Appeal filed for Rev. Pinkney

pinkney_0730On July 6, a motion for bond pending appeal was filed in the case of Michigan political prisoner the Rev. Edward Pinkney. Attorney Tim Holloway filed the motion along with a 51-page brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Grand Rapids. The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also filed an amicus brief in support of Rev. Pinkney, who has long been active in fighting racism and the corporate rule of the Whirlpool Corporation over Benton Harbor, Mich.

Rev. Pinkney was convicted in December on five felony counts of allegedly altering five dates on petitions to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor. No evidence implicating or naming Rev. Pinkney was ever introduced in court and the jury was told specifically, “You don’t need evidence to convict Pinkney.” The all-white jury, judge and prosecutor acted, in the words of Rev. Pinkney, “as a criminal enterprise in Berrien County.” Rev. Pinkney was sentenced to two-and-a-half to 10 years and is currently in the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich.

The motion reminds the appeals court of the strong family and community ties that Rev. Pinkney has in his hometown. The nonviolent nature of the charges also argue in favor of Rev. Pinkney’s release on bond pending appeal. A ruling on the appeal itself might take up to one-and-a-half years.

The appeal also makes the strong argument that there is insufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict. The verdict hinged on the argument made by prosecutor Michael Sepic that Rev. Pinkney was the principal proponent of the recall petitions and could be assumed to have altered the petitions or aided and abetted someone else in doing so.

Pinkney’s appeal also challenges Trial Judge Sterling R. Schrock for giving instructions that allowed the jury to convict on no evidence. A major factor in the appeal is that the prosecutor violated Michigan Rules of Evidence, the First Amendment and due process. Throughout the trial, defense and prosecution witnesses were grilled about Rev. Pinkney’s speeches, press conferences and community activism — none of which figured in the actual charges and were meant to paint Rev. Pinkney as a radical activist.

It is expected that a three-judge panel could decide on the issue of appeal bond in four to six weeks.