Message from Prisoner # 294671
"I was transferred to Marquette Prison, shackled, mistreated, and intimidated. I was forced to strip on five different occasions. I am forced into overcrowding, inadequate exercise, lack of clean clothing, and inadequate medical care.
"I believe that [they] have put a hit on me, inside the prison system. I believe they are trying to force me to die in prison. If I do not survive this, you will know the reason why."
"The blatantly unconstitutional conduct by Judge Sterling Schrock, Prosecutor Mike Sepic, Sheriff Bailey, and the all-white jury have placed my life in danger.
I am a victim of racial injustice and overreaching corporate power in Berrien County, Michigan. I was sentenced to 30 months to ten years (a death sentence at my age of 67) because I exercised my democratic right to petition to recall Mayor James Hightower, who supported the Whirlpool Corporation and not the residents of Benton Harbor. I was charged with five felony counts of changing dates on petitions! While I was out of town celebrating my wife's birthday on April 24, 2014, Benton Harbor police blocked my street with military trucks and sent in a SWAT team to arrest me on these trumped up charges. There was absolutely nothing presented at my trial (Oct. 2014) to implicate me of any wrongdoing. There was no direct or circumstantial evidence, no eyewitness, no confession—nothing—and yet an all-white jury found me guilty. (over)
As a long-time resident of Benton Harbor, I have steadfastly opposed the conduct of Whirlpool and Harbor Shores, Inc. as I watched the loss of jobs, the loss of homes and the loss of dignity for the residents of my city. I am being punished by the racist Berrien County "justice" system and local authorities for opposing Whirlpool's plan to expand its hostile land take over, gentrify Benton Harbor and turn the area into a multi-million dollar golf resort and playground for tourists.
Whirlpool is a multi-billion dollar global appliance manufacturing corporation with its headquarters in Benton Harbor. GOP Representative Fred Upton from Michigan, heir to the Whirlpool fortune, has spent the past decade outsourcing U.S. workers' jobs (including hundreds from Benton Harbor), grabbing public land illegally (a 22 acre park plus the Warren Dunes along Lake Michigan that J.N. and Carrie Klock gave to the city of Benton Harbor for the children in memory of their only child who died in infancy), and corrupting the county officials (judges, attorneys, public officials and law enforcement) to ensure Whirlpool's success in owning everything in sight: people, lands, businesses, real estate, even churches.
For my opposition and outspokenness, I am paying a debt to society which I do not owe, with my life, my family life, and my community. Prosecutor Mike Sepic claimed that because I was so involved with political and community matters, including those far beyond the Hightower recall effort, I was willing to commit illegal acts to promote my position in the community. Under MRE 404(b) and the Constitution, there was no basis in the case for Prosecutor Sepic to bring up previous court cases or civic affiliations to support an allegation of motivation to participate in other activity that was illegal. Prosecutor Sepic's misconduct violated my Constitutional right to a fair trial.
Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock ignored the law and evidence during my trial. Schrock and Sepic worked together as a team against me. The jury itself was a rogue jury. We have evidence that some of the jurists knew each other professionally and personally, but did not reveal their relationships. Few of the prospective jurors were Black and all selected were white. Hearing no evidence against me, this jury nevertheless reached a verdict based on prejudice, not based on a desire to achieve a just, fair or moral outcome. The system could not get away with the corruption if the news media would expose the travesties and injustices wrought onto individuals by the system. Too often, the media favors judges and prosecutors just like they favor bosses over workers during a strike. As long as we allow the court system to fill the privately-run prisons to meet the quota demands of for-profit companies (who prefer prison wages over union wages) the system will need a complete overhaul.
I am sitting in prison for opposing this rotten system, so that Whirlpool Corporation can gobble up and "revitalize" Benton Harbor and deprive residents of the right to enjoy the beauty of the white sands of Lake Michigan. I ask for your help in overturning this unjust, racist and anti-worker conviction. As the labor movement has said for over 100 years, AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.
Rev. Edward Pinkney