Date: 5 October 2010
From: Tiffany Henderson
RE: Discrimination in Berrien Country (Eddie Peek Death)
On 15 May 2010 my father, Mr. Eddie Peek (Afro-American 61 yrs of age), was rear-ended and killed by a drunken driver, Paige Karsten (Caucasian 21 yrs of age) at 2:21am while traveling on I-94 eastbound to Benton Harbor after picking up newspapers from Herald Palladium, his place of employment. The impact from the crash was so great that Mr. Peek’s (herein after called the victim) van flipped and the rear caught fire (extinguished by a witness). When the Benton Township Police Department (BTPD) arrived at the scene it was obvious that Paige (hereinafter called the perpetrator) was drunk.
Per the police report the following bullets are known facts:
· The victim died at 3:25am at Lakeland Hospital from injuries sustained from the accident.
· The perpetrator was speeding drunk and hit the victim without breaking.
· Officer Robert Fuller found the perpetrator walking around in the median area after hitting the victim.
· Strong odors of intoxicants were coming from perpetrator‘s breath/her eyes were bloodshot red & her speech was slurred.
· The perpetrator said she only had 2 “Jaeger-bombs” at Nacho Papa’s.
· The perpetrator was not able to recite the alphabet from D to P, only reciting “D,E”.
· The perpetrator could not do the one-leg stand, only being able to raise her left foot 6” from the ground a dropping it saying she could not do this.
· The perpetrator stumbled to the right when taking to take her first step in the walk-in-turn test and did not walk heel-to-toe but took steps with her feet apart.
· The perpetrator was charge w/Operating a vehicle While Intoxicated Causing Death.
· The perpetrator’s Breath Test result at scene (administered by Officer Fuller) was 0.201% and blood alcohol content from blood specimen (administered at Lakeland Hospital at 4:40am) was 0.217%.
· The accident scene was cleared and cleaned up of all debris and both cars were towed to Jeff’s Towing Yard by 3:30am
· The accident scene was not preserved because officers were not notified of the victim’s death until after 3:30am.
Other known facts:
· The Herald Palladium has not published any news relative to the case or accident since 5/17/10 and has not responded to inquires from the family regarding their lack of coverage considering the victim was killed while working.
· The Herald Palladium has historically and continues to report “front page” news on other accidents, murders and criminal cases when black on black, black on white or white on white outside of St. Joseph/Berrien County.
· The State Police not being called to the scene when the accident occurred in their jurisdiction.
· Officer Robert Fuller addressed the perpetrator as “Paige” and the perpetrator addressed the Officer Fuller as “Bobby” at the scene.
· The perpetrator was allowed to talk on her cell phone for 10 to 15mins in back of the police car prior to being transported from the accident scene.
· Officers were at the hospital (with the perpetrator) when the victim died at 3:25am, yet officer(s) at the crime scene said they were not notified of his death in time to preserve the scene.
· No photos were taken of the scene on the date of accident.
· Because the scene was cleared no attempts were made to reconstruct the scene.
· The BTPD refused to release a copy of the police report (public documentation) and accident records ( CDs) to the family of the victim until August 2010 after numerous requests had been made by the family.
· The Prosecuting Attorney (PA) Michael Sepic met w/the family members of the victim for the first time on 9/30/10 to discuss the status of the perpetrator’s case after being non responsive to prior requests from the victim’s family.
· PA said to the victim’s family, “he was sorry for making so many mistakes” “don’t we (victim’s family) make mistakes too”.
· The PA told victim’s family it’s not the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office responsibility to investigate the accident, but to prosecute on information provided by the police dept.
· The PA said “Anything the perpetrator did prior to killing the victim (drinking at two bars, possibly driving faster the 80mph and possible DUI priors) was irrelevant. He was only concern was the victim being dead, the perpetrator being drunk and what the police has to say.
· When the victim’s family asked the PA why the perpetrator was not being charged with Vehicular Manslaughter or Second Degree Murder, he responded “because I don’t have time” and “I don’t feel like it”.
· PA provided the victim’s family with “new” toxicology report dated 5/25/10 with the blood alcohol level of the perpetrator being .18. He stated the initial report was incorrect because the serum was tested and not the whole blood.
· PA provided the victim’s family with “new” evidence. A toxicology report dated 5/25/10 with the blood alcohol level of the victim being .06. He said the defense attorney would question the victim’s blood alcohol level and him not wearing a seat belt.
· PA said the perpetrator could possibility be sentenced to 1-3yrs or less.
· PA told the victim’s family that a nationwide criminal check was conducted and the perpetrator had no priors. Yet when asked to provide a copy of the CHH report he refused saying it was against the law (Law Enforcement Act). When asked for a written statement he also refused.
· PA said to the victim’s family “hasn’t Ms. Karsten suffered enough”.
· Since the perpetrator was charged, a judge has recused himself, three/four court dates have resulted in continuances, the trail was scheduled for October because the perpetrator had classes and the trial was adjourned by the court on 10/1/10 (with possibly reschedule in Feb. or March of 2011) as a result of “new evidence” (toxicology report) dated 5/25/10 that Mr. Sepic said he received in mid September.
The Berrien County Courthouse, Prosecuting Attorney Office and Benton Township Police Dept. have historically and continue to blatantly legitimize the differences in the judicial process used for “Blacks” and for “Whites." Based upon the reports/evidence provided by their offices, documented/verbal admittance of numerous mistakes, multiple court continuances, the PA’s refusal to provide requested material (full reports), the lack of media coverage by the Herald Palladium, and the arrogant/unprofessional/non-responsive/misleading manner in which the PA has dealt with the victim’s family. It is very evident that political neglect, oppression, racism and discrimination are alive, well and thriving in St. Joseph/Berrien County. I’m requesting support from the NAACP (and any other partnering Civil Rights organizations) to ensure the prejudice in this case is made public and stopped, as well as ensuring the victim rights of my family and other minorities in Benton Harbor are not continually violated by the discriminatory judicial processes of Berrien County. I was taught the Government is “for the people”, yet in Berrien County “the people” don’t include minorities.