Jury deliberates fate of homophobic reggae artist Buju Banton, who faces life in prison

Posted on 18 Feb 2011 at 11:15am

The Associated Press is reporting that closing arguments have been given in the case of reggae singer Buju Banton’s drug case.

The 37-year-old Banton is accused of conspiring with two other men in setting up a drug deal in December of 2009. His album “Before the Dawn” won a Grammy for best reggae album this week, and he remains wildly popular in his native Jamaica.

A jury deadlocked in his first trial last year. If convicted of all the charges, he faces up to life in prison.

Every seat in the federal courtroom in Tampa was filled as the lawyers gave their closing arguments. Many of the seats were taken by Banton’s friends and fans, including well-known reggae artists Gramps Morgan and Wayne Wonder. During the lunch break, about a dozen supporters held hands and prayed for Banton in the court hallway.

“I’m fighting for my freedom,” said Banton, whose given name is Mark Myrie. “I’m fighting for my life.”

Banton is notorious for his strongly homophobic songs calling for the torture and murder of gay men — or “batty boys” as they are known in his native Jamaica. He came to Dallas in 2009 on tour to face a protest at his concert at the Deep Ellum reggae venue The Palm Beach Club.

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