Jury Nullification

Judge Dismisses Felony Charge Against Michigan Jury Rights Pamphleteer

Keith Wood still faces a misdemeanor jury tampering charge for exercising his freedom of speech.

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WXMI

Last week a Michigan judge dismissed a felony charge against Keith Wood, the activist who was arrested in November for distributing jury nullification pamphlets outside the Mecosta County courthouse. The dismissed charge, common-law obstruction of justice, carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Wood still faces a misdemeanor charge of jury tampering, punishable by up to a year in jail, for handing out a pamphlet arguing that jurors have the right to acquit a technically guilty defendant in the interest of justice—a venerable idea that makes judges and prosecutors uncomfortable.

Wood's lawyer, David Kallman, successfully argued that the felony charge was inappropriate because it is authorized only when "no provision is expressly made" for punishment of a common-law offense. Since the jury tampering statute fits the government's allegations against Wood, Kallman said, the felony charge does not apply. Mecosta County Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Booher agreed, which did not surprise Mecosta County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Thiede. According to WOOD, the NBC station in Grand Rapids, "Thiede said that he expected the felony to be dismissed and that he has no real desire to see Wood behind bars." Rather, "he just wants to make sure that no one else tries the same stunt."

FIJA

By Thiede's own account, then, he brought a felony charge he knew was inapplicable to teach Wood a lesson and send a message to anyone else who might consider engaging in political speech that offends Thiede. MLive Media Group reports that "Thiede argued at a probable cause hearing in December that the [jury nullification] literature misrepresented the legal system and could lead to a lawless society," since "jurors could set bombers and killers free if they believed in the motivation behind the crime." Last week Thiede remarked that "the defense is saying a juror's oath does not mean anything," adding sarcastically, "What a wonderful world."

Peter Jaklevic, the judge who ordered Wood's arrest, likewise takes a dim view of jury nullification. Apparently so does Magistrate Thomas Lyons, who set Wood's bail at $150,000—a punitively high figure that forced him to pay a $15,000 deposit by credit card to get out of jail. In a decision that reflects the frivolousness of the felony charge, Judge Booher eliminated the bond and ordered the entire $15,000 refunded to Wood, a 39-year-old former pastor and father of seven. WXMI, the Fox station in Grand Rapids, says a 100 percent bond-deposit refund is "a rarity," since the court usually keeps a 10 percent administrative fee. 

Booher declined to dismiss the jury tampering charge, which applies to "a person who willfully attempts to influence the decision of a juror in any case" (except as part of the trial). Thiede argues that Wood was attempting to influence the outcome of the only case for which a jury was scheduled to be selected that day, involving an Amish man named Andrew Yoder who was charged with violating a wetland regulation and ultimately decided to plead guilty. Thiede says Wood was trying to "pollute the entire jury panel."

In his brief seeking dismissal of the charges against Wood, Kallman says Wood was aware of the Yoder case but "did not…personally know the defendant and had no personal stake in the outcome." In any event, he argues, "it is impossible to tamper with a jury that does not exist," and none was ever selected in Yoder's case. Booher rejected that argument, concluding that a jury panel member counts as a "juror in any case" under the jury tampering statute.

Kallman also argues that Wood was not trying to affect the outcome of any particular case but was merely distributing general information about jurors' rights. He says trying to punish Wood for doing that clearly violates the First Amendment, since the case against him is "solely based on the prosecutor and judge's disagreement with his topic and his views." Thiede's interpretation of the jury tampering statute therefore turns it into a content- and viewpoint-based restriction on speech, which is presumptively unconstitutional.

"This case is quite simple," Kallman writes. "Jurors have the power to vote their conscience and disregard a trial court's instructions….The government authorities in this case do not want members of the public to know, or be made aware of, their power. These authorities, therefore, arrest, charge, and imprison those who dare exercise their First Amendment free speech rights to inform citizens of their lawful power." While that argument did not convince Booher to dismiss the jury tampering charge, a version of it could sway the jurors who hear Wood's case. Regardless of whether he broke the law, they will have the power to acquit him, and it will be pretty hard to keep them in the dark about that power.

The Fully Informed Jury Association, which produced the pamphlet that Wood distributed, is tracking the case.

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37 responses to “Judge Dismisses Felony Charge Against Michigan Jury Rights Pamphleteer

  1. “Thiede said that he expected the felony to be dismissed and that he has no real desire to see Wood behind bars.” Rather, “he just wants to make sure that no one else tries the same stunt.”

    Blatantly, knowingly and proudly charging beyond what the law allows. What a wonderful world.

    1. Malicious prosecution. Noted.

      1. ^This.

        Seeing lawyers argue against each other in court gives most people the impression that they are enemies. Frenemies is closer to the truth. They all feed each other so none of them can really afford to piss the others off too much.

        I wouldn’t bet on Kallman pursuing the malicious prosecution angle even though it is a slam dunk.

        1. What world are you in, Suthenboy?

          Frenemies? My Brother, lawyers are professionals, nothing more. Policy demands courtesy. Unprofessional behavior, like being a dick, is grounds for sanctions or worse. Furthermore, there is not a lawyer out there with less than 5 years of practice who doesn’t sweat the AGC when they come a knocking.

