Friday, April 07, 2006
Benton Harbor: Berrien County Prosecutor to Retry Rev. Pinkney
PANW Editor's Note: Rev. Edward Pinkney of BANCO in Benton Harbor will have charges filed against him again after the first trial ended in a mistrial last week. Pinkney faced up to 20 years of prison time if convicted on four felony counts and one misdemeanor. All charges are related to a recall election last February 2005 which targeted Commissioner Glenn Yarbrough.
Although Yarbrough was voted out in the first election, a civil suit nullified the recall election and the second poll placed Yarbrough back in his seat.
The following is a news article from the local corporate newspaper in Berrien County which has been extremely biased against Pinkney and his political work in Benton Harbor and neighboring communities. In reading this article the reader can get a sense as to why this African-American leader is under attack by the racist system in this region of southwest Michigan.
Benton Harbor has an extremely high unemployment rate among African-Americans and has been plagued by police brutality, and unfair courts. Its economic and political structures are dominated by the Whirlpool Corporation, a multi-billion dollar firm. This is taking place at the same time when African-Americans are subjected to a disproportionate county system where St. Joseph's predominantly white and affluent community dictates who goes to trial and to prison.
Activists around the state are gearing up to build another round of support to defend Pinkney against a second attempted frame-up.
BERRIEN TRIAL COURT
Pinkney will be retried
Prosecutor says jury vote was 10-2 for conviction on 3 felony counts, 6-6 on 2 other charges
By JULIE SWIDWA
ST. JOSEPH — Edward Pinkney will be retried on four felony counts and one misdemeanor count related to the Feb. 22, 2005, recall election of Benton Harbor City Commissioner Glenn Yarbrough.
A new trial date will be set by the court. Pinkney’s first trial, which lasted two weeks, ended Monday in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict after 20 hours of deliberations over three days.
Berrien County Prosecutor Jim Cherry, in a press release Wednesday, said that after talking with jurors he decided his office will retry the case.
The prosecutor said jurors indicated 10 of the 12 voted to convict Pinkney on three felony counts of improper possession of absentee ballots. The jury was split 6-6 on the other felony count of influencing voters while they were voting, and on a misdemeanor count of influencing voters with money.
A unanimous verdict is required for conviction.
Cherry said he believes the case is important enough to warrant a retrial.
“This is an important case,” Cherry said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “It has to do with some pretty basic premises when you’re talking about elections.” When a jury is deadlocked and a judge declares a mistrial, the defendant can be retried on the same charges.
“Given the importance of this case and the significance it has for future elections in Berrien County, I have decided that this office will retry Pinkney on the original charges,” Cherry said in the news release.
Cherry said he is confident his assistant prosecutor can get a conviction in another trial.
Judge Alfred Butzbaugh by Assistant Prosecutor Gerald Vigansky, with Tat Parish of Watervliet as Pinkney’s defense lawyer.
Pinkney, 57, of Benton Township, was arrested after a ruling in a civil case that voided the election. Chief Trial Court Judge Paul Maloney ordered another election, in which voters kept Yarbrough in office.
Pinkney was arrested shortly after the civil case ended. He has been free on $10,000 bond.
Parish could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but earlier said he hoped the prosecutor would not retry the case, which was an expensive one for his client and the taxpayers.
Witnesses for the prosecution testified throughout the trial that Pinkney paid people to vote, told them to vote “yes” and told them they were voting to bring jobs to Benton Harbor. A number of people testified they handed their absentee ballots over to Pinkney rather than mailing them.
Testifying in his own defense, Pinkney told the court he never paid anyone to vote and never handled anyone’s ballot other than his own.
Pinkney voted in the Yarbrough recall election even though he lives in the township. He told the court he and his wife were staying with a friend in the city of Benton Harbor at the time of the election while a strange odor in their house was investigated.