In 2015, a former Big Rapids, MI pastor was arrested and charged with a felony for handing out jury nullification pamphlets outside of a county courthouse. Despite being an obvious infringement of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, the man was still convicted of a lesser charge of misdemeanor jury tampering on Wednesday.
Keith Wood, a father of eight, was disseminating information from the Fully Informed Jury Association on the sidewalk in front of the Mecosta County Courthouse in Nov. 2015. The fliers explained the rights that jurors possess in full, including the right for jurors to use their conscience when determining the result of a case. This notion, popularly known as jury nullification, has a long history of being used in the United States and was even endorsed by certain Founding Fathers.
Those facts didn’t stop Mecosta county law enforcement from detaining Wood. They set his bond at an astronomical $150,000, forcing him to charge $15,000 to his credit card in order to make bail and spend Thanksgiving with his beloved family. Although the felony charge was eventually dropped, he could still face a year in prison on the misdemeanor conviction of jury tampering. The proceedings, as described by FOX 17, were reminiscent of a Soviet-era show trial.
“It’s not enough to hand out a general informational brochure… I understand they don’t like it, but you know what, in our country again we can still speak freely. At least I think we can, and people can have differences of opinion,” Wood’s attorney David Kallman said in defense of his client.
In a startling display, after Kallman said “speak freely” the prosecutor said, “Judge!” and Judge Booher told Kallman, in what could easily be perceived as a threat, to “be careful.”
Wood plans to appeal the decision, and feels optimistic that his legal team can ultimately overturn this miscarriage of justice.
“The prosecutor did NOT prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime,” Wood wrote in a Facebook post. “One such element is there was a “trial in a case.” It is undisputed a trial never took place the day I was arrested. Further, a DNR Detective testified, as well as did I, that we didn’t know who were jurors and who were not. I believe the jury simply sided with the government on this one.”
If this case is not reversed, it will set a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on free speech throughout the country.