A state judge in Michigan is being subpoenaed as a witness in a case alleging jury tampering against a former pastor who was handing out jury nullification information to passersby in Mecosta County – because the judge ordered court officials to bring the man into the courthouse and then had him arrested.
Dave Kallman, the lawyer for Keith Wood, 39, who was arrested and put $15,000 on his credit card to obtain release on a bond of $150,000 after Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic ordered his arrest, told WND the charges fly in the face of the First Amendment and should be dismissed.
He said on Wednesday that a subpoena is being prepared for Jaklevic and other court officials to explain at a hearing next week what happened and why they arrested and charged Wood. Specifically, Kallman wants to ask what crime was committed.
Kallman said the prosecution refused to dismiss the counts at the initial court hearing in the case on Tuesday, and prosecutors wanted Wood to plead to a lesser charge, which he said was rejected out of hand.
He said the prosecution not only will have to prove at next week’s hearing that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed, but that Wood committed it.
This based on the facts of the case, Kallman said, which include that Wood was handing out a brochure regarding juror rights and responsibilities to members of the public in the area of the courthouse.
The jury tampering seems a stretch, he said, since there was no jury present.
Kallman said Jaklevic will be required to testify in the hearing.
Local media reported when the arrest happened:
The felony charging document naming Wood alleges he obstructed justice by “knowingly and intentionally giving the members of the 77th District Court jury pool a pamphlet that encouraged the jurors to violate their oaths and directly contradicted the instructions the jurors would be given thereby tainting the entire jury panel.”
The complaint signed by a “court personnel,” Jeffrey W. Roberts, also claimed Wood tried to influence the decision of a juror in a proceeding that was not part of the court.
The first is a felony carrying a possible five years and $10,000 in fines. The second is misdemeanor.
But the brochure Wood was handing out, which comes from the Fully Informed Jury Association, from Montana, explains, “Judges only rarely ‘fully inform’ jurors of their rights, especially their right to judge the law itself and vote on the verdict according to conscience. In fact, judges regularly assist the prosecution by dismissing prospective jurors who will admit knowing about this right – beginning with anyone who also admits having qualms with the law.”
The brochure informs readers: “You may, and should, vote your conscience; You cannot be forced to obey a ‘juror’s oath’; You have the right to ‘hang’ the jury with your vote if you cannot agree with other jurors.”
It quotes John Adams saying about jurors, “It is not only his right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.”
It continues ,”Americans colonists regularly depended on juries to thwart bad law sent over from England. The British then restricted trial by jury and other rights which juries had helped secure. Result? The Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.”
It explains in 1972, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found a jury has an “unreviewable and irreversible power … to acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the trial judge. The pages of history shine upon instances of the jury’s exercise of its prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge; for example, acquittals under the fugitive slave law.”
Wood told FOX 17 he was speechless by what was perceived as a punitive bond.
“When he (the judge) told me the bond, again I was speechless,” said Wood. “$150,000 bond for handing out a piece of paper on a public sidewalk? Speechless.”
Kallman described the actions as “a blatant illegal improper use of government power to squelch a person’s constitutional rights of free speech.”
“It’s free speech for goodness sake,” Kallman told the station. “The judge directly ordered him to be arrested for jury tampering, for tampering with a jury that didn’t exist, now wrap your head around that.”
Wood reported a magistrate, then other court personnel, come out in turn and demanded he come inside because the judge wanted to talk to him. Eventually when they threatened to have Big Rapids police arrest him, he went inside.
“I said, ‘Am I being detained?’ And she goes, ‘No,'” Wood told the station.
“Judge Jaklevic came out of his chambers, he looked at me, he looked down the hall, I didn’t know who he was looking at, and then he looked back towards me and the deputy and he said, ‘Arrest him for jury tampering.'”
The preliminary hearing is scheduled Tuesday, and Kallman said the defense will interrogate witnesses and present arguments, since he’s convinced the charges should be dropped.
A similar case developed just weeks ago in Denver.
There, a federal judge upheld the First Amendment right of protesters to hand out jury nullification pamphlets near the federal courthouse.
The judge found authorities could ensure public access to the court was unimpeded but could not impose a “no-protest” zone there.
In that case, Eric Brandt and Mark Iannicelli were accused of jury tampering for handing out similar pamphlets. A judge shortly later issued an injunction barring similar arrests and a civil rights attorney has filed a First Amendment lawsuit for damages on behalf of the two.
A commenter in the local Michigan media had no patience for the judge’s perspective.
Dustin Potter wrote, “The judge should be put in prison for this. ‘Deprivation of rights under color of authority’ is a 10-year felony.” He cited the U.S. Justice Department.
“Mecosta County District Court Judge Peter Jaklevic is a former career prosecutor, like all righteous judges, and knows the purpose of jurors: to convict like they’re told,” wrote Ken White at Popehat. “So when Keith Wood – a wild-eyed former pastor and current lawless anarchist – began distribution seditious incitement to destroy the judicial system, Judge Peter Jaklevic knew just what to do: arrest him.”
He cited the Fully Informed Jury Associations idea that “jurors have a right – even an obligation – not just to follow the orders of judges, but to exercise their conscience and judgment in evaluating the state’s exercise of power over individuals.”
He said, “Let’s all take a moment to thank Judge Peter Jaklevic for reminding us what the justice system is about: doing what he and other prosecutors say we should.”
WND had reported only a few weeks earlier when a Florida judge banned people from criticizing the court on its property – then quickly backtracked.
But WND reported Judge Mark Mahon of Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit didn’t move quickly enough, and a lawsuit was filed over his decision to order the arrest of anyone outside the courthouse, including on certain public sidewalks, who questions “the integrity of the court or any of its judges.”
“Demonstrations or dissemination of materials that degrade or call into question the integrity of the court or any of its judges (e.g., claiming the courts, court personnel or judges are ‘corrupt,’ biased, dishonest, partial or prejudiced), thereby tending to influence individuals appearing before the courts, including jurors, witnesses and litigants, shall be prohibited on the Duval County Courthouse grounds,” the judge had written. Violators would be arrested, he ordered.
Legal experts immediately declared the order likely was unconstitutional, and the day after WND’s report, Mahon issued another order to replace the older one. But the new order focuses on a ban on photography of secure locations, security systems and people in those locations.
However, in the interim, two photographers, Thomas James Covenant and Jeffrey Marcus Gray, filed a lawsuit against the judge.