Saturday, February 03, 2007

Benton Harbor's Rev. Pinkney Hearing: Summary & Report

Benton Harbor is the poorest city in Michigan. Ninety
(90%) percent of the people live below the poverty
level and seventy (70%) percent are unemployed. Almost
all of the citizens are black. The land is very
valuable real estate. Whirlpool, already dominant in
the area, wanted much of this land for a small price.
It needed approval of six (6) of its commissioners.
BANCO (the Black Autonomy Network Community
Organization), led by Rev. Pinkney , succeeded in a
recall election of a key commissioner. A suit was
brought to set aside the election alleging fraud.
Without sufficient evidence Judge Paul Maloney (who
has been nominated by President Bush to the federal
bench in the Western District) set aside the recall
election and scheduled a new one. With serious money
from local political forces the recall was defeated
and the commissioner retained. Thus, the sale went
through. Whirlpool detached the property from the City
of Benton Harbor and attached it to mostly white
Benton Township. It plans to build a $100,000,000
gated community, marina and Jack Nicklaus – designed
golf course. Seeing Pinkney as a danger, corrupt
politicians cooperated with the Prosecutor to produce
bribed and coerced witnesses to say that Pinkney had
improperly handled absentee ballots and had bought
votes (people were paid $10 to say Pinkney paid them
$5). Pinkney went to trial in the spring of 2006.
There were two minorities on that jury. The trial
ended in a hung jury. He is to be tried again.

January 25, 2007 you could feel the tension in the Berrien
County Courtroom of Judge Alfred Butzbaugh as friends
and activists of Rev. Edward Pinkney from across the
nation gathered for a hearing in his support. The
hearing was to argue two motions. One motion to argue
the constitutionality of the Michigan Absentee Voter
statute, which makes it a 5 year felony to possess
without knowledge or bad intent, an absentee ballot,
but only a misdemeanor to actually buy a vote. The
second motion was to challenge the racial composition
of the juries in Berrien County where, although blacks
are 15.5% of the population, rarely is more than 1 in
30 potential jurors black.

Rev. Pinkney’s legal counsel, Attorney Timothy
Holloway presented argument for the first motion. He
argued that statutes that involve a malum prohibitum
crime were not criminal at common law. The person had
to have knowledge that it was illegal to handle the
absentee ballots. The prosecution, Aaron J. Mead and
Gerald L. Vigansky, argued back that one only had to
have knowledge that they possessed an absentee ballot
belonging to someone else. They argued that the
Legislature wanted criminal intent to be an element of
a criminal offense. They compared the handling of an
absentee ballot and being charged with a felony as the
same as someone that drove their pick-up truck across
state line with possession of a gun, who is stopped
and prosecuted for carrying a concealed weapon. The
prosecution argued that everyone knows it is illegal
to possess a concealed weapon without a permit and
argued that possession of an absentee ballot falls
under the same interpretation. Attorney Holloway
cited the Michigan Supreme Court case People v Osborn
(1912) as well as several other cases that ruled a
guilty mind was necessary in order to prosecute. Judge
Butzbaugh said he would try to have a ruling within
two weeks.

Attorney Elliot Hall came to present argument for the
motion challenging jury composition. In the motion, he
asked that the court move to discovery in the
selection of juries for the circuit court in Berrien
County and striking the selection procedure as
discriminatory and exclusionary with regard to
minority jurors and delay Rev. Pinkney’s trial until
the system can be reformed and provide him with a
non-discriminatory list of jurors called to serve. The
prosecution, however, did not respond to this motion
in writing before the hearing telling the judge that
he thought that discovery would be done while the
attorneys were present. The judge then told Attorney
Hall to gather the material from the clerk and ordered
a continuance. Then Judge Butzbaugh called for both
the prosecution and defense attorneys to join him in
his chambers. While in chambers it is my understanding
that the judge informed the parties that going through
the discovery process on jury selection would not
delay the trial. Attorney Elliot Hall responded that –
we would see about that.

Afterward, Rev. Pinkney said “We gave them a spanking
today!” He was confident of his attorneys handling of
the motions, stating that we will go to Federal court
if we have to appeal these motions. The prosecution
presented arguments to the malum prohibitum issue that
didn’t hold water for the audience in attendance. Many
felt it was ridiculous to compare the handling of guns
with the handling of ballots. It was an eye opening
experience of a judges going through with a hearing
when the prosecution hadn’t followed through with a
written response to the defense. Those who have
continued to observe the court in operation felt that
the judge was trying to appear to be listening to both
sides by asking for further clarification. However,
information about Judge Butzbaugh’s comment about the
jury composition motion not having to be answered
before trial blew that perception out of the water.

Contact: Rev. Edward Pinkney, 269-925-0001


WilliamX Akbar said...

I am puting out a GENERAL call to
all Community organizations,groups,
and individuals to support others who is in this battle fighting with
Rev Pinkney. In this battle there is NO small I or Big U.

Rev Ed, is already having a hard
time dealing with racism and hate,
and that's one thing he does not want in this struggle.

For those who visit Rev Pinkney's webblog. You will see one of the
Rev's haters post anonymous, and the reasons is as plain as day.

So everyone please keep the faith
and support for Rev Pinkney, and a
special thanks to everyone for their support.

Sincerely Yours.
WilliamX Akbar

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