Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rev. Pinkney’s Appeal Denied by DAVID SOLE

On July 26 the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected the appeal of political prisoner Rev. Edward Pinkney. Convicted in Berrien County, Michigan, the community activist has already served over 19 months for supposedly altering dates on a recall petition against then Benton Harbor mayor James Hightower. His sentence of 2.5 to 10 years in prison has him currently locked up in the remote Marquette Branch Prison, almost 500 miles from his family and friends.
The Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from Rev. Pinkney’s attorney on May 11. Amicus briefs were also filed by the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union, which was given leave to also argue before the court. Four issues were raised on appeal.
The first revolved around whether the alteration of dates on the petitions was even a felony under the specific law he was charged with violating. The law specifies acts by government officials who violate election laws. However the court decided that the provision in Pinkney’s case also applies to any individual, not just officials.
In an outrageous argument the court held that “sufficient evidence was presented to support the jury’s guilty verdicts” based entirely on the facts that Rev. Pinkney was “the leader in the recall efforts,” “had previously sponsored several recall campaigns,” “circulated 33 of the 62 recall petitions,” spoke at city commission and other meetings about the recall and “demonstrated animosity towards [mayor] Hightower in various ways.” The court decided that this alone is enough “to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Rev. Pinkney is African American from a city that is 90% African American but was tried in front of an all-white jury by a white prosecutor and white judge. The court completely brushed off the effect of the prosecutor harping again and again on the defendant’s activist history on the jury, stating “the jury was properly instructed several times that it could only consider the other-acts evidence for motive purposes” and that “jurors are presumed to follow their instructions.” 
The Court of Appeals then argued that even if Rev. Pinkney was not the one who altered dates on the petitions, he could be convicted for aiding and abetting another person who might have done so because Pinkney was “leader of the recall campaign.”
Finally the court upheld the introduction of Rev. Pinkney’s long career as a community activist as “motive” to commit election violations. These included “his radio show,” “his recall efforts in the local community,” “his speaking engagements across the country” and “his search for justice and equality in general.” According to the three judges this “showed that defendant had a motive to alter the dates on the recall petitions, thus providing evidence of the identification of the perpetrator.” 
This last conclusion can condemn every political activist in the country to be guilty of any political crime just for being an activist. This threat to free speech is one reason for the intervention of the NLG and the ACLU in this case.
On July 27 Rev. Pinkney wrote to his supporters: "We are living in a time when the court system and the prosecutor don't need evidence to send a man to prison. I know they don't have any evidence, because I didn't do it. And the prosecutor knows I didn't do it. You have got to be very, very careful today, because if you take a stand against the system they'll do everything in their power to crush you. Now they can send you to prison and keep you there without evidence. Better keep your eyes and your mind on freedom, and keep freedom on your mind. 
"What do you do now? Now that you can be sent to prison with no evidence? What's the next step for you? Now that there is a 100% chance of you being convicted if you are charged, what can you do? What should you do? This is the question I hope we are all asking ourselves."
It is expected that the case will be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court in the next few months. Donations toward Rev. Pinkney’s defense can be made at Write to Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671, Marquette Branch Prison, 1960 U.S. Highway 41 South, Marquette, MI 49855.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Court of Appeals Keeps Rev. Pinkney, Political Prisoner, Behind Bars

Yesterday the Michigan Court of Appeals issued its opinion on Rev. Edward Pinkney's appeal. In short, we lost. Rev. Pinkney will have served his minimum sentence (30 months) in another 10 to 11 months. He is staying strong and his team will appeal and continue to fight this miscarriage of justice.

However, the implications of this decision for each of the rest of us is profound. If you believe you are safe from this kind of judicial and prosecutorial insanity, you have a false sense of security.

Here is Rev. Pinkney's statement in response to the opinion:
We are living in a time when the court system and the prosecutor don't need evidence to send a man to prison. I know they don't have any evidence, because I didn't do it. And the prosecutor knows I didn't do it. You have got to be very, very careful today, because if you take a stand against the system they'll do everything in their power to crush you. Now they can send you to prison and keep you there without evidence. Better keep your eyes and your mind on freedom, and keep freedom on your mind. 
What do you do now? Now that you can be sent to prison with no evidence? What's the next step for you? Now that there is a 100% chance of you being convicted if you are charged, what can you do? What should you do? This is the question I hope we are all asking ourselves.
-Rev. Edward Pinkney, July 27, 2016

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dignity over Malice, Racism, and Ignorance

Jim Anderson
In over six years, Sergeant James Anderson had never told this story publicly until last Monday at the Ypsilanti “Police-Community Relations/Black Lives Matter Task Force” meeting at Ypsilanti High School. A tall, slim, elderly man with glasses wearing a yellow-and-white short-sleeved shirt, he explained that he could not speak too loudly because he can’t help crying every time he talks about the incident.

