April 27, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Conference: Wed., May 11, 2016
Outside Michigan Court of Appeals: 350 Ottawa NW, Grand Rapids, 49503
CONTACT: DAVID SOLE
313 680 5508
Court of Appeals to hear case of
Michigan Political Prisoner, the Rev. Edward Pinkney, May 11
After 17 months behind bars, the Rev. Edward Pinkney’s case will finally be heard by the Michigan Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids. A three judge panel will hear oral arguments from Rev. Pinkney’s attorney, Tim Holloway, along with an attorney representing the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Holloway, the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) all filed lengthy appeal briefs back in September and November of 2015. Supporters of Rev. Pinkney will be traveling from all across Michigan to pack the court (10 AM) and will hold a press conference following the court session outside the courthouse at 11:30 AM.
Rev. Pinkney, an African American community organizer from Benton Harbor, Michigan, was charged with changing five dates on petitions to recall then mayor James Hightower in 2014. At trial absolutely no evidence was ever presented that linked Rev. Pinkney to the alleged altered petition dates. There were no witnesses, no confession, no handwriting testimony and no chain of custody to the petitions which were handled by many different people.
The all-white jury was told by the prosecutor that they didn’t need evidence and that they should convict Rev. Pinkney because he was a leader of the recall campaign, spoke at press conferences, organized legal picket lines against Whirlpool Corp. and “invited Jesse Jackson to Benton Harbor.” This outrageous argument by prosecutor Sepic was allowed by Judge Schrock. The jury dutifully convicted Rev. Pinkney and he was sentenced to 2.5 to 10 years in prison.
The ACLU and NLG joined the case with amicus curiae briefs because of the serious threat to everyone’s civil liberties if the prosecutor’s argument is allowed to stand and be applied to other activists and protestors. Leaders can be convicted with no evidence except their role in Constitutionally protected free speech and assembly activities.
Supporters of Rev. Pinkney have worked tirelessly for the past two years to demand his freedom and to demand an end to the harassment and abuse that he has suffered inside the prisons, particularly the remote Marquette Branch Prison in the Upper Peninsula, 500 miles away from his wife and friends.