The Night the Lights Went Out in Jamaica: Politician Freed of Corruption Charges

The fraud and money laundering charges against former Jamaican Energy Minister Kern Spencer (and his then-assistant, Colleen Wright) have been dropped after Senior Resident Magistrate Judith Pusey upheld a no-case submission filed by their attorneys. The case was the result of what has become known as the Cuban Light Bulb scandal, in which the distribution of energy saving light-bulbs, donated by the Cuban government, ended up costing Jamaica JA$276 million (about US$2.5 million).

A video which was widely circulated in 2007, showed Kern Spencer breaking down in Parliament while the Jamaica Labour Party government, which was in office at the time, pressed him for answers relating to the light-bulb distribution program:


Journalist Emily Crooks tweeted the developments as they happened:

The magistrate's decision drew much attention not only because the charges involved a politician, but because the case furthered an ongoing discussion about the Jamaican justice system. Many commenters compared the outcome of this case to the recent Vybz Kartel verdict. A blogger at Yardflex wondered if there was a double standard:

Spencer, the former junior energy minister [and] north east St Elizabeth Member of Parliament, who cried in Parliament when the allegations were first made public, was a picture of relief after the ruling.

Defence attorneys K.D. Knight and Deborah Martin argued, in their submissions, that Spencer and Wright were denied a fair trial because of prosecutorial misconduct and the lengthy delays in the case and that the evidence did not support the charges.Same situation with Kartel. Why was he found guilty?

Dee Nadz Tine said that people should not jump to conclusions about the Jamaican justice system on the basis of a single case:

Two weeks ago in the Kartel Murder Trial the justice system was being lauded, now in the Kern Spencer trial, the same people are bemoaning and crying shame of the same system…never let one situation and its outcome bring us to a conclusion; neither should we allow hatred, anger, dislike, love, fondness, political allegiance to be the premise on which we pass judgment‪#‎ourjusticesystemisbroken‬ ‪#‎admitit‬ ‪#‎itcouldfailyoudirectly‬

Twitter users couldn't help but compare the two cases, however:

This Twitter user did not understand how the case could end this way after a six-year investigation…

…while this one felt that Spencer should have had an opportunity to clear his name in court:

Others suggested that the whole process was a waste of time:

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