A former pastor and father of eight children have been sentenced to eight weekends in jail for passing out pamphlets that inform people about jury nullification.
Keith Wood of Michigan was sentenced to eight weekends in jail, six months of probation, and fines for exercising a right that is supposed to be protected under the First Amendment.
Keith Wood gets 6 months of probation and 8 weekends in jail for distributing fliers outside Big Rapids courthouse in jury tampering case. pic.twitter.com/zLEPfEQtlp
— John Hogan (@JohnHoganWZZM) July 21, 2017
Fox 17 reported, “Last month, a jury of six found Keith Wood guilty convicting him of attempting to influence a jury in Mecosta County. Wood is a former pastor and father of eight who was initially charged with a five-year felony for obstructing justice and the one-year misdemeanor jury tampering.”
Prosecutors argued that Wood was trying to influence potential jurors before they heard a case against Andy Yoder, an Amish man who was accused of draining a wetland that was on his property.
Yoder took a plea deal that day and the case never went to trial. Wood said he did not know Yoder, and he only wanted to inform potential jurors that they had the right to vote their conscience over the law.
Now, understand that Wood was simply outside the Mecosta County courthouse passing out pamphlets on the sidewalk. That’s it.”He’s going straight to jail today,” said Judge Kimberly Booher, before Wood was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.
— John Hogan (@JohnHoganWZZM) June 1, 2017
How in the world is that jury tampering? Shouldn’t the judge have been advising the jury of their rights regarding nullification?
Claire Bernish has illustrated why educating the public on jury nullification is so important. She writes:
Jury nullification thus arguably acts as citizens’ access to checks and balances: When legislators craft worthless, harmful, inequitable, or just plain ‘bad’ laws, jurors can, in essence, refuse to enforce any punitive measures — refusing to find a person guilty of breaking a law that never should have been inked into the books.
This tool shines most prominently when used consistently to thwart oppressive policy. Illustrative of this principle is continued federal prohibition of cannabis and transformed public sentiment, as anti-marijuana propaganda falls apart at its politicized roots for the incarceration nightmare it created — among many others. Jurors faced with a choice in guilt of sending a nonviolent drug offender to prison might instead find the concept of incarcerating this petty ‘criminal’ who had done no harm to another unethical and ill-conceived — and choose instead a finding of not guilty to compensate for the unjust law.
But most judges refuse to or have strict rules against informing jurors about the little-known nullification right; so, Wood’s education activism, handing out pamphlets from the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), entitled “Your Jury Rights: True or False?” in front of the court in Big Rapids, led to a verdict of guilty for attempting to influence a jury in Mecosta County.
Shouldn’t this judge be aware of the right of Mr. Wood to pass out literature that gives this instruction?
“He’s going straight to jail today,” said Judge Booher, before Wood was handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom.
Wood has no prior criminal record. He’s self-employed. He is the sole bread winner in his house for his wife and eight children.
“This is not a person who made a one-time mistake, he hasn’t demonstrated that he has kind of shown that he realizes now the significance of what he’s done, in fact, the testimony shows the contrary,” said Mecosta County Assistant Prosecutor Nathan Hull.
Hull pushed for 45 days in jail for Wood, while Wood’s attorney David Kallman stated that Wood’s actions were not to manipulate a jury, but to educate the public.
Kallman also said that both a conviction and jail time would be a violation of his right to free speech.
“He exercised what he believes are his free speech rights, did it out on the sidewalk before this court, and that because of that, that deserves 45 days in jail, let alone one day in jail?” said Kallman. “I totally disagree with that.”
I disagree with it too.
However, Wood was granted a stay on his sentence and was released on a $20,000 bond due to an emergency hearing held by Isabella County District Judge Eric Janes, who was appointed to hear the appeal.
Again, from Fox 17:
During the emergency hearing, Kallman says Mecosta County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Clapp asked Judge Janes to issue a gag order for Wood’s appeal process; Judge Janes denied it.
At this point, Judge Janes will hear Wood’s appeal at the circuit court level. Kallman believes the next court dates will likely be scheduled for this fall.
These tyrants in Mecosta County just don’t understand that they have no authority to issue gag order or infringe upon free speech that is not of a criminal nature.
However, they will continue to be oppressive until the people have had enough and take a stand against their oppression, but this will require both courage and action on the part of the people.
One of those actions is impeachment of judge’s who behave badly, as in the case of Judge Booher.
Investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on jury nullification previously.
“‘Just Us’ is a coalition of media and activists working together to encourage the American public to take up its civil responsibility to serve as jurors,” Swann reported in 2013.
“We recognize that too many Americans run from their responsibility to serve as jurors,” he added.
“Our goal is to remind the public of its responsibility to sign up for jury duty,” Swann continued. “Once you are on a jury, remember that you have the responsibility to not only judge the facts of the case but to also judge the law itself. This process is known as jury nullification.”
Seems to me that the judge and prosecutors in Wood’s case would have probably found Swann guilty of jury tampering if he had posted this video in their city on the same day as Wood, don’t you think?