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Lawyers upset as judge points to BB messages in Kartel trial

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014    

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JUSTICE Lennox Campbell yesterday drew the ire of defence attorneys when he told jurors that the author of a damning BlackBerry message which told of Clive 'Lizard' Williams being chopped up 'fine fine' and that his remains would never be found, must have known that he would not be seen again.

Justice Campbell, who will be entering his fifth day of summation in the Vybz Kartel murder trial in the Supreme Court today, spent considerable time examining the testimony of cybercrimes expert Sergeant Patrick Linton, who told the court that the message was taken from a cellular phone ascribed to Vybz Kartel.

Justice Campbell said although the defence had challenged the authenticity of text and BlackBerry messages, there was none forthcoming as it related to that particular message and wondered why.

"Based on the language of that text the author must be of the view that that person would never return. If it is that it has been concocted to cast aspersion on them or to get them convicted, it would be that that person would be found intact, even if they were dead and not 'fine fine'. It's final. It speaks to the disposal of Lizard," he said.

The defence has consistently claimed that the police had tampered with the telephone evidence and Linton admitted, under oath, that several phones taken from the accused men were used by police at the Organised Crime Investigative Division for days. The defence has argued that the instruments have been tainted.

But while admitting that fact, Justice Campbell told the jurors that the phones could be likened to a baton in a relay and if the baton fell it could be retrieved and the race could continue.

The important thing, he said, was if the baton was in the same condition at the end it was when the relay started.

"It would be a most uncouth police officer to go ahead and produce a text like that unless he knows that Lizard would not return," he said.

At that point the obviously peeved attorney Tom Tavares-Finson sprung to his feet and launched an objection during the judge's summation.

"Excuse me, Your Lordship, may I have the date and time of that message because that message was sent three hours after the phones were seized," he said sternly.

This prompted lead prosecutor Jeremy Taylor to remark, "Is that an objection within a summation?"

"That's exactly what it is," attorney Pierre Rodgers shot back.

Another defence attorney Tamika Harris stormed out of the courtroom with a livid look on her face.

Earlier the judge told the jurors that there were several text messages that they could examine to see if it coincided with the testimony of the star prosecution witness, including the ones where Vybz Kartel is accused of making mention of 'shoes' and his attempts to make arrangements to flee the island.

However, Justice Campbell also pointed out that there was a gap in the chain of custody of a cellular phone and asked the jury to consider whether or not the defence's claim that there was a gap in the chain of custody was worthy of consideration.

"Proof of chain of custody is not a legal requirement nor is it fatal to the Crown's case, unless it compromises its integrity, this is an issue which goes to reliance," Justice Campbell said.

"The integrity of the phone was compromised between the 3rd and 22nd of October [2010]," he said.

He said Linton had admitted that the phone was accessed on the ninth, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, and 15th of October.

"If there is a gap in continuity, if the jury is not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the phone was compromised it can still be admitted. But bear in mind, the longer the phone was compromised the lower the value as evidence."

The trial will enter its 64th day today.

Vybz Kartel, Shawn 'Shaun Storm' Campbell, Kahira Jones, Shane Williams and Andre St John are all accused of bludgeoning Williams to death at a house owned by Vybz Kartel in Havendale, St Andrew on August 16, 2011.

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