The Incident

On the afternoon of December 7, 2009, Jim visited Wayne State to discuss his latest invention, a special kind of motor (patent pending). In the evening he dropped his wife off at home and then picked up his buddy who had some questions about the motor. Driving and talking, they turned south onto Harris Road off Vreeland Road in Superior Township.

“I travelled about 500 to 1,000 feet. At that point, I noticed a police officer approaching me from the rear in what he later called a blackout mode. He ignited his emergency flashers and I pulled to the right of the road and stopped. He exited his vehicle and approached mine."

Read the rest of Jim's gut-wrenching experience at Radical Washtenaw.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Living under the heel of open corporate rule

Stand together — all for one and one for all, says Rev. Pinkney

By Rev. Edward Pinkney
July 2016
MARQUETTE PRISON, MI —To the American government: I wonder if your morals and spiritual progress is commensurate with scientific process. It appears to me that your morality lags behind. Your mentality out-distances your morality.  Your civilization outshines your culture.
We must determine how to live in an economic system that doesn’t feed, clothe and house its people. The only answer is that it must be and will be overturned and replaced with a system that meets the needs of people.
The struggle that has taken place in Benton Harbor reflects this need, and holds lessons for the American people. The fight is a war over whether America will have prosperity and democracy or live under the heel of open corporate rule.
My conviction with absolutely no evidence by an all white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth is just a piece of the puzzle. It is a direct attack on democracy in Benton Harbor and around the country. It shows that the corporate power structure is determined to crush anyone, poor Black, poor white, poor brown, poor red, poor yellow, and all others who stand in its way. The corporate war will use me and you if necessary to accomplish its goals. It is part of a process underway across America, of the powerful trying to save a dying system.
We must remember that God does not forget his children, who are victims of this spreading evil form of corporate government rule. It is common for law officials, the establishment, and criminal justice system to use terror and brutality against the poor. Due process is virtually nonexistent because the courts are controlled by corporate judges, corporate prosecutors, and all white juries that consistently rule in favor of those who control the system. The largely white corporate power structure makes the decisions about how the public resources of the cities are to be divided among them. But it is bigger than the white judges, white prosecutors and all white juries. It is the entire system—the class in power—that is the problem.
Democracy, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and the economy, and universal education foreshadows the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival in a higher form of liberty, equality and fraternity. It will not be rich against the poor or haves against the have-nots. It will dispel the deep perception that the individual family, the economic unit of a faulty system, is the cause of the division in society. The truth is one class has nearly all the rights. The other class has nearly all the duties. We must confront this system at all costs. We must stand together—all for one and one for all.
We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Alton Sterling; Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Philando Castile; Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

These are two of the latest unjust deaths at the hands of law enforcement in America.

Sterling was executed by police after an unlawful stop and the excuse given by police is that this man was carrying a concealed weapon (a gun). Now perhaps he should not have had the gun (due to Sterling’s prior felony charge), but the fact is still that Sterling did NOT pull his gun on the officers and was, in fact, carrying a gun to protect himself. No crime was committed, yet this man was brutally murdered.

Castile, a hard-working, law-abiding man, admired by schoolchildren and parents at the school where Castile managed the cafeteria, was gunned down while sitting in his car by a police officer who stopped him over a broken tail-light. The shooting took place when Castile attempted to obey the officer’s order of producing his I.D. This execution was witnessed by his girlfriend (and filmed by her) and her four-year-old daughter!

There have been a tremendous number of unlawful killings of young Black men by law enforcement all around the country. And as a result, over the past 24 hours, peaceful protests by thousands of diverse individuals (African Americans, whites, Native Americans, Latinos) took place in cities from coast to coast, such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, Atlanta, Seattle, Oakland, Baton Rouge, Washington, DC, New York City, St. Paul, and Dallas. These were peaceful protests with demands of protection, not executions, by law enforcement and investigations into the deaths of Sterling and Castile and an end to racism and disregard for Black lives by too many police officers around the country.

