Trumped Up False Charges Used to Punish Former Pastor for Political Speech

A man is charged with jury tampering even though there was no jury involved in his action and there was no court case taking place. The man had no opinion about a trial that he could share with a jury member. Yet Keith Wood spent twelve hours in jail until he paid $15,000 to be released (10% of the $150,000 bond). He is facing a possible five-year prison sentence.

Michigan Live reports,

A 39-year-old former pastor was arrested and jailed in Mecosta County after he handed out fliers informing people about jury nullification in front of the county courthouse.

Keith Wood said he was handing out pamphlets from the Fully Informed Jury Association on Nov. 24 while standing on the sidewalks along Elm Street.

Wood said he was inspired by what he read online about the proposition that jurors can follow their conscience if they think a law or prosecution is patently wrong and refuse to find a defendant guilty regardless of instructions from a judge – a concept referred to as jury nullification.

“I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ,” said Wood, who explained his decision to hand out the fliers he received from the Montana-based organization. “Jesus said ‘the truth will set you free’ and I want people to know the truth.

“If you don’t use your rights, you lose them,” Wood said about why he decided to head down to the sidewalks outside the courthouse.

The flier is titled “What rights do you have as a juror that the judge won’t tell you about?”

As he was handing out the pamphlet to anyone who would take one, Wood, a father of seven, said someone came out of the courthouse and told him to come inside and talk to a judge. Wood said he asked the woman if he was being detained and then said he preferred to stay where he was.

A little while later, a court deputy came outside and told Wood that the judge wanted to talk to him, and if he refused to do so, the Big Rapids police would come and arrest him.

Wood said under threat of arrest he went inside the courthouse where former 20-year county prosecutor and newly-elected Mecosta County District Court Judge Peter Jaklevic told a deputy to “place him in custody for jury tampering.”

Wood was walked to the connecting sheriff’s department and jail.

All Wood was doing was run-of-the-mill, First-Amendment-protected political activism. It was political speech. That is all.

Philip Hodges wrote about the organization that published the pamphlet that Wood went to jail for.

For the past 2 years, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture had harassed [organic farmer Alvin] Schlangen and raided his farm, his vans and his warehouse. According to Business Week, he was eventually charged with “distributing unpasteurized milk, operating without a food handler’s license and handling adulterated food.” If convicted, Schlangen was looking at doing a year in jail and paying a large fine.

The Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) is an association that educates potential jurors on the concept of jury nullification. Thanks to FIJA, the 6-member jury in this case nullified these laws and declared Schlangen not guilty on all 3 counts. This is a small but significant victory for those who value freedom.

We can rant about bad laws all day long, and we should continue to do so to put pressure on politicians. But if you’re ever in a jury situation, remember jury nullification, and maybe we can outlaw the bad laws.

Big business and other lobbyists already have too much influence on our laws. Trial by a jury of our peers is one of the few safeguards we have to protect the people from special interests.