Kartel Appeals Verdict, A Stress-test On An Already Suspect Justice System…

After an inor­di­nate­ly long time con­sid­er­ing the Vybz Kartel appeals, the court of appeals has indi­cat­ed to the lawyers of Kartel and his two co-accused that a ver­dict is forth­com­ing at 9:00 am Friday, April 3rd.
Vybz Kartel, Shawn Storm, Kahira Jones, and Andre St. John were found guilty of mur­der in rela­tion to the killing of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams in 2011.
The Appeals court has been con­sid­er­ing this case for approx­i­mate­ly 21 months, which gives rise to ques­tions as to what could have caused this appeals process to be tak­ing this long.
In December of 2019, lead defense lawyer for Kartel, Queen’s Counsel, Tom Tavares Finson, wrote to the court with a view to find­ing out when a deci­sion would be made in the case.
The court wrote to Finson that the three-judge pan­el’s deci­sion of his clien­t’s mur­der con­vic­tion was at an advanced stage.
We are in a new year and into the fourth month, final­ly, the court has indi­cat­ed that a ver­dict will be forth­com­ing.
But this writer can not feel con­fi­dent in the process of jus­tice one way or the oth­er when (a) this high pro­file appeals process has tak­en so long, & (b) giv­en the past lib­er­al his­to­ry of the court.
The ques­tion on my mind is why has it tak­en so long for this pan­el to reach a deci­sion in a case that has already been heard by a com­pe­tent jurist, the now-retired Justice Lennox Campbell?

No Jamaican who believes in the process of jus­tice and fair­ness should feel any degree of com­fort that this court is delib­er­at­ing this case.
The court of appeals has a his­to­ry of upend­ing per­fect­ly decid­ed cas­es and throw­ing out the con­vic­tions of dan­ger­ous mur­der­ers on the flim­si­est of alle­ga­tions of inves­tiga­tive, pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al, or judi­cial imper­fec­tion.
That is nev­er how the sys­tem was sup­posed to work.
As a police offi­cer involved in seri­ous cas­es, I saw all too well how pow­er­ful peo­ple with mon­ey were able to have the ver­dict they want­ed at the appeals court lev­el.
I have seen up close how mon­ey and good lawyers can make mir­a­cles hap­pen and per­fect­ly decid­ed cas­es are dis­missed on the most flim­sy and fraud­u­lent of alle­ga­tions of impro­pri­ety or mis­take.
The appeals courts process does not con­sid­er the mur­dered or the oth­er­wise aggriev­ed vic­tims, or the heinous crimes per­pe­trat­ed on them by the Island’s vicious mur­der­ers.
All that seems to mat­ter to the Islands appeals process is that there is main­tained a purist stan­dard that con­sid­ers only the con­vict­ed crim­i­nal, regard­less of the heinous nature of the crimes they have been con­vict­ed on.

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Just today I spoke to a process with­in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem on a social media plat­form, that process is known as {stare deci­sis.} [In in the inter­est of full dis­clo­sure I am not a lawyer].
Stare deci­sis is a legal doc­trine that oblig­ates courts to fol­low his­tor­i­cal cas­es when mak­ing a rul­ing on a sim­i­lar case. Stare deci­sis ensures that cas­es with sim­i­lar sce­nar­ios and facts are approached in the same way. Simply put, it binds courts to fol­low legal prece­dents set by pre­vi­ous deci­sions.
[Stare deci­sis] is a Latin term mean­ing “to stand by that which is decid­ed.“
Before I go on I am oblig­at­ed to also say that I have no evi­dence one way or the oth­er as to the guilt or inno­cence of either or all of the three con­vict­ed mur­der­ers.
Additionally, regard­less of how hor­ri­ble a per­son may be, no per­son should be con­vict­ed wrong­ful­ly for a crime he or she did not com­mit.
On the oth­er hand, it is a gross mis­car­riage of jus­tice, when a court at what­ev­er lev­el, allows con­vict­ed crim­i­nals to walk free because of minor tech­ni­cal­i­ties which do not detract from the body of evi­dence that was pre­sent­ed at tri­al, or worse, because they have been cor­rupt­ly com­pro­mised.
Jamaica’s court of appeal has been known time and again to ignore the estab­lished doc­trine of stare deci­sis and over­turn the tri­al court’s find­ings.
In some instances, the court went out of its way to allow new­ly man­u­fac­tured evi­dence into the appeals process, none of which was at the tri­al stage.
The case of Kartel and his two cronies also saw the appeals court allow in new evi­dence from the defense that was not at the tri­al 9 years ago.
An appeals court has no duty to inter­fere with a ver­dict that was arrived at fair­ly, just­ly and with­out malfea­sance.
An appeals court should let stand a ver­dict unless there is new sub­stan­ti­at­ed evi­dence of inves­tiga­tive, pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al, or judi­cial mis­con­duct.
A ver­dict arrived at with­out those bul­let points should not be inter­fered with by an appel­late court.

The appeals court has a duty to the nation, not to pop­u­lar cul­ture, not to demigods, not to trail lawyers, but to the rule of law, to make a rea­soned deci­sion that even if there are minor imper­fec­tions in the prosecution’s case they do not rise to enough to change the ver­dict.
An acquit­tal would basi­cal­ly set up the state to even­tu­al­ly pay out tens, poten­tial­ly hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to three mur­der con­victs.
A retri­al of this case would also be the same as an acquit­tal as there is no way they would con­vict these con­vict­ed mur­der­ers 9‑years lat­er using the same evi­dence and wit­ness­es.
Literally, every demigod that has been removed from the streets has been removed either by police bul­lets, street jus­tice, or by the United States.
The court sys­tem has been an abysmal fail­ure when it comes to pros­e­cut­ing, con­vict­ing, and retain­ing the con­vic­tions of the very few it man­ages to con­vict, pre­cise­ly because of the vast lib­er­al­ism at the appel­late lev­el.
This fail­ure has turned our coun­try into one of the most vio­lent coun­tries on earth. Violent mur­der­ers have very lit­tle regard for the process. They have no fear that the sys­tem has the guts or the integri­ty to con­vict them, and when con­vinced, they are com­fort­able they will be able to buy the out­comes they desire.

UPDATED

The court of appeals has issued its ver­dict: The three-judge pan­el reaf­firmed the deci­sion of guilt the tri­al court hand­ed down to the three accused mur­der­ers in 2011.
We applaud the deci­sion of the court not to inter­fere with the just deci­sion of the tri­al court, or to be blind­ed by sta­tus or pop-cul­ture in its deci­sion mak­ing.
By allow­ing this ver­dict of guilt to stand, it gives law-abid­ing Jamaicans hope, that all is not lost. That even though our coun­try faces grave dan­ger from anar­chists, we have the abil­i­ty to pull back from the edge of the abyss, one step at a time, using the rule of law.

Mike Beckles is a for­mer Jamaican police Detective cor­po­ral, busi­ness­man, researcher, and blog­ger. 
He is a black achiev­er hon­oree, and pub­lish­er of the blog chatt​-​a​-box​.com. 
He’s also a con­trib­u­tor to sev­er­al web­sites.
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