Monday, March 26, 2007

Jury returns guilty verdict in Pinkney trial

Pinkney's sentencing is May 14, 2007, at 1:30 p.m. Between now and then, all fair-minded individuals, particularly those who have had the privilege to meet Reverend Pinkney or follow his work, should write letters of support.

THEY SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO: The Honorable Alfred M. Butzbaugh, Berrien County Circuit Court, 811 Port Street, St. Joseph, Michigan, 49085-1187, regarding the case of People v. Reverend Edward Pinkney.

BUT THEY SHOULD BE SENT TO: Hugh M. Davis, Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., 450 West Fort Street, Suite 200, Detroit, Michigan, 48226. Phone: 313-961-2255; Fax: 313-961-5999; email:

B A N C O: Analysis of Pinkney Trial and the Movement Ahead

On March 21, 2007 (when day and night are equal), justice in Berrien County, Michigan, took a big step backwards into the darkness of fear and bigotry when an all-white jury convicted a black community activist, Reverend Edward Pinkney, of five counts of improprieties in connection with a 2005 recall election involving the City of Benton Harbor's most powerful commissioner.

The facts and the history are stark. Benton Harbor is ninety-four percent (94%) black, ninety percent (90%) poor and seventy percent (70%) unemployed. It is directly across the river from affluent and practically all-white St. Joseph, Michigan, the world headquarters of the Whirlpool Corporation. Benton Harbor is still the largest city in the county and was once the site of most of the county's governmental functions, including the Federal building. But, as industrial stagnation and flight increasingly gripped the area and the St. Joseph/Lake Michigan coastline was increasingly dominated by the tourist economy, Benton Harbor has been systematically drained of any economic vitality. Its citizens are unwelcome in other parts of the county and the criminal justice system operates to arrest, imprison, intimidate, control and marginalize them. Benton Harbor's governmental and educational institutions are characterized by infighting and petty corruption.

The City festered in that condition until the summer of 2003, when the police killing of a young black man erupted into a short and destructive outburst of rebellious anger. Pinkney helped keep the peace. Public officials poured in to deplore Benton Harbor's conditions and promised that something would be done. Nothing was. Progressive and radical organizations also went to Benton Harbor and linked up with the local community.

The Reverend Edward Pinkney, working in cooperation with his wife, Dorothy, had affiliated with BANCO (Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations) and had meetings in Benton Harbor. By the time of the 2003 rebellion, Pinkney was publicly identified as the leader of the disadvantaged and dissident community in Benton Harbor, based in large part on his daily presence at the Berrien County courthouse. He exposed what he saw as the inherent racism of the criminal justice system and the willful inadequacy of the defense provided to the poor (mostly) black defendants. Pinkney picketed the courthouse and the local newspaper, openly naming individuals he believed to be involved in corrupt and racist practices.


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