presiding judge should have enquired of the jurors whether the material “had affected them”.

“The jurors were provided with knowledge they should not have and which made them incapable of sitting as jurors,” the attorney said.

The hearing, which was scheduled for three weeks, has been reduced to one week and is scheduled to resume next Monday.

(Jamaica Gleaner)

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