          Feed each other? Where are you getting that from? Do you mean referrals? It is against the MRPC to be on the take from a referral. At most, it’s back scratching in order to ease the burden of finding clients, and you tell me if a plumber “knowing a guy that works really well with drywall” is the same in your book.

          1. The real world.

            Your brother, hm. Still can’t figure out why you might have different experience from anyone else, hm. Must be them. The silly people.

      2. Fire up the woodchipper.

    2. Blatantly, knowingly and proudly charging beyond what the law allows. What a wonderful world.

      That is standard procedure.

      “Sure you can go to court and beat these charges, but if you do you’ll likely be convicted of such-and-such which carries a much longer sentence than what I am offering in this plea deal.”

      1. In my limited experience, the first offer is usually shit from any perspective. Let the case roll out, let the prosecutor get busy, let them potentially lose another case in the interim, see if you deal doesn’t sweeten on its own.

        If there is one thing reliable as all hell, it is the win/loss ratio obsession with prosecutors.

  2. “Thiede argued at a probable cause hearing in December that the [jury nullification] literature misrepresented the legal system and could lead to a lawless society,”

    And then:

    By Thiede’s own account, then, he brought a felony charge he knew was inapplicable to teach Wood a lesson and send a message to anyone else who might consider engaging in political speech that offends Thiede.

    Self awareness is not his strong suit. This is “rule of law”, folks. It’s actually “rule of man” where the man tells you that what he wants is law. Enjoy laws and government, because this is what you get.

    1. This is “rule of law”, folks. It’s actually “rule of man” where the man tells you that what he wants is law. Enjoy laws and government, because this is what you get.

      Obligatory

    2. That was already clear when they used one of their catch-all charges, “Obstruction of justice”. As the lawyer was arguing, it is even hilariously defined as only usable when there’s no actual crime they can charge you with.

  3. “Thiede said that he expected the felony to be dismissed and that he has no real desire to see Wood behind bars.” Rather, “he just wants to make sure that no one else tries the same stunt.”

    don’t make this guy’s job more difficult or you too could have your life ruined by some piss-pot cunt prosecutor.

  4. Wow. Scumbags. 150k on a credit card.

    THE LINEUP TO MY WOODCHIPPER IS UNCONTROLLABLE.

    1. 15k…or were you converting it to Canadian money?

      1. I thought we’re permitted five typos per day before snark.

        1. Either way, forcing someone into debt is evil.

        2. fro soem of is that’s one post

    2. Don’t shout, Preet might hear you.

      1. How was the attack on Reason commenters not bigger news? I mean a clear assault on free speech and the news industry at large ignores it.

        1. Because you’re just libertarians. It’s not like he attacked someone Important

      2. Fuck Preet. Up the ass with a rusty chainsaw covered in Tiger Balm.

  5. “MLive Media Group reports that “Thiede argued at a probable cause hearing in December that the [jury nullification] literature misrepresented the legal system and could lead to a lawless society,”

    This one sounds like a winner.

    1. Thankfully we don’t live in a society were government can ignore laws and invent charges. That would be lawless.

      1. You have been charged with Third Degree Snark. That is a $400 fine. Please pay in unmarked, nonsequential US bills.

        1. Son of a…
          *pulls out wallet because doesn’t want a beat down from goon squad*

        2. Unmarked? Fine.

          *used paper cutter to cut blank paper into bill sized sheets.*

          Here, I will pay his fine, but I want a receipt.

    2. Come to think of this lawless society angle.

      I wonder just who is being lawless. Here’s a guy handing out pamphlets that threaten a few people in positions of power. They turn around and try and ‘make an example’ of the guy and even put in him in severe debt possibly threatening his ability to live.

      Who are dangerous to society?

      Also, keep pushing people this way and you’ll see how that ‘example’ turns out in the long run.

      1. I wonder just who is being lawless.

        No you don’t.

        Also, keep pushing people this way and you’ll see how that ‘example’ turns out in the long run.

        Woodchipper Party wins in a landslide?

        1. the woodchipper party doesn’t win elections, it narrows the field.

  6. ” “jurors could set bombers and killers free if they believed in the motivation behind the crime.” Last week Thiede remarked that “the defense is saying a juror’s oath does not mean anything,” adding sarcastically, “What a wonderful world.”

    Two can play reductio ad absurdum. In Thiede’s world natural law has no place and the American revolution was a lawless act. People must bow their necks to the boot. People everywhere who object to totalitarian regimes ( Cuba, Venezuela) are rightfully tortured and imprisoned. What a wonderful world.

    1. Also, someone should have pointed out in court Thiede’s profound lack of confidence in juries.

      1. “Juries are made of people too dumb to get out of jury duty” – routinely overheard at work.

        1. As a criticism or a brag? Would the people who impanel juries be happier if their only choices were people from this comment board?

          1. I don’t know. Because The state pays full salary for days spent on Jury duty, so there’s no economic incentive to avoid it, just the hassle factor.

            1. That must be part of your government-sector worker contract.

              $40/day for the rest of us.

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