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Buju alive and okay

Reggae star debunks rumours of his death

BY KARYL WALKER Editor — Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 21, 2013    

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RUMOURS that reggae superstar Buju Banton was stabbed and killed in prison have proven untrue.

Since Friday, reports emerged on social media that Banton, whose real name is Mark Anthony Myrie, had been stabbed to death during a fight in the Pinellas County Jail in Tampa, Florida.

Last week as well, rumours emerged that he had committed suicide in prison.

But in a message sent to his fans worldwide through Lorna Strachan, the mother of five of his children, Banton laid fears of his mortal demise to rest.

"I don't like rumours about me being killed or committing suicide. Tell them I like the rumours that I am free or out on bail," Strachan told the Jamaica Observer that Banton said.

"I spoke to him four times today (yesterday) and the children spoke to him too. It is a lie; nothing is wrong with Mark. He is okay," Strachan said.

On Friday, Banton's attorney Chukwe Lumumba expressed surprise at the stabbing rumour.

"I have not heard about anything like that," Lumumba said.

Banton is currently serving a 10-year sentence after being found guilty of drug-related charges.

He was arrested at his Tamarac, Florida home hours after Drug Enforcement Agents arrested James Mack and Ian Thomas attempting to purchase drugs in a government-controlled warehouse in Tampa in December 2009.

An illegal gun was found in a car Mack was driving.

The evidence of US government informant Alexander Johnson proved instrumental in Banton being sentenced after two trials. After a failed appeal attempt, the reggae star was slapped with an additional five years for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a criminal act by an Atlanta-based Appellate Court.

However, he was handed a lifeline when reports emerged that a juror in the second trial, Teri Wright, had allegedly breached Judge James Moody's order that no juror should study any aspect of the law pertaining to Banton's case during the trial.

Wright allegedly told a Florida reporter that she had studied the Pinkerton Law, which was used to find Banton guilty on the firearm charge although he was not present during the botched deal involving James and Mack.

Banton's lawyer has since filed a motion for Wright to produce her computer hard drive for perusal by a computer forensic expert.

The expert initially revealed that no evidence that Wright had studied any aspect of the case during the trial was present on the hard drive that Wright submitted, but added that contrary to Wright's declaration that she had used a laptop computer to study the law three weeks after the trial, the hard drive belonged to a desktop computer which was bought in 1995.

It was also revealed that Wright had served on seven juries, even though she had told the court that she had only served on one jury in a civil matter.

As a result, Lumumba has filed a motion for a retrial, meaning his client would be tried three times for one offence.

Banton's fate still hangs in the balance until Wright appears in the US Sam Gibbons Court before Judge Moody in June.

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