Panton slaps attorneys who give clients impression they know how court will rule

Distinguished retired jurist Seymour Panton has slapped attorneys who give their clients the impression that they can predict the outcome of cases when a court reserves its decision.

At the same time Panton, who served as president of Jamaica’s Court of Appeal from 2007 to 2016, commended Jamaican judges, “particularly those at the Court of Appeal, for faithfully and honestly executing their duties; not bowing to threats and screams from any quarter”.

Panton made the comments in a letter to the editor of the Jamaica Observer on Friday after the Appeal Court upheld the murder conviction of dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel (real name Adidja Palmer) and his three co-convicts — Shawn Campbell, Kahira Jones, and Andre St John.

The three were sentenced to life behind bars by Justice Lennox Campbell on April 3, 2014, following their conviction for the August 2011 murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams.

Panton did not name any lawyer in his letter. However, since the Appeal Court ruling one of the defence attorneys in the case, Valerie Neita-Robertson, has been taking a lot of flak in legal circles and on social media for a tweet she posted the day before, telling the public to celebrate.

“As the senior lawyer on the case and the attorney who represents Adidjah Palmer along side QC Tom Finson I only ask one favour, tomorrow please celebrate at least 3 FT apart in your homes along with other #covid-19 stipulations. Don’t come on the streets #TanAhYuhYaad,” Neita-Robertson, who is also a Queen’s Counsel, wrote.

In his letter, Panton — whose long career has seen him serve in a number of jurisdictions — said the “decision of the Court of Appeal is an indication to all Jamaicans, especially clients of attorneys-at-law, that they are not to listen to attorneys who give the impression that they know what a Court will do when it reserves its decision.

“Some Jamaican attorneys need to get out of the habit of saying that they are going to the Privy Council for justice. Quite often, when they lose at the Privy Council (getting their justice), you hear not a peep out of them. I can make a list of such cases.

“I want to commend all the judges in Jamaica, particularly those at the Court of Appeal, for faithfully and honestly executing their duties; not bowing to threats and screams from any quarter.

“I wish to urge all who are involved in criminal justice in Jamaica to shun the idea of pandering to criminals and to avoid giving the impression that they are hostages to the criminal underworld.”

On Friday, Court of Appeal President Justice Dennis Morrison, in handing down the judgement, said the appeals on behalf of the entertainer and his three co-convicts, filed in 2018, “are all dismissed and the convictions are all confirmed”.

At the time of the sentencing, Justice Campbell said Kartel would be eligible for parole after serving 35 years, while his co-convicts were ordered to each serve 25 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Lawyers for the men in the appeal argued that the sentences were excessive and also questioned the integrity and admissibility of the evidence in the case as well as the conduct of the trial judge, among other things.

On Friday, Justice Morrison said the decision in respect of sentencing is further reserved, pending the receipt from counsel, within seven days, of a brief note concerning the time spent on remand by each of the appellants, prior to being sentenced. Justice Morrison, who appeared with Justice Patrick Brooks and Justice Frank Williams, also said the court will render its decision on sentencing in writing within 14 days’ receipt of that note.

Immediately after the Appeal Court ruling the defence attorneys said they would take the case to the Privy Council in London — Jamaica’s highest appeal court — for “justice”.

“We feel that if we go to the Privy Council we can get justice there,” attorney Tom Tavares-Finson told the Observer on Friday.

But yesterday Panton responded: “It doesn’t make sense you say you’re going to the Privy Council as if it is a superior being. Their judges aren’t better than ours. We have some of the best judges.”

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