Two members of the jury who handed down the guilty verdict in the Vybz Kartel 2014 murder trial are claiming that their lives have been transformed into nightmares since then, with one adding that she has even contemplated suicide as a means of escaping her situation.
The pair, who are now living overseas, told media reporters that it has been “difficult trying to make a new life in a foreign country away from their families.”
The jurors are among three of the 11-panel jury who relocated overseas following the conviction of Vybz Kartel, whose real name is Adidja Palmer, and his protege, Shawn ‘Shawn Storm’ Campbell, along with Kahira Jones and Andre St John, for killing Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams in August 2011.
They also gave evidence in the corruption trial of 50-year-old football coach Livingston Cain, a fellow juror, accused of offering them $500,000 to return a verdict of not guilty against the entertainer, according to reports.
While Cain’s corruption trial is still ongoing before the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court, the Court of Appeal is still deliberating on the legal challenge filed by Kartel and the other men against their murder conviction. However, the two jurors last week expressed fear that they will never set foot in Jamaica again.
One of the juror, who is now residing outside of Jamaica as part of the Witness Protection Programme, asserted that the justice system is badly in need of an overhaul. She also questioned why Cain’s corruption trial is dragging out in the courts.
“Why is this taking so long? Why are you going to draw out the trial of the man,” she told the Jamaica Gleaner during a recent telephone interview.
The juror explained that since the trial in 2014, her life has turned upside down.
“All of my personal information has been changed, which simply means I have no past. I have no identity and I am a citizen of nowhere. That hurts,” she expressed.
She then disclosed that she has contemplated suicide as a means to escape the hardship she has been faced with since the controversial trial.
The former business owner also revealed that she is prohibited from speaking to relatives outside of the eight days per year they are allowed to visit her at a location away from where she lives.
The juror stated that she has been barred from contacting anyone in Jamaica, and from speaking to any Jamaican she may come across where she is located.
According to the report, her social-media accounts are monitored by the Jamaican Government, who gives her a stipend and pays for her living quarters. However, she must work to take care of her other needs.
Further, she said she is now struggling to find, and maintain, a job in her predominantly Caucasian neighbourhood but because she is not a citizen of the country that she now lives in, she has to work menial jobs.
According to the report, the second juror is not a part of the witness protection programme, but applied for, and was granted, special migration privileges by the country where he now resides, after he outlined his ties to the Vybz Kartel trial and his safety concerns.
However, he reportedly left a wife and children in Jamaica and he has not seen them in person in more than three years. He fears that he will never be able to visit Jamaica again.
“I really thought that this process would have been completed already, but since I moved it has been a battle in court and nothing is really happening,” he argued.
“I fret every single day for my family because up to this point they are still there, and my son is getting older and he is asking where his daddy is every day and we can only video chat. I can’t even mention the sleepless nights, all the hurt and the pain,” said the juror.
Vybz Kartel, along with his co-accused, was convicted in April 2014 for killing Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams at a house in Havendale, St Andrew, in August 2011.
All four were given the mandatory life sentence with Kartel ordered to serve 35 years before he is eligible for parole. Campbell, Jones and St John were each ordered to serve 25 years before they become eligible for parole.
Their defense team argued, in nearly five days of legal submissions, that their right to a fair trial was prejudiced by a number of factors, including the admission of “contaminated” evidence during the 17-week murder trial.
Among the “contaminated” evidence cited was a BlackBerry message lifted from Kartel’s mobile phone.
However, prosecutors insist that the integrity of the evidence remains intact and urged the judges to treat the message as an admission to murder.