One protest went terribly wrong, but how? In Dallas, a sniper (or snipers) opened gunfire on Dallas police shooting at least 12 with five dying at the time of this writing. The police even identified and sent out a bulletin with the photo of an innocent black man, named Mark Hughes, as the suspect. This put Hughes in great danger as he was carrying a gun (open carry is allowed in the State of Texas). Fortunately, he was unharmed and proven innocent before more blood was shed unlawfully.

I firmly believe these killings of Dallas police officers were not connected to the peaceful protests being led on the night of June 7, 2016. These types of horrendous acts are meant to further the violence, squelch the dialogue between adversaries, and continue the racism that has reared its ugly head even greater than in the early 20th Century.

The unnecessary police stops, the unnecessary police beatings are not resolutions to the problem of crime in our communities. Instead, these are issues being dealt with in Black communities across the country.

The Black community no longer has confidence in law enforcement or that the police are meant to “serve and protect.” This loss of trust and its corrosive impact on crime rates in our communities are reflected in the police opinion polls.

We can no longer stand back and allow another shooting by law enforcement in our communities. Whites, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, young, old, men, women – All of us must lock arms and continue to fight this unlawful, racist epidemic of death. Confront law enforcement to rid police forces of these “bad” cops. Good cops must also stand up with the people and fight back! Enough is enough!

Condolences to the Families of Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle

I want to express my condolences to the families of Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle. These were good men who, while serving as bailiffs in the Berrien County Courthouse, were mercilessly gunned down.

Joe and Ron were great guys and were supportive of me. I will never forget their goodness. 

They were both in their early sixties--too young to be taken from their families and friends. I pray that God will give them strength and solace in this time of tragedy.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Correctional Officer Hall slams prisoner’s head through window and CUT HIS THROAT

 The Marquette Branch Prison better known as the Concentration Camp of
America is a place where prisoners are sent from various areas and assembled together for torture. In prison dorm 101, Prisoner Danny Wood was handcuffed,  then attacked and beaten by correctional officer Hall who also slammed his head through a picture window in a show of power that resulted in a Danny Wood’s throat being cut. Now comes the cover up and lies by the Michigan Dept. of Corrections. It is a violation of the law to assault a person with the intent to great bodily harm. Officer Hall’s inhumane treatment of Prisoner Wood represents a violation of MDOC policy# 03.03.130 & his behavior is unbecoming of a State of Michigan employee. Officer Hall should be terminated from his job and arrested with a charge of attempted murder.  
     Prisoners in Marquette prison are frequently treated inhumanely and without dignity. The mental and physical abuse is out of control! When will the people of Michigan confront the injustices of the Prison system? When will the taxpayers say “we’ve had enough” and stop their tax support of this corrupted system. The MDOC turns their head and closes their eyes to the abusive treatment and torture of prisoners that occur in Marquette Branch Prison.
      This was Prison Director Heidi Washington’s and Warden Robert Napel’s plan for me. The tax-payer’s would be shocked to learn of the actions of the MDOC toward me. I have been threatened every single day, never knowing when the next attack would occur.  On May 2, 2016 Director Washington & Warden Napel allowed an attack on me by three uneducated cowards (correction officers) subjecting me to
cruel and unusual treatment. These three MDOC employees (named: Moyle, Haurt  & Schroders) and the prison administration violated policy 03.03.130 by not allowing me to use the bathroom.  They wanted me to use a bathroom that had 2 big signs saying “Broken, do not use except for urination” on it. We have been able to urinate only in this bathroom for months. There was no tissue, nothing that would allow you to defecate in the bathroom.  There are 3 other bathroom for defecation but I was told” if need to use the (other) bathroom you must end your visit.” This was lack of respect for a prisoner who was on a visit. These three employees should have been trained that a prisoner has the right to use the bathroom during a visit.
    The conditions of Marquette prison are that of a concentration camp.
The Michigan Dept. of Corrections, must stop the inhume treatment of all prisoners. The only the taxpayers and family members of prisoners can stop the torture.

From Rev. Pinkney
Marquette Branch Prison
Report on Prison Conditions
Early July 2016

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Latest Developments in Rev. Pinkney's Appeal

In May, a panel of judges at the Michigan Court of Appeals heard arguments from the defense and prosecution in Rev. Pinkney's appeal. The courtroom was packed with supporters of Rev. Pinkney from across the state and region.

