A lawyer representing a Michigan man accused of jury tampering for handing out brochures about the concept of jury nullification – essentially jurors voting their conscience no matter their instructions from prosecutors and judges – now wants to talk to potential jurors who may have been in the courthouse at the time.
WND reported earlier how Keith Wood, 39, was handing out the brochures on public property but was ordered into the courthouse, under threat of arrest, to meet with Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic.
Once inside, the judge ordered Wood arrested for jury tampering, even though he was handing out information to members of the public under the auspices of the First Amendment on public property.
On Thursday, a preliminary hearing was begun before another judge, Mecosta Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Booher, and the subject taken up was whether Jaklevic and other court officers will be required to testify.
She did not issue an immediate ruling on the question, saying it was being taken under consideration.
But attorney Dave Kallman, representing Wood, told WND on Friday that he’s now asking to be given the identifications and the contact information for jurors, or potential jurors, who may have been in the courthouse at the time. There was assigning taking place at the time for another trial, prosecutors said, although apparently no jury had been picked.
He said he filed paperwork asking the court to dismiss the felony charge against his client, to reduce bond, and to “require them to turn over to us the names of all the jury pool.”
Kallman told WND those names could end up being part of the investigation into how court officials decided to arrest Wood, what was said and who said it.
Part of that is a request from the defense, too, for all notes, emails, records of conversations and such among court personnel about how the case against Wood was developed.
Meanwhile, at Thursday’s hearing, Mecosta County Prosecutor Brian Thiede, one of those subpoenaed to testify, said he didn’t want jurors to be using their own consciences to decide cases.
“We could have a juror that thinks jihad is righteous,” he warned. “There are some consciences out there I don’t want voting that way.”
His comments were reported at MLive.com, one of many news organizations to be reporting on the case on which WND has been reporting since it erupted as a controversy two weeks ago.
WND had reported when Wood, a former pastor, was arrested on the orders of Jaklevic and then he started raising a defense.
Wood’s bond was set at $150,000 in what Kallman described as a foiled attempt by the judiciary to keep Wood from his family over Thanksgiving. Wood responded by putting $15,000 on a credit card to leave jail.
The judge had ordered court officials to bring Wood into his courthouse, then ordered Wood’s arrest.
Kallman told WND earlier more details were being uncovered about what happened.
In a statement released to the media, he said Wood was arrested “for simply handing out brochures about jury rights on a public sidewalk in front of a courthouse. The court set a $150,000 bond to try to force Mr. Wood to be in jail over Thanksgiving away from his family and refused to appoint him a court-appointed attorney.”
Kallman continued, “According to just released police reports, Deputy Jeff Roberts threatened Mr. Wood to either come inside the courthouse to meet with the judge or else be arrested. Under the threat of arrest, Mr. Wood was escorted to a hallway in the courthouse where Prosecutor Brian Thiede, Assistant Prosecutor Nathan Hull, and Judge Peter Jaklevic were waiting. Prosecutor Theide then questioned Mr. Wood. Mr. Wood was not given his Miranda rights prior to being questioned. Judge Jaklevic then ordered Deputy Roberts to arrest Mr. Wood for jury tampering. This entire meeting was not in the courtroom, not on the record, and without an attorney present for Mr. Wood.”
On Friday, Kallman told WND the new judge, Booher, took arguments under advisement and will issue a decision later. He’s trying to enforce the subpoenas for testimony and information, while most of the courthouse personnel are arguing they shouldn’t be involved in the case they created.
MLive reported that Kallman argued at Thursday’s hearing that the brochures are constitutionally protected speech.
“Our defense is a First Amendment defense,” Kallman said. “My client is handing out a pamphlet saying vote your conscience and Mr. Thiede is trying to criminalize it.”
Thiede alleged Wood was trying to impact the jurors for a land use case against an Amish man.
Kallman pointed out, “At the time Mr. Wood was arrested no jury had been sworn in on any case. In fact, no jury was sworn in … that day in Mecosta County District Court.”
Testimony also submitted in written form also confirmed that court personnel had confiscated the brochures from as many people as they could.
But court records show that the judge and a magistrate conceded that they will have to testify.
WND reported 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 toward me and the deputy and he said, ‘Arrest him for jury tampering.'”
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.
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.