What Vybz Kartel's Conviction Says About Jamaican Justice & Dancehall

The conviction of dance-hall star Vybz Kartel (Adidja Palmer) and three associates for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams has dominated online discussion in Jamaica since the verdict was announced. Much of the debate has centered around what Kartel's conviction says about dancehall culture and Jamaica's justice system, with some social media users wondering how someone with as much talent and resources as Kartel could have found himself in such a situation.

Blogger Annie Paul curated various responses to the Kartel verdict. She also shared some of her own:

I fully believed that Kartel and co. would walk; because of the weakness of Jamaica’s justice system,  the strength of the defence team, and because the powerful are rarely tried, let alone found guilty in this society. But no! 

She continued:

Many of us thought that Kartel would have got off because the jury would have felt too intimidated to find him guilty. Clearly they didn’t. This too was something the DPP must have been keen on establishing, to signal to potential jurors and a timorous public that the all-abiding fear that curtails the carriage of justice too often is perhaps overstated and unnecessary. 

Paul also had some thoughts about Williams, the murder victim who, to her mind, has been overlooked in the coverage:

Lizard’s sister, Stephanie Breakenridge, sat in the courtroom sobbing every now and then as the final moments arrived. In all of the circus around this celebrity court case her brother, seen in the video above dancing and bigging up the Gaza Empire, had been virtually forgotten in the media coverage of the trial, except perhaps as its subject, in cold, clinical terms. His terror-filled texts had been read to the courtroom earlier in the trial but otherwise very little was known of the young man who thought his moment in the sun had arrived the day he was adopted by Kartel and his group.

This Twitter user wondered why, given the lyrical content of Kartel's songs, so many are still adamant about his innocence:

One fan pointed out that Kartel could continue to make music whilst incarcerated:

Another argued that it was unfair to compare Vybz Kartel's situation to Buju Banton's, adding that another difference was in the support that the two artists received:

Speaking of character, one netizen compared Kartel to the notorious don Christopher “Dudus” Coke:

Yet another tweeter compared Kartel's Portmore Empire/Gaza crew to the American rap label, Death Row Records:

Some of Kartel's over-exuberant fans attempted to petition the US government to grant Kartel a re-trail (the petition has since been taken down.) This attempt was met with bemusement by some on Twitter:

Finally, Trinidad-based music promoter Tony Chow Lin On tweeted a message for those who continue to support Kartel:

1 comment

  • […] Since the Vybz Kartel murder conviction, Jamaica has been divided on the verdict, with upset fans maintaining his innocence and others feeling reassured about the workings of Jamaica's justice system.  […]

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