Thursday, July 23, 2015

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Rev. Edward Pinkney was charged under MCL 168.937 with five felony counts of forgery. These were based on allegations that he altered dates next to signatures on petitions to recall Benton Harbor puppet mayor James Hightower. He was also charged under the same statute with six misdemeanor counts of falsely certifying petitions for the recall of Hgihtower by indicating that no person had signed the petitions more than once.

Rev. Pinkney was convicted of all the felony forgery counts by a rogue jury, and was motivated by something other than the truth. This jury ignored the law and evidence in reaching a capricious verdict. The jury based their verdict on unrevealed prejudices. This rogue jury verdict was not based on a desire to have a fair, just, or moral outcome.

After a two-day jury selection, the prosecutor presented absolutely no direct evidence in over three days of trial. Here is a summary of the prosecutor's case regarding the felony counts:

  • The general circumstances and procedures by which the petition for the recall of Hightower was approved, along with the general procedural requirements for recall petitions.
  • Testimony from many petition circulators regarding their activities circulating petitions and about Rev. Pinkney's political activism in relation to not only the recall, but also other political and social matters in Berrien County. The petitions circulated by these persons were not the subject of the charges.
  • Testimony from Mark Goff, a forensic documents examiner from the Michigan State Police, who testified that it appeared dates were changed on some of the recall petitions but expressed no opinion as to who made the changes. He specified that he could not state that Rev. Pinkney made the alleged changes. Goff provided this testimony in relation to the petitions that were the subject of the five felony counts and which Pinkney certified as having circulated.
  • Testimony from persons, including County Clerk Sharon Tyler and Mayor Hightower, regarding Rev. Pinkney's political activity and his opposition to certain politicians and the local company, Whirlpool. This testimony included matters that were controversial in the community and which were not directly related to the Hightower recall. It also included several efforts to recall Tyler herself after the recall petitions in question were allegedly forged and turned into the County Clerk Office, and even after charges were brought against Rev. Pinkney. 
The prosecutor claimed this "evidence" was admissible under MRE 404 to prove motive to forge the petitions to recall Hightower. The defense objected on state law grounds under MRE 404(b) and under the First Amendment. Prosecutor Sepic violated the Michigan Rules of Evidence, the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and due process by introducing evidence of Rev. Pinkney's protected speech, political activity, and community activity. It was prosecutorial misconduct and he must be held accountable for his actions. This Berrien County courthouse does not bend toward justice, but rather bows to the masters of consolidated corporate capital.

We must stand together and fight the criminal enterprise not only in Berrien County, but around the world!

-Rev. Pinkney