Soon after, the judges announced that they were holding the case in abeyance (stayed) until the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on a separate case, People v. Hall. This case also concerns election law and a particular statute, MCL 168.937.

On June 29, the Michigan Supreme Court announced its decision in People v. Hall. This means Rev. Pinkney's appeal is no longer on hold. Both the prosecution and the defense in Rev. Pinkney's case have already filed supplemental briefs in light of this new Supreme Court decision. The prosecution's brief is one page long and the defense's brief is ten pages long.

While there are several important legal and constitutional rights questions at stake in Rev. Pinkney's appeal, these latest arguments center around whether the statute, MCL 168.937, is merely a penalty provision (laying out the penalties for a crime, not the crime itself), as the defense argues, or is a "substantive statute," as the prosecution argues.

If the statute is merely a penalty provision, then it was improper for Rev. Pinkney to be prosecuted under this statute in the first place. If the court of appeals agrees, then the charges against Rev. Pinkney would no longer stand and he could not be tried again under due process laws that prohibit "double jeopardy" (the prosecution of a person twice for the same alleged offense).

So what did the Michigan Supreme Court have to say about MCL 168.937? In this latest ruling, the court explicitly stated that they were not addressing the question of whether or not 168.937 is merely a penalty provision. This is because the defendant in the case, Hall, did not raise the question in his appeal to the Supreme Court. This leaves the question still undeclared by the courts.

The defense supplemental brief also cites an opinion issued by the Michigan Supreme Court one month ago in yet another case (Rock v. Crocker). This recent decision strengthens Rev. Pinkney's "404(b)" defense, in which his team argued that the prosecution should not have been allowed to bring in testimony related to Rev. Pinkney's lawful and protected political activity that we believe had no legal relevance to the case and was prejudicial to the jury.

Now it is up to the Court of Appeals in Rev. Pinkney's case to weigh these questions, in light of the supplementary briefs, along with all the other critical questions raised in Rev. Pinkney's appeal.

We await their decision!

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Misappropriation of Prisoners’ Benefit Fund at Marquette – We demand an audit!

There is suspicion, and it’s not unfounded, that the Marquette prison officials have been caught with their “hands in the cookie jar!” Marquette prisoners have evidence that funds from the Prisoners’ Benefit Fund (PBF) have been funneled not to make requested purchases to improve living conditions for the prisoners, but into the pockets of prison officials. This year alone about $1,700 has disappeared from the PBF. 
The PBF is supposed to work like this. Prisoners buy food from a company other than Trinity Services Group because the food served by Trinity in the chow hall is unclean, infested with rodent feces, bugs, and maggots. Inmates shell out more than normal retail for such items as a one ounce bag of chips ($1.29) or a measly 5-6 oz. chicken breast ($3.06). Even a 14-minute phone call costs a minimum of $4.00. For many inmates, the phone calls are the only way to make contact with loved ones, friends, even legal counsel because visits are few and far between for most prisoners housed at Marquette Branch Prison, located in the Upper Peninsula near the Canadian border. 
As these purchases are made, a tiny percentage of these costs (e.g., two cents per phone call) is funneled to the Prisoners’ Benefit Fund. Prisoners can make requests for purchases and, once approval is received from the State of Michigan, the purchases are made using the PBF monies. Sounds like a fair deal, right? Wrong! 
Recently, the Marquette prisoners requested that funds from the PBF be used to buy a microwave, and the State approved the purchase. However, to date, no microwave has been purchased. 
Earlier this year, Marquette prisoners submitted a request for a simple exercise machine, which was approved. The exercise machine normally retails at about $400-500, but the PBF was drained of $6,000 for the machine! 
The purpose of the PBF is to provide some decent conditions and comforts to prisoners. Instead, we have evidence that the PBF has become a means of distorting and mishandling monies and padding the pockets of prison officials.
This solidifies what we already know: the prison system does not care about the welfare of the inmates, the Michigan Department of Corrections and the State of Michigan are not concerned about the ultimate cost to taxpayers, and the PBF is just one more scam engineered to pad the pockets of prison officials rather than provide human rights to prisoners. 
We demand an audit of the Prisoners’ Benefit Fund!

Rev. Edward Pinkney