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!