News broke on Friday (April 3) that a three-member Jamaican court of appeals panel has upheld Vybz Kartel’s 2014 murder conviction.
Since his original charge back in 2011, the reggae dancehall recording artist, born Adidja Palmer, has been through a series of legal troubles and has even continued an active music career from prison.
Since this legal process started nine years ago, Billboard has compiled a timeline of Vybz’s journey from 2011 to now as a refresher. See it below.
October 2011 – First charges
Following an arrest in September, Jamaica’s Major Investigation Taskforce (MIT) last night charged the controversial superstar with murder, conspiracy to murder and illegal possession of a firearm. Police charged that on July 11, 2011, Kartel along with other men conspired to murder Barrington ‘Bossie’ Burton, a 27-year-old businessman and music promoter based in the Kingston suburb of Portmore. Burton was murdered while standing with friends along Walkers Avenue in the Gregory Park area of Portmore.
December 2011 – Ongoing legal problems
Jamaica’s Supreme Court judge Martin Gayle ordered Kartel to pay JA$15,000,000 (US$173,066) in damages to Jamaican promoter Alton Salmon due to his failure to perform at a concert on August 14, 2009 in the Turks and Caicos islands. According to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, Salmon entered into a verbal contract with Kartel and agreed to pay him $18,000 to perform at The Real Rampin Shop concert, adapted from the early 2009 Kartel hit “Rampin Shop.”
Kartel reportedly accepted a deposit of $8,500 from Salmon with the balance to be paid at the end of the show. But his failure to appear at Turks and Caicos event was reported to have caused a riot at the venue and severely damaged his reputation as a promoter. Salmon filed a lawsuit against the dancehall star, accusing him of breach of contract but Kartel failed to file acknowledgement of service and did not attempt to defend the suit.
March 2014 – Found guilty
The 65-day trial was, at the time, the longest running criminal hearing in the history of Jamaica’s circuit court system. Kartel was found guilty, as were his associates, Shawn Campbell (a.k.a. Shawn Storm) Kahira Jones and Andre St. John. The fourth associate Shane Williams, received the sole non-guilty verdict.
April 2014 – Life sentence
Justice Lennox Campbell in Jamaica’s Supreme Court handed Kartel a life sentence. Kartel will not be eligible for parole until he serves 35 years of his life sentence, while Shawn Campbell and Kahira Jones will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their life sentences; Andre St. John will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years of his life sentence.
He also faced charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice. Police reported that Kartel’s protégé, singer Vanessa Saddler a.k.a Gaza Slim, and an associate went to a Kingston precinct where Saddler filed a statement claiming she had been robbed at knifepoint by Williams five days after Palmer was charged with his murder. According to police, evidence exists, including phone records, indicating that Palmer instructed Saddler to report the robbery.
2016 through 2020 – Music in prison
Despite being behind bars, Kartel has managed to release a steady stream of tunes, including a number of full-length albums. In 2016, he unveiled King of Dancehall, followed by To Tanesha in 2020.
October 2019 – XXXTentacion’s “Royalty”
Not only did Kartel release his own music, he was also featured in a posthumous song called “Royalty” by XXXTentacion. The accompaying visual is shot through the eyes of the late Triple X, memorialized with a beautiful mural at the onset of the flick. He digs for a deeper connection to his island roots with a trip to Jamaica.
April 2020 – Conviction upheld
The Kingston court released a 235-page opinion detailing its reasoning in dismissing the appeals of Kartel, Campbell, Jones and St. John, and in affirming their convictions. The court is still considering the length of their sentences in light of the time they have already spent in jail.
According to court papers, the case against them was based on a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence. The appeals court judges decided that, despite the absence of a body, the jury considered the prosecution’s evidence of an orchestrated plan along with the technology evidence and witness testimony in making its guilty finding.