Buju Banton hires new lawyer

Aug. 29, 2012 at 4:15 PM
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MIAMI, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Mississippi human-rights attorney Chokwe Lumumba says he has been hired to help overturn drug and gun convictions against Jamaican entertainer Buju Banton.

Banton was arrested in Florida in 2009 and found guilty by a jury in February of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and using a telephone to facilitate a drug-trafficking offense.

He appealed the conviction as he began serving his 10-year prison sentence, but the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper said the U.S. Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit denied Banton's bid for a new trial and granted prosecutors' request to reinstate a conviction on a drug charge thrown out by the judge overseeing the earlier trial.

Lumumba told the Gleaner he is replacing Banton's longtime attorney, David Oscar Markus.

"The district court threw [a firearm charge] out and appears to have good reason to throw it out from the decision I have read. And then the Court of Appeal put it back in on some very flimsy grounds, it appears to me," Lumumba said.

"I gotta see what the witnesses said. I gotta see if there was any evidence that should have been offered that wasn't offered, if there is any evidence the defense tried to get in and were denied an opportunity to get in, or if there was any evidence that was admitted illegally," he said. "That may suggest automatically that it may be wise to make an appeal to the United States Supreme Court at least on that count [the gun charge,] but I've got to look at the rest of it."

Lumumba said he plans to meet with Banton in two weeks. He declined to comment on why the Grammy Award winner opted to change lawyers now.

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