It's been a long haul for Buju Banton, the famous Jamaican recording artist who has been gummed up in federal drug and gun charges since 2009. Despite two trials and an exhaustive series of New Times stories tracking the shady business behind the convictions, Banton -- born Mark Anthony Myrie -- remains in custody.
But now his case has taken another turn. On Monday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta agreed to hear Banton's case, an argument prepared by a heavyweight Harvard law professor and based on this publication's work.
Back in February, Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who taught both Obamas, took over Banton's legal defense. He dropped a 55-page brief on the court that detailed all the problems with the case against the recording star.
And there are a lot of problems. First off, prosecutors used a paid informant to bait and hook Banton back in 2009 -- a move that constituted a clear case of entrapment. Also, as documented by former New Times staff writer Chris Sweeney, there was clear juror misconduct during the second federal trial, which ended in a guilty sentence. Jury foreperson Terri Wright told Sweeney after the trial that she did independent research on the charges.
Federal Judge James Moody called a special hearing to investigate. Wright claimed she was misquoted. Sweeney came to court with recordings that proved she said what she'd said. Moody decided to throw out one of Buju's convictions as a result. The reggae star, however, remained in jail.
Ogletree's brief submitted to the court earlier this year argued that Wright's misconduct tainted the whole trial and that a mistrial should have been declared. Despite the sound legal argument, there was a big chance the court would not take the case. Federal appeals courts hear few oral arguments.
But according to a release Monday from the Buju Banton Defense Support Committee, the court will hear Banton's argument. "Atty Ogletree says that the Court's approval for oral arguments is a positive step towards justice, victory and freedom for the incarcerated reggae icon," the group's coordinator, Rosemary Duncan, stated in the release.
The court has yet to schedule a date for the arguments. As always, check back with New Times for more information.
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