Michigan Activist Sentenced to Jail for Distributing Pamphlet About Juror Rights
Keith Wood, who was convicted of jury tampering last month, argued that he was exercising his First Amendment rights.
Today a Michigan judge sentenced a local activist to eight weekends in jail, plus $545 in fines, 120 hours of community service, and six months of probation, for passing out jury nullification pamphlets in front of the Mecosta County courthouse. Keith Wood, a former pastor and father of eight, was arrested in November 2015 and convicted last month of jury tampering, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Wood, who distributed a pamphlet published by the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), was initially charged with obstruction of justice, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and held on $150,000 bail. The felony charge was dismissed in March 2016.
The remaining charge applies when someone "willfully attempts to influence the decision of a juror in any case by argument or persuasion, other than as part of the proceedings in open court in the trial of the case." The only case pending on the day Wood was arrested involved an Amish man named Andy Yoder who was accused of illegally filling a wetland on his own property. Yoder ended up pleading guilty, so no jury was ever chosen for his trial. But Wood testified that he had taken an interest in the case and ordered the FIJA pamphlets after hearing about it.
Wood's lawyer, David Kallman, who plans to appeal the conviction, argued that distributing the pamphlets, which contained general information about jurors' rights, was protected by the First Amendment. He emphasized that Wood never discussed Yoder's case with passers-by at the courthouse.
At Wood's sentencing, Kallman argued that jail time was inappropriate, while the prosecution recommended a sentence of 45 days. After Wood's arrest, Mecosta County Prosecutor Brian Thiede said the FIJA pamphlet is dangerous because "we would have a lawless nation if people were to vote their conscience."
FIJA has more on the Wood case here.