Keith Wood was arrested for handing out pamphlets outside of a Mecosta County courthouse in Big Rapids, MI. He was getting the word out about jury nullification, the notion that jurors should judge not only the defendant in a particular case but the law itself.
Wood was charged with a five-year felony as well as a misdemeanor for obstructing justice and jury tampering for simply handing out these fliers. Some of those charges were dropped, but he was still convicted of jury tampering in June 2017. Wood and his lawyer, David Kallman are not taking this lying down. They are preparing for oral arguments in their upcoming case before the Court of Appeals, and they have bipartisan support from influential national organizations.
According to a FOX 17 report, amicus briefs were filed by the ACLU, Cato Institute and Fully Informed Jury Association to the Court of Appeals in support of Wood.
“Our client’s constitutional right to free speech was abridged here, it was violated,” Kallman said to FOX 17. “And we have groups from all sides of the spectrum here agreeing with us. This is a clear-cut First Amendment constitutional violation. It should never have even gotten to this point, and we’re trusting that the Court of Appeals will see it that way.”
“The Cato brief goes into a summary of all 50 states and their jury tampering laws and how Michigan’s is different, and do a really good job of explaining that to the Court of Appeals,” Kallman said. “So that is very helpful, but that’s not something we were able to do in the time constraints, or the page constraints of how much we could write.”
Part of the brief filed by Cato can be read here:
“Mr. Wood was arrested and convicted for engaging in classic political advocacy (peacefully distributing pamphlets) in the quintessential public forum (the sidewalk in front of a courthouse) on a matter of public concern more ancient than Magna Carta, and at the heart of Anglo-Saxon law (the rights, duties, and independence of citizen jurors). One can well imagine why an English monarch might wish to suppress efforts to inform potential jurors of their power to resist tyranny by refusing to convict fellow citizens who had incurred the sovereign’s enmity; what is—or should be—more surprising is American courts allowing American sovereigns to suppress such speech on American soil.”
Wood himself believes that all freedom-minded individuals should be very concerned if his conviction is upheld because of how it will impact their rights moving forward.
“I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ,” Wood said. “Jesus said ‘the truth will set you free’ and I want people to know the truth. If you don’t use your rights, you lose them.”