Friday, March 31, 2006

After 20 Hours of Jury Deadlock, Judge, Prosecutor Have to Accept Pinkney Mistrial

A draw feels like a win to community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney today. And, by the end or the week, he may know whether the Berrien County Prosecutor's Office will spend more time and money trying for a rematch -- or admit defeat.

At about 1:30pm today, the jury in the prosecution of Pinkney in connection with his efforts on last year's successful but later overturned recall of Benton Harbor City Commissioner Glenn Yarborough told Judge Albert Butzbaugh again that they could not reach a verdict on any of the five charges brought against Pinkney.

The half day of deliberations followed 15 hours in two days last week. Near the end of the day on Friday, after viewing videotapes of the testimony of three shaky prosecution witnesses, jurors sent out their first message to Judge Butzbaugh saying they were at an impasse.

But Butzbaugh rejected Pinkney attorney Tat Parish's request to recognize a mistrial then and there, and called the jury to come back in today and try again to reach unanimity on one or more of the allegations of voter fraud and related accusations against Rev. Pinkney.

However, today Butzbaugh and Assistant Prosecutor Gerald Vigansky accepted that two weeks of trial and testimony, with witnesses on the stand who contradicted their previous affidavits and/or taped depositions, had failed to convince the jury that any of the accusations were true beyond a reasonable doubt.

The prosecutor's office is reportedly adopting its usual practice after a mistrial: they will talk to any of the jurors who will talk to them about "what went wrong" with their case, and decide by the end of the week or so whether or not to try to try Rev. Pinkney again.

Pinkney, feeling tired but vindicated, is already planning to get back to "business as usual" -- his regular volunteer efforts to keep a watchful eye over activities at the county courthouse on "the other side of the river" in Saint Joseph. He is also aiming to revive his efforts to bring jobs to the beleaguered community.

Another forum of BANCO, the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization, is tentatively planned for Saturday, April 29. The time and place are yet to be determined.