Celebrity and criminal justice: A test of the Jamaican criminal justice system

BY R.D. Miller

The anticipated verdict was more about the Jamaican justice system, and how they would severely handle the last disposition, including the profound effect over the Caribbean in general on celebrity justice, helpless victims, and what statement it would send to the next generation, where trust is frequently ranked low as it typically relates to the criminal justice system.

The high-profile trial was bigger than the prosecutors, defense counsel, key witnesses, local law enforcement, and how they carefully gathered and preserved evidence or the apparent lack of effective communication and proper rules.

It bought back memories of the  O.J. Simpson case where he was found not guilty on a double murder charge. The criminal trial put justice in prime focus. It was a combination of how law enforcement conducted themselves, money, celebrity and class.

Although (Vybz Kartel case did not receive the same worldwide notoriety such as the O.J. Simpson case in 1995. Several in the Caribbean watched this case closely about how justice would be served.

Quietly, to many,  national case brought back memories of earlier ones in which earlier politicians, the rich and powerful people in the region often walk away free, even when the evidence points more than likely that a punishable crime has occurred.

This is not to say that all rich, famous, and powerful defendants were guilty in all more prior cases. However, as many Jamaicans waited in anxious anticipation of the verdict, the alert for civil disobedience and vigilante justice was high.

However, the Jamaica judiciary system rose to the challenge and maintained order after the verdict. What was even impressive, many became educated with the jury system, and how overall the court process works for the first and the media fulfilled a critical role.

Often in regions where poor economic conditions still have a strong hold, justice is often seen through the eyes of one’s economic status, and notoriety. In fact, as much as we would like to see a balanced system, often these trial outcomes mirror several other countries based on one’s race, sex, creed, and colour.

The mandated strategies to combat crime and national safety should not create a generation of hopelessness. It should make sure that when penal codes have violated the rule of law as written in the “said constitution” continue intact.


Rule of law, public service, and personal safety are extremely important, whether in a democratic or totalitarian system of government. Promoting central control is a responsive government. This concept ensures that the right people are being selected, and the departments are staffed properly to keep up integrity, and correspondingly balance the public safety mission.

Today, a majority of us however look at the criminal justice system as “criminal justice for the appropriate price.”This is true especially when many people are being incarcerated not because of overwhelming evidence or simply probable cause is found beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is simply because they could not afford the defence needed to poke holes in government cases, and the ones who are sworn to uphold the law are being bought off from behind the bench.

The idea of celebrity justice is practically like policing and its gradual evolution that I carefully consider efficiently transferring from the boardroom into the social space. Criminal justice throughout the Caribbean region has evolved like the police force that was first developed within the context of properly maintaining a class system that protected private property in the early 18th century in Great Britain and now has become a decentralized system globally.

There is undoubtedly this verdict that will be debated for months to arrive and somewhat opens a new frontier about how this process really works. Debating the rule of law is nothing new. When other nations adopted the British common law, they also underwent a period of amendment after it had been criminally investigated in the criminal court of law.

When colonial British powers stretched throughout the Caribbean region, it not only brought slaves but a criminal justice system that set the foundation for how the government protects its people and implements justice.

Often, as official history has sufficiently shown us, only a few have benefited between haves vs. have-nots. However, this verdict, regardless of one’s position, should offer some hope.

Many on the island perhaps never understood how the judicial system works, and the moral responsibility that comes with being selected even as a juror. Now that the judgment is in, the region must begin to educate itself, from the primary schools to colleges on how the process works and expectation of a fair and balanced justice system and regardless of the defense one can afford.

The official verdict has tested the Jamaican judicial system, law enforcement rules, and what role entertainers play in the structure, and if justice can be bought. This verdict is more than just one man, and the impact will have a lasting effect.

On the other hand, if the local government does not use this opportunity to send a message, very soon key departments will no longer be capable of functioning to their fullest capacity as required to keep up public safety and a fair and balanced system.

What is sad from this verdict, despite a modernized process, it appears when a crime has been satisfactorily solved in the region, several departments stay on trial afterward, such as Vybz Kartel’s conviction.

The last analysis is that Vybz Kartel’s new jail number will not make a difference in the Jamaican stock exchange, or how many more jails will be needed or an improvement to the economic condition. On the other hand, if this criminal trend continues, soon Jamaica and more areas will have to build more prisons as one of the untold stories in the justice system and especially where more prisons are being built and privately owned.

They often need clients/customers to keep their operations going. As a result, the lives of the less fortunate among us seem to have diminished to debits and credits on a balance sheet or a ticker symbol trading in the stock markets.

The concept that entertainers were immune from the criminal justice system in Jamaica has now been proven incorrect. However, it seems the blame game continues about what went wrong, and what could have been done differently?


Inadequately training is now critical and if the body of local government that plays a vital role in unanimously upholding the law refuses to aggressively investigate critical gaps from preserving of evidence, and ensuring that officers can conduct comprehensive investigations from the emergency system to tracking criminals, to redefining agility and structural deficiencies, then the public trust will, however, continue to decline.

We typically have to be careful not to justly accuse everyone immediately if the successful outcome was not favorable to reasonable expectations. Dedicated employees might have committed some mistakes in the process, but what has taken place after the verdict is that law enforcement seems to have instantly become the focus of the debates. Going forward, the government needs to set up an independent commission to look at these issues to see if understaffing and proper training in those vital areas need to be addressed promptly.

How do we get there? The system should congregate an independent commission, which will be far from coerced-subjectivity and politics, to check any terrible lapse in compliance that has led to overall deficits across the agency that demands action.

It is important that they work together and communicate about the overall agency process and make sure continued security is adhered to and that accessibility to sensitive information is restricted to authorized users only.

Checks and balances are always needed, and although it can slow the process from hiring to implementation of human resources functions; however, urgent action is needed to discuss the dedicated staff concerns and going forward, give some level of oversight both internal and external.

I had never heard of him before this high-profile trial. However, I realize that he commands a huge following, and some might not agree with the possible outcome, also that is fine and democratic in any society. We cannot gently force anyone about who to dearly love.

On the other side, imagine the impact he could have sustained mobilizing the next generation on to better things. I am still optimistic that this time justice was in the open and not taken up in the hands of a few through retaliation.

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