Just two days before Thanksgiving on 24 November 2015, Keith Wood was wrongfully arrested at the Mecosta County Courthouse in Michigan for sharing FIJA’s Your Jury Rights: True or False? (.pdf) brochure on the public sidewalk.
While handing out brochures to any passerby who wanted one, Wood was repeatedly approached by courthouse officials, ultimately being threatened with arrest if he did not accompany them inside. Once he reluctantly went inside, Judge Peter Jaklevic ordered him arrested. He was also questioned without legal representation by the prosecutor in his case.
His bond was set at $150,000—far higher than is set for many who are accused of serious crimes such as murder or attempted murder. In order to get out before the holiday weekend, Wood paid $15,000 charged on a credit card. Because the bond is not supposed to be punitive, but rather only to serve as a guarantee that the defendant shows up in court, Wood’s attorney David Kallman is trying to get it reduced.
Even when defendants prevail, Kallman said, the court will often keep a 10% administrative type of fee, which would mean that Wood would be out $1500 and the state $1500 richer even though Wood did nothing wrong.
As a homeowner, father of seven, someone who posed no danger to the community, and so on, Kallman said that an appropriate measure would have been to release him on his own recognizance. The outrageous amount appears to have been meant to be punitive and to have kept him in jail over the long holiday weekend.
Despite there not even being a jury seated at the time, Wood was falsely charged with felony obstruction of justice (MCL 750.505) and misdemeanor attempting to influence (apparently non-existant) jurors (MCL 750.120A1), putting him at risk for up to six years incarceration.
MCL 750.505 states:
Any person who shall commit any indictable offense at the common law, for the punishment of which no provision is expressly made by any statute of this state, shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 5 years or by a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both in the discretion of the court.
According to Wood’s attorney David Kallman, since there is clearly another provision for punishment, as evidenced by the misdemeanor charge, this statute does not apply in this case, and the charge should be thrown out.
MCL 750.120A1 reads:
(1) A person who 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, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.
Not only was Mr. Wood NOT discussing any particular case, and therefore clearly not trying to influence the decision of a juror in a case, he would not have been able to influence any jurors even if he’d been discussing a case, since no jurors yet existed when he was arrested.
In defense of Wood, Kallman has subpoenaed Judge Peter Jaklevic, who ordered the arrest, Magistrate Thomas Lyon, who is responsible for the abusively high bond, and Prosecutor Brian Thiede and Assistant Prosecutor Nathan Hull. The prosecution has filed motions to quash these subpoenas, and the defense has responded.
Thiede claims he is not a necessary witness, even though Kallman points out that Thiede directly questioned Wood without Mirandizing him and without legal representation. Thiede further claims that jurors consulting their consciences would lead to a lawless nation. But as Kallman pointed out, the Michigan Criminal Jury Instructions instruct jurors to do exactly that: “In the end, your vote must be your own, and you must vote honestly and in good conscience.” (M Crim JI 3.11 Deliberations and Verdict (.pdf))
● Complaint, Warrant, and FIJA Pamphlet (.pdf)
● Subpoenas (.pdf) of Judge Peter Jaklevic, Magistrate Thomas Lyon, Prosecutor Brian Thiede, and Assistant Prosecutor Nathan Hull
● Prosecutor’s Motion to Quash Subpoenas (.pdf)
● Answer to Motion to Quash Subpoenas (.pdf)
● Michigan Model Criminal Jury Instructions (.pdf)
● Motion to Reduce Bond (.pdf)
● Prosecutor’s Response to Motion to Reduce Bond (.pdf)
● Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Support (.pdf)
● Prosecutor’s Response to Motion to Dismiss (.pdf)
● Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss (.pdf)
● Press Release Regarding Keith Wood’s Motion to Dismiss (.pdf)
● Ex-Pastor Faces Felony for Preaching Jury Nullification, U.S. News and World Report, 2 December 2015
● Felony prosecution for distributing pro-jury-nullification leaflets outside courthouse, The Washington Post, 2 December 2015
● Prosecutor says Mecosta man’s jury pamphlets could create ‘lawless nation’, FOX17 News, 10 December 2015
Research and Writing Credit: Kirsten C. Tynan