Rev. Pinkney was denied a fair trial because his First Amendment rights were violated. The law is settled that as a general matter the First Amendment prohibits government officials from subjecting an individual to retaliatory action, including criminal prosecutions, for speaking out.
When considering these factors, it is indisputable that Rev. Pinkney's statements to the media, participation in political campaigns, public speeches, authorship of newspaper articles, and similar activities were all protected by the First Amendment and criminal prosecution can certainly deter political and civil engagement by most citizens.
The improper use of irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial evidence about Rev. Pinkney's constitutionally protected political activity suggests that such activity was a motivating factor behind his prosecution. Implicit in the prosecutor's closing arguments are disdain for Rev. Pinkney's political activities and associations and a sarcastic wink and nod to jurors, who he presumed to share his sentiment because he is also white.
The prosecutor repeatedly notes there was nothing wrong with the litany of First Amendment activities he recited. There was no reason to raise them during a criminal trial. The Michigan Rules of Evidence should have been the basis for excluding unrelated constitutionally protected activities. The trial court erred in allowing it.
...the bare facts regarding Rev. Pinkney's political and civic activism cannot alone be regarded as a basis for establishing that he had a motive for election fraud. If, as alleged, he like hundreds of other citizens spoke out against Mayor Hightower and engaged in election activities, then such does not demonstrate that he was motivated to commit crimes. In fact, there are millions of politically active citizens across the country who cannot be presumed to be predisposed to election fraud.
More important still is the fact that treating a politically engaged citizen in this way chills the type of political involvement that is so important to the democratic process.
First Amendment freedoms need breathing space to survive and when government overreach has a chilling effect on the exercise of such freedom, society as a whole is the lower. For this reason, using evidence of political involvement as the sole basis for alleging motive is improper.
Evidence does not lie, but Judge Sterling Schrock, Prosecutor Mike Sepic, and the all-white jury do!