Harvard Law Professor Calls For New Trial for Buju Banton

Categories: Crime

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Back in 2009, a series of boneheaded decisions landed Mark Anthony Myrie -- known in patchouli-soaked dorm rooms and Caribbean dance halls as reggae star Buju Banton -- in federal custody. He faced charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense. Two trials later, Myrie is still in federal custody.

See also: Buju Banton Is One Charge Away From Emancipation, Thanks to New Times

As New Times readers know, Banton's conviction was pretty bogus. First, federal prosecutors used a shady confidential informant to snare Banton -- a move some characterized as entrapment. Buju's first trial was declared a mistrial, and at his second one, the jury foreperson was found to have committed misconduct. Buju has yet to get the justice he deserves.

Now, a big legal name has stepped up to champion Banton's case.

Charles Ogletree is a Harvard law professor who not only had Barack and Michelle Obama come through his classroom but also represented hip-hop badass Tupac Shakur when the artist was accused of sexual assault. Recently, Ogletree has worked as a regular TV commentator on law and politics.

Ogletree, who didn't respond to a call and email for comment, is also a big New Times reader, we're guessing. This month, he dropped a 55-page piece of legal knowledge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that Buju needs a new trial, based on work done by our former reporter Chris Sweeney.

After his first trial ended in a hung jury, Buju was convicted on four charges in a February 2011 retrial. When Sweeney in 2012 reached out to the woman who had served as jury foreperson in the proceedings, Terri Wright, she admitted she had ignored the judge's orders and had used the internet to research the case during the trial. She also bragged to New Times that she was a "passionate" juror and lied about how many times she'd served on trials.

Wright later claimed she'd been misquoted. Sweeney had to travel to a Tampa federal courtroom with his recording of the interview to hold the former juror accountable.
In July 2013, Judge James Moody threw out one of Banton's charges based on Wright's conduct -- but he didn't declare a mistrial.

"This was error," Ogletree argues in the new brief. "Wright's misconduct tainted the entire trial, and a new trial should be granted on all counts."

Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.




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4 comments
Onelove
Onelove

Wow! I thought there was a time limit for filing the appeal and submissions.  Why has it taken eight months?

taranee_jiles
taranee_jiles

Get your facts straight first jtt83255, unless you been to court and heard everything, don't be so quick to point your finger! Buju was set up big time. You have no idea what's going on here.....He is a Reggae Artist and not a Criminal!!

and Kyle Swenson, you did a fantastic job on this article. Kudos!

jtt8355
jtt8355

To say the conviction was "pretty bogus" is a stretch...at least based on the facts you've provided. at most you might say that he was erroneously convicted when some technicalities should have gotten him off, but that is hardly the miscarriage of justice you are advancing.

dondaddarules
dondaddarules

@taranee_jiles 

Yes, Buju is a reggae artist. But he is also one who should take responsibiltiy for his actions. He very well may have been set up by his friend, but the fact still remain that he had the intent to commit the acts that landed him in jail. They key word in the previous sentence is "intent", which is the gist of criminal law.

Another thing that you should probably do is educate youself on the federal conspiracy laws in the United States and their elements. It is obvious to me that you wrote your comment based on emotions and not facts. A person attempting to purchase illegal drugs has commited a crime. A person who goes to meet others with the intent to buy illegal drugs has commited a crime. A person, who at the said meeting, takes a ratchet knife and takes a sample of the drugs for testing, was not at that meeting to record a reggae song. He can appeal all he wants, but based on the facts, the only chance he has is on technical grounds, not on the facts of the crime.

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