The cocaine trafficking trial of reggae/dancehall superstar Buju Banton has resulted in a hung jury. Banton is part of a reggae niche called “murder music” for its lyrical calls for the brutal murders of homosexuals. Banton was charged with conspiring to sell eleven pounds of cocaine.
Banton, a Jamaican national, maintained he had been entrapped by a paid police informant whom he believed had music industry connections. During the four-day trial which ended last week, prosecutors played audio recordings in which Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, and the informant discussed drugs, ideas for shipping drugs, and dollar amounts. Prosecutors said the tapes showed Banton wanted to finance drug deals. The 37-year-old performer testified he only talked about drugs with the informant in order to impress him. Questioned by Banton’s lawyer, the informant, Alexander Johnson, acknowledged Banton had never given him money.
Banton’s concerts had been protested worldwide by LGBT activists who often succeeded in convincing promoters and venues to cancel his shows. Some reggae music bloggers and even legitimate Jamaican news outlets have reported claims that Banton’s arrest was a “set up” by an international conspiracy of gays bent on retribution for his music. Similar claims resulted when Banton failed to win the Grammy for Best Reggae Album earlier this year. For now Banton remains in custody pending a bail application. He is expected to be retried.
RELATED: Murder music fans flooded to this JMG post to rain down death threats after this year’s Grammy Awards.