get link Dancehall and reggae star Vybz Kartel has been convicted of murder. In a high-profile trial under heavy security, Kartel and three co-defendants were found guilty of killing an associate, Clive Lizard Williams, in a row over a missing gun. One defendant was cleared of wrongdoing.
On Thursday, Jamaican police in riot gear guarded streets outside, and parts of the capital Kingston were cordoned off in advance of the verdict to prevent any disruption by fans of the entertainer. However, shortly before the jury started to deliberate in the afternoon, about 200 people briefly broke through barricades at one intersection shouting “Free Kartel!”
Prosecutors alleged Williams was beaten to death at the reggae performer’s home in August 2011 after being lured there to answer for two missing illegal guns. His body has never been found. Police testified they retrieved a text message from Kartel’s phone saying Williams was chopped up in a “mincemeat” so fine that his remains would never be found. Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, has been in jail for about three years since his arrest in connection with the case.
Defence lawyer Tom Tavares-Finson had told jurors that the prosecution’s case against Kartel was “dishonest” and “incompetent”, noting that witness statements and a compact disc with evidence saved on it somehow went missing. After the verdict, he said he was planning to appeal on behalf of the convicted men.
Last year, another murder case against Kartel and two other co-defendants collapsed after prosecutors failed to produce evidence to support allegations that the trio killed businessman Barrington “Bossy” Burton in 2011.
In addition to the conviction, a male juror was arrested last Thursday evening on charges of attempting to bribe the jury foreman in an attempt to influence the panel to free Kartel. Authorities confirmed the arrest but gave no further details.
According to local media, the 65-day trial was the longest running criminal hearing in the history of Jamaica’s circuit court system. Kartel will be sentenced in court on 27 March.
Kartel’s songs are played widely in Jamaica, and many young people, especially those in blighted slums, consider him a hero of sorts.