Wrongfully convicted, jailed for his activism!
The fight continues to FREE REV. EDWARD PINKNEYThe state of Michigan continues to persecute political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney. Convicted in Berrien County, Michigan, this community activist has served over 20 months for supposedly altering dates on a recall petition against the mayor of Benton Harbor. Sentenced to 2.5 to 10 years, he is locked up in Marquette Prison, 500 miles from family and friends.
On July 26 the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Rev. Pinkney’s appeal. The Court heard oral arguments on May 11. Amicus briefs were filed by the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. Four issues were raised on appeal.
First was whether the alteration of dates on the petitions was even a felony under the specific law he was charged with violating. The law specifies acts by government officials who violate election laws. However the court decided that in Pinkney’s case it also applies to any individual, not just officials.
In an outrageous argument the court held that “sufficient evidence was presented to support the jury’s guilty verdicts” based entirely on the facts that Rev. Pinkney was “leader in the recall efforts,” “had previously sponsored several recall campaigns,” “circulated 33 of the 62 recall petitions,” spoke at city commission and other meetings about the recall and “demonstrated animosity towards [mayor] Hightower.” The court said this is enough “to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Rev. Pinkney is African American from a city that is 90% African American but was tried in front of an all-white jury by a white prosecutor and white judge. The court completely brushed off the effect of the prosecutor harping again and again on the defendant’s activist history on the jury, stating “the jury was properly instructed several times that it could only consider the other-acts evidence for motive purposes” and that “jurors are presumed to follow their instructions.”
The Court of Appeals then argued that even if Rev. Pinkney was not the one who altered dates on the petitions, he could be convicted for aiding and encouraging another person who might have done so because Pinkney was “leader of the recall campaign.”
Finally the court upheld the introduction of Rev. Pinkney’s long career as a community activist as “motive” to commit election violations. These included “his radio show,” “his recall efforts in the local community,” “his speaking engagements across the country” and “his search for justice and equality in general.” According to the three judges this “showed that defendant had a motive to alter the dates on the recall petitions, thus providing evidence of the identification of the perpetrator.”
This last conclusion condemns every political activist in the country to be guilty of any political crime just for being an activist. This threat to free speech is one reason for the intervention of the NLG and the ACLU in this case. On July 27 Rev. Pinkney wrote to his supporters: "We are living in a time when the court system and the prosecutor don't need evidence to send a man to prison. I know they don't have any evidence, because I didn't do it. And the prosecutor knows I didn't do it.” It is expected that the case will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court in the next months.
Donations toward Rev. Pinkney’s defense can be made at bhbanco.org. Write to Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671, Marquette Branch Prison, 1960 U.S. Highway 41 South, Marquette, MI 49855. For a speaker at your union meeting or church contact 313-680-5508.
Issued by: Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (mecawi.org) 313-680-5508