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Street Vendor Sentenced To Hang For Reggae Star’s Murder

June 18, 1988 GMT

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) _ Street vendor-poet Dennis Lobban was found guilty Friday and sentenced to hang for the murder of reggae star Peter Tosh and two of his friends.

A jury of eight women and four men took six minutes to convict Lobban on three counts of murder.

″I am innocent, sir,″ Lobban answered when Justice Carl Patterson asked if he had anything to say before sentencing him to hang on each count.

The judge told the jury: ″I would have arrived at the same verdict. I have no doubt in my mind that he went there (to Tosh’s home) that night and killed Tosh and the others.

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″It was just by chance that the other four (visitors at the house) survived or we would have had seven people lying dead.″

Lobban, 33, a convicted felon with a long police record, was out on parole when the murders were committed.

He insisted throughout the trial that he was innocent. He claimed he was drinking with friends far from Tosh’s house the night of Sept. 11, 1987, when Tosh, radio disc jockey Jeff Dixon and Wilton ″Doc″ Brown were murdered by three gunmen who burst into Tosh’s home.

The trial began Monday and had been expected to last for weeks.

Like all trials in Jamaica involving illegal firearms, it was held behind closed doors in the Gun Court Division of Home Circuit Court. Reporters were allowed into the courtroom on condition they not publish the names of witnesses.

Steve Russell, 26, of Kingston, who had been charged jointly with Lobban, was freed on Thursday. The judge accepted a no-case motion from Russell’s lawyer, who said the prosecution failed to show Russell was involved in the slayings.

Russell claimed he only drove the killers to Tosh’s home without going inside or knowing they were going to kill Tosh.

Lobban, who turned 33 on Thursday, is a ″higgler,″ or street vendor, and a ″dub poet,″ who recites poetry to reggae music.

He has been convicted of eight previous felons, ranging from illegal possession of firearms to armed robbery.

Lobban was escorted from court by armed guards and taken to prison to join 188 other people on death row.

Any appeal would go to the Jamaican Court of Appeal. The final court of appeal is the Privy Council in England.

Tosh, 42 years old at the time of his death, was nominated for a Grammy in 1985 for his album, ″Captured Live.″

Tosh, Bob Marley and Neville Livingstone in 1963 formed the group The Wailers, which thrust reggae’s driving rhythms from the slums of Kingston onto the world stage.

Born Winston Herbert MacIntosh, Tosh left The Wailers in 1973. One later Tosh group was Word, Sound and Power.

Outside Jamaica, Tosh was perhaps best known for his collaboration with Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger on the Smokey Robinson song, ″(You Got To) Walk and Don’t Look Back.″