Tweeting the Vybz Kartel Trial & Telling Jamaican Stories

The Vybz Kartel murder trial continues to capture the attention of Jamaican netizens. Annie Paul of Active Voice “finally made it” to the trial last week, and provided some valuable context:

Jamaican DJ Kartel and his four co-accused are charged with the murder of Clive Williams aka Lizard, an associate who apparently borrowed two guns from the DJ and was subsequently unable to return them. It is alleged that in retaliation he was murdered by the DJ and his accomplices. In an unprecedented move Kartel and company have been held without bail for two and a half years, while rumours have swirled that the Police had incontrovertible evidence of Lizard’s murder at the hands of Kartel and his friends. The evidence was said to be in the form of text messages, voice messages and videos found on cell phones belonging to the DJ that were taken into custody by the Police when he was arrested on 29 September 2011. There was also a series of text messages sent by Lizard Williams to his girlfriend saying that he feared for his life and begging her to inform the police.

She admitted that some observers are sceptical of such evidence. On Twitter, for instance, Peter Dean Rickards suggested:

However, Paul also said:

Quite a few people have made up their minds that the entertainer is guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. So much for the accused being considered innocent until proven guilty.

Which is exactly why she wanted to attend the trial “live and direct” herself. She described her experience in compelling detail:

I thoroughly enjoyed being in court [last Wednesday] to witness Pierre Rodgers (co-accused Sean Storm’s attorney) systematically pick apart Detective Sergeant Patrick Linton’s testimony. Linton is the former head of the Cybercrimes Unit who downloaded and presented the evidence collected from Kartel’s phones. While waiting for a legal friend to arrive to take me into Courtroom 2 where the Kartel trial was scheduled, I bucked up Supreme Court Judge Bryan Sykes who assured me that I needed no such escort, having a right as a member of the public to attend the trial. That may be true in theory, but in reality entry wasn’t easy.

Had I not been escorted by a legal heavyweight the four heavy set plainclothes policemen outside the courtroom who interrogated us while barring entry would have intimidated me enough to make me leave. Having finally breached the hallowed theatre of justice I was surprised at how small the courtroom was, and intimate; i found myself seated about six feet away from Kartel and within spitting distance of the jury. The DJ wore a shocking pink shirt and orange tie and held a matching orange handkerchief that he occasionally squeezed or twisted in his hands.

I don’t know if there were any other members of the public there, the seats were mostly taken up by plain clothes policeman nattily dressed in suits with different coloured ties and lawyers in their John Crow like robes.

The rest of Paul's post compiles a selection of tweets “from the account of the person tweeting on behalf of Vybz Kartel, followed by some of @Emilynationwide and Legatus Maximus’s tweets capturing some of the action”:

Legatus A. Maximus’ tweets dealt primarily with the debate over the digital evidence:

Cucumber Juice, meanwhile, was still ruminating on the lessons inherent in the trial:

Remember Tivoli, May 2010? That story, a defining moment in Jamaican history, was and still is being told by Mattathias Schwartz. We don’t even have a barrage of songs about Tivoli. It’s like we’ve locked the events of May 2010 away in some deep dark recess of our collective consciousness, fearful of really looking at what happened and what it may say about us.

Remember the first Jamaican Bobsleigh team? That story was ultimately told by Disney. Right now there is a lot of goodwill and focus on the 2014 two-man Bobsleigh team from Jamaica and much of it is framed around Cool Runnings.

Then, only last week someone wondered out loud on Twitter whether and when there’d be a movie about Adidja Palmer’s current trial. I hope that there is! To repeat: There is so much rich detail in the charges that were brought against Mr. Palmer. The ins and outs of this trial would make any screenwriter happy, and somehow I think that Mr. Palmer would be a willing collaborator.

I raise this issue of telling our stories within the context of the Kartel trial because I expect that many Jamaicans simply want Mr. Palmer to disappear from the Jamaican news cycle. He should be banished to furtive verandah and cocktail party chatter, nothing more. They’d probably hope for less. That strikes me as hopelessly superficial (that is, of course, unless you’re the victim’s family and friends). It also raises the question I think of what or who is respectable enough to be claimed as Jamaican.

To her, the good, the bad and the ugly are inextricably interwoven into the concept of Jamaican identity:

Our history and current happenings are not always palatable but they are ours, and, together, they weave together the tapestry of our society and influence our collective consciousness. Face it, talk about it, deal with it. These things are all Jamaican and a part of Jamaica. I wonder if it is that given all the pressures of a still young independent nation whether it is that we’ve implicitly decided that we cannot afford the luxury of fully exploring our experiences and history. There is no time and no space. Life is so challenging for many and surviving is the ongoing concern. Somehow that strikes me as unhealthy at worst and a missed opportunity at best. We’re neglecting our chances to identify, define, celebrate, explore, and examine the themes that comprise Jamaican identity and what it means to be Jamaican.

Why aren’t we telling our stories?

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