Jamaica’s Court of Appeal has reduced the time that dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel and his three co-convicts must serve before becoming eligible for parole. The meager two and a half year sentence reductions were granted after the appellate court found an oversight in the trial judge’s ruling at sentencing.
Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, must now serve at least 32 years and 6 months instead of the 35 years minimum he was sentenced to serve for the murder of his associate Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. Dancehall artiste Shawn Storm, whose real name is Shawn Campbell, and Kahira Johns will now serve 22 years and six months, while Andre St John will serve 27 years and six months.
Vybz Kartel has been in custody since September 29, 2011 and will now be eligible for parole in the year 2046! The Tony Montanna singer, who celebrated his 44th birthday in January, will be 70 years old then.
The four men were convicted in April 2014 for the murder of Williams at Kartel’s former home in Havendale, St Andrew, Jamaica. Lawyers for the convicts had argued in their appeal that the life sentences handed down in the original trial were excessive. They also called into question the integrity and admissibility of the evidence in the case as well as the conduct of the original trial judge, Justice Lennox Campbell.
After serving almost 6 years for that crime, the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on April 3, 2020. The three-member Appeal’s Court headed by president, Dennis Morrison indicated that they would address the matter of sentencing at a later date and asked Kartel’s attorneys for additional information concerning the time spent in jail by each of the convicts, prior to being sentenced in 2014.
In the decision handed down today, the Court of Appeal ruled that the sentences imposed by Justice Campbell “cannot be said to have been excessive to such an extent as to call for this court’s intervention”. The court however said that Justice Campbell may have “may have erred” by not giving consideration to the time the four men spent in custody prior to 2014 while awaiting trial.
Today, the court said having regard to the contents of the note received on April 9, 2020 from Tom Tavares-Finson QC, for and on behalf of the attorneys-at-law for all the appellants, the order of the court in respect of sentence is as follows:
Save as indicated in order number 2 below, the appeals of Messrs Campbell, Palmer, Jones and St John against their respective sentences are all dismissed and the sentences are affirmed.
The period of imprisonment to be served by each appellant before becoming eligible for parole is reduced by two years and six months. Accordingly, the times to be served before being eligible for parole shall be as follows:
Mr Campbell – 22 years and 6 months
Mr Palmer – 32 years and 6 months
Mr Jones – 22 years and 6 months
Mr St John – 27 years and 6 months
The sentences shall each be reckoned to have commenced on 3 April 2014.
As fans and family in Portmore prepare for their own coronavirus lockdown, the Portmore native remains incarcerated, and will no doubt be reeling from what will be seen as another blow to bids for his freedom.
Kartel’s lawyers have said they will be taking the matter to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, Jamaica’s highest appellate court. “We are disappointed, but we are prepared to go to the Privy Council,” said Bert Samuels, one of the lawyers representing the four men.