Jamaica Awaits Verdict in Murder Trial of Dancehall Reggae Star Vybz Kartel

Jamaicans – and dancehall music fans – have been anticipating the long-awaited verdict in the Vybz Kartel murder trial. Two days ago, blogger Annie Paul posted this Facebook status update:

Massive roadblocks, crowds milling round downtown Kingston in anticipation of ‪#‎KartelMurderTrial‬ verdict (which may not even be delivered today)

Journalist Emily Crooks, who blogs here, wrote a first-hand account that supported Paul's update:

Its (sic) February 19, 2014.

There is animation and anxiety in the 200 metre space around the Supreme Court on King Street in downtown Kingston. In courtroom number 2, Vybz Kartel sits in the dock with his co-accused as prosecutor Jeremy Taylor prepares to rubbish the closing argument of defence attorney, Tom Tavares Finson who acts for Kartel. The case has been going on since November 20, 2013 – we are nearing the end. The stakes are high. Security is tight as I have never seen it before.

Downtown is on edge. The precise reason is not known to many.

There are whispers that the police had intelligence overnight.

Her post went on to give an account of the day's court proceedings:

Court is about to resume its morning session. The eleven member panel of jurors takes seat in the box. The judge arrives. Jury is again asked to leave. Christian Tavares Finson [the lead attorney's son] wishes to address the court in the absence of the jury. Something weighs heavily on him. In the normal course of a trial, I do not report matters that transpire in the absence of the jury but these matters are later repeated in their presence hence my reporting of Christian’s burden that weighed him down.

He stands and says to the judge – I am very distressed to see the approach the police have taken this morning – extra police personnel who have descend on the building.

Judge – are you privy to intel the police has – is the judge’s almost impatient reply.

Christian – I am not My Lord but this scenario that bothers me – media representatives have identification, lawyers have identification, workers have to provide identification cards but jurors have to disclose that they are jurors to get unto the Supreme Court complex and that is very irregular and dangerous. Additionally, the family of the accused have been prevented from entering the building. There is no indication as to the reason this is so. I do no know that there is any order from this court.

Soon after that, Crooks reported, the members of the jury were called back inside and Kartel's lead attorney, Tom Tavares Finson, again rasied the matter – this time in the presence of the jury:

At the end of the session, the judge calls the superintendent and says ‘I have been made to understand that members of public some related to the family of accused have been denied entry. I don’t know the reason if any. What I will say is that every Jamaican citizen has a right to the court unless security forces have some reason that could interfere with the rule of court. I wish for you to bear that in mind. I can’t give any instructions as I don’t know what your intelligence is. But I ask you to consider the rights of the citizens regarding access to court. I wish for you to bear that in mind’.

Mr Tavares Finson is later to announce to the court that during lunch he had discussions two police personnel – Superintendent Pinnock and Ellis who reported there was ‘a breakdown in communication and I accept what they have said’.

Judge – do you believe if you had gone to them before the matter would have been dealt with

Tom – No My Lord because it was because of what transpired in court why they came to me.

On Twitter, @Pseud_O_Nym said:

As it turned out, the verdict was not delivered on February 19; the nation is still in limbo, but tweeting while they wait. Late yesterday, @Lacey_World noted:

Emily Crooks later updated the legal timeline:

There were tweets that shared links to Vybz Kartel's full statement to the court

…and tweets that focused on the strategy of the prosecution:

Emily Crooks, who has been religiously using social media to inform netizens about trial developments, tweeted the following updates about a half hour ago:

About ten minutes later, she posted the first closing speech of the trial on her blog, explaining:

These are my verbatim notes, as I able to capture, of the closing speech of Kartel’s attorney, Tom Tavares Finson. Kartel having called witnesses to give evidence on his behalf is the first to make a closing address to the jury. The address of the legal team for Kartel is followed by the address of the prosecutor, Jeremy Taylor.

Closing arguments will continue on Monday and if the judge is right, by mid-week Jamaicans will know whether or not their self-appointed #WorldBoss has been declared innocent or guilty.

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