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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – WHILE pointing out that the judge in the Vybz Kartel murder trial, Justice Lennox Campbell, had admitted that the phone evidence was compromised, defence lawyers representing the convicted entertainer and his three c0-appellants yesterday maintained that the phone evidence used to convict the men was contaminated.
The defence lawyers also blame the police for altering the phone’s data and possibly concocting the damning message that was sent from Adidja ‘Vybz Kartel’ Palmer’s phone.
The text, which read: “Between me and you a chop wi chop up di bwoy Lizard fine fine and dash him weh nuh. As long as wi a live dem can never find him”, according to the prosecution, should be construed as an admission of guilt.
Vybz Kartel, along with fellow entertainer Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, as well as Kahira Jones and Andre St John, are seeking to have their life sentences overturned for the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams on August 16, 2011.
Last week the prosecution rubbished claims from the defence team that the evidence that was lifted from the phone, including text messages, videos and voicenotes, were compromised, as there was no evidence in the trial to show that the material was contaminated. The prosecution further contended that even if the evidence was contaminated, it would have left footprints.
But defence attorney Isat Buchanan, who is part of the team that includes Bert Samuels and his daughter, Bianca, who is representing Shawn Storm, yesterday argued that not only was the phone evidence compromised, resulting in disjointed and incomplete messages being presented to the court, but there were also inconsistent times given regarding the creation date for the damning text and the file in which it was created.
He said that besides the July 6 date that was put forward by the police expert as the date when the file holding the text message was created, September 30, August 23, and October 10 were also mentioned as other dates on which the message was created.
“There are several dates floating around,” Buchanan said, noting that the prosecution had conceded to the phone being accessed at least five times while in police custody.
“It is submitted that the five times that the phone was accessed by the police would have presented opportunities for someone within the unit to apply the process called anti-forensic technique, which amounts to tampering, and is therefore illegal, and that software can be used to manipulate the time stamps on the messages as admitted by Mr Linton (police expert),” Buchanan pointed out on the last day of the week-long hearing.
According to the attorney, the judge, during his summation, had asked the jury to consider whether the message, specifically the “chop up fine, fine” text represents a concoction by the expert. However, Buchanan said the expert witness had denied fabricating the message, but the manipulation and inconsistencies of the evidence, as well as the concoction, were still a matter for consideration.
Buchanan, in responding to the Crown’s argument that the data evidence from the phone was unique and left its footprint, said that the appellants reject that argument.
“We know that the evidence was modified while the appellants were in custody, and the evidence is incontrovertible that the evidence was modified while in the possession of the police,” he said.
In the meantime, he said that the defence team finds it suspicious that only select text messages and videos were pulled from Kartel’s phone, and questioned why all of the messages and videos had not been disclosed to them.
His colleague, Bianca Samuels, in her reply, said that the defence is standing by its argument that the damning text was created on July 6, six weeks before Williams was murdered, and not on August 19, as posited by the prosecution. Noting that defence lawyer Pierre Rodgers, during the murder trial, first adopted this argument, she said the argument was a matter of interpretation.
She further reiterated that the phone evidence should not have been accepted, especially since the trial judge himself, in his summation, had said in his own words while directing the jury, that the evidence was contaminated.
Meanwhile, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Morrison and accompanying judges, Frank Williams and Patrick Brooks, yesterday promised to treat the decision as a matter of priority after reserving judgement in the case.
The judges said they could not give any indication as to when they would arrive at a decision as the material before them was extensive, but that the registrar would be informed of the decision as soon it is made.
Kartel was ordered to serve 35 years before parole and St John, 30 years, while the other two were ordered to serve 20 years before being eligible for parole.