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Vybz Kartel, co-accused remain behind bars

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(Jamaica Observer) KINGSTON, Jamaica— Dancehall star Vybz Kartel and two of his three co-accused will remain behind bars after a judge rejected the habeas corpus application submitted by their attorneys Thursday.

Supreme Court Justice Andrea Thomas ruled that in the absence of a verdict of acquittal by the Privy Council the charge of murder remains in effect for Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, and his co-accused Shawn “Shawn Storm” Campbell and Andre St John.

In declaring that their present custodial status is not in breach of the constitution, Justice Thomas told a packed court room at the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston that, “In view of the fact that their appeal is not yet determined they should remain in custody until their appeal is concluded.

“That is until a verdict of acquittal is entered or there is a decision for a retrial,” Thomas said.

The ruling comes after an intense court battle to determine whether Kartel and the two men were being illegally detained by the state.

Attorney for the men, Isat Buchanan, argued in submissions that “a conviction must exist for there to be authority to detain” the men.

Meanwhile, state attorneys argued that the quashing of the convictions by the Privy Council in March did not equate to an acquittal and only reverted the men to their pretrial status with murder charges that are still “live”.

The defence lawyers had on May 13 filed a writ of habeas corpus application seeking their clients’ release, arguing that there was no order by the Apex Court for the continued detention of their clients and as such they should be released.

The writ sought to have the judge make an order for the prisoners to be brought before the court for it to determine if they were to be released or granted bail.

One co-accused Kahira Jones, who is reportedly facing another charge, was not included in the application. No Order was made regarding his status.

On March 14, the Privy Council ruled that Kartel and his co-accused have their convictions overturned for the 2011 murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams.

The Privy Council had ordered that the case be returned to Jamaica’s Appeal Court to decide whether a retrial is necessary for Kartel and his co-accused Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St John.

The Privy Council’s ruling followed an appeal made in February by lawyers representing the then-convicts, who argued various grounds, including the admissibility of telecommunication evidence, allegations of jury misconduct, and pressure on the jury to reach a verdict.

Since the ruling, the artiste has remained in prison. Shortly after, Kartel questioned the need for a retrial in his statement to Fox 5 News, saying, “I feel victorious in this very moment as the Privy Council, in their infinite wisdom, understood the assignment and remedied the situation by quashing my conviction! I am now back to being an innocent man in the eyes of the law. A grave injustice was done to me and my co-accused in the original trial… and my cries were heard in the land’s highest court.”

He added: “I am confident that the Court of Appeal in Jamaica will do the right thing in the name of equity, fairness, and justice and free us. Some people have expressed their concern to me that a retrial may be ordered, but to them I say (albeit with my limited knowledge of the law), ‘What is there to retry?’”

In April 2014, Kartel was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after serving 35 years of his sentence. His co-accused were also handed life sentences – with Shawn Storm and Jones being eligible for parole after serving 25 years, and St John being eligible after serving 15 years.

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