The courtroom is a place where justice is supposed to be served, more and more, however Berrien County courtrooms are becoming crime scenes. Innocent people are being kidnapped and held captive. The hypocrisy of Berrien County has no limits. The blindfolded lady with the balanced scales of justice no longer exists in Berrien County courtroom.
In Benton Harbor on Feb. 28, 2017, many people at the forum billed as an explanation of how criminal cases get charged proved to be more concerned about the injustices in the Berrien County court system.
A member from the audience told the prosecutor Mike Sepic, who has a history of corruption: You cannot sit here and tell us that if a kid from St. Joseph and a kid from Benton Harbor commit the very same crime, the kid from St. Joseph won't get a lighter sentence. The prosecutor Mike Sepic said he would need to know what cases the man was talking about before he could comment on them. It is so many cases--over fifty. It is so hard to count them all.
In Judge Sterling Schrock's courtroom a few years ago, a white 16 year old boy told his group of friends he was going into his house to kill his stepfather and he beat him to death. The white boy was given probation. A black kid under 17 years of age hit a white person with a pipe once and the person died. The black boy was given life without the possibility of parole, plus another 15 years. The judge Sterling Schrock stated that prison would do the white kid no good. He murdered his stepfather. But life without parole, plus 15 years, would be ok for the black kid. Both were sentenced on the same day, both under 17 years old.
Prosecutor Mike Sepic said it is the judges who impose the sentence, not the prosecutor. Prosecutor Mike Sepic is the prosecutor who was on most of the cases that we are talking about. The prosecutor recommends the sentence and the judge upholds it.
After the forum ALPACT member Lisa Peeples Hurst said the meeting opened a dialogue that needs to be continued. We need to have discussions about those instances where citizens or most of the community feel like there is a disparity in sentencing in charges and in all of those things related to criminal cases. Hurst said: Several people asked Sepic about the percentage of people from the 49022 zip code in the court system versus the rest of Berrien County. That zip code covers Benton Harbor and Benton Township, along with part of Sodus and St. Joseph Township. I think that people are really asking about citizens in Benton Harbor. Is there disparity between Benton Harbor citizens and other folks in the county, and I think that's a valid question. She continued: Many people believe that people of color receive harsher treatment from law enforcement and the court system than white people.
Injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves that helps explain the obliviousness of our generation to inequity today in Berrien County's courtroom. We need to wake up and start investigating the corrupt criminal justice system.
-Rev. Edward Pinkney