Case Summary

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 argued for it to be reduced and ultimately had it refunded to him quite some time later. Wood was, however, left on the hook for the substantial interest charges that piled up in the months before his payment was refunded to him.

True_or_False1Keith Wood owns a home and a business. He is a husband and father of eight (seven at the time the bond was set). He poses no danger to the community.

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 he was sharing brochures, 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.

MCL 750.120A1 reads:

Sec. 120a.

(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.

Wood’s attorney successfully argued for the felony charge to be dismissed; however, the misdemeanor charge continued on to trial.

In a biased trial riddled with legal error, Wood’s jury, misinformed on key issues by the judge, convicted him of the misdemeanor charge. The judge immediately sentenced him to 8 Friday through Sunday weekends in jail along with other penalties. Despite Kallman’s request that the trial judge stay the sentence pending appeal based on two major legal errors in trial, she refused to consider a stay of the sentence and had Wood immediately marched from the courtroom off to a jail cell. Not only did the trial judge refuse to stay the sentence, which would be entirely served before an appeal could ever be heard, but all other judges in the Mecosta County Courthouse refused as well.

Thanks to Kallman’s quick efforts, however, an emergency hearing regarding the stay was held by video with a judge in a neighboring county. That judge, recognizing that there were significant issues on which Wood could potentially prevail in an appeal, granted the emergency stay. Wood was released that same day, pending the appeal. If he loses the appeal, he will still serve the entire sentence. However, if he prevails, he is no longer at risk of unjustly having served the sentence.

Oral arguments on the appeal are scheduled for Friday, 2 February 2018 at 10:00 am in the Probate Courtroom of the Mecosta County Courthouse in Big Rapids, MI.

Case Documents

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)
Keith Wood Trial Transcript Part 1 (.pdf)
Keith Wood Trial Transcript Part 2 (.pdf)
Keith Wood Sentencing Transcript (.pdf)
Transcript of Hearing of an Emergency Motion for Stay of Sentence (.pdf)
Appellant’s Brief (.pdf)
FIJA’s Amicus Brief (Circuit Court for Mecosta County) (.pdf)
Mecosta County Circuit Court Opinion and Order on Defendant-Appellant’s Appeal (.pdf)
Transcript of Appeal Hearing in Circuit Court (.pdf)
Order to Stay Sentence and Leave to Appeal Granted by the Michigan Court of Appeals (.pdf)

FIJA Documents

Religion Baiting Prosecutor Terrified of Jurors with Consciences

Other Resources

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