Jury finds man guilty of jury tampering after passing out juror rights pamphlets

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — A jury of six found Keith Wood guilty within 30 minutes Thursday, convicting him of attempting to influence a jury in Mecosta County.

The trial began Wednesday for Wood, who was initially charged with a five-year felony for obstructing justice after handing out juror rights pamphlets on the public sidewalk outside the Mecosta County courthouse. It's a case FOX 17's Dana Chicklas broke in December 2015 that made national headlines. His bond was set at $150,000. His felony charge was dropped last March and he was on trial for jury tampering, a one-year misdemeanor.

The case has unique First Amendment implications that gives some perspective on free speech limitations; however, Mecosta County Circuit Judge Kimberly Booher tried the case and ruled against the defense arguing much of First Amendment issues before the jury. She also previously defined that a juror includes anyone summoned for jury duty.

Moments after the verdict was read, FOX 17 asked Wood, "How does this make you feel about your First Amendment rights?"

"Oh, I don't feel like I have them," said Wood.

"We had briefs about the First Amendment, free speech. It was very clear today, I know the jury doesn’t hear that, but it was very clear that the government did not meet their burden to restrict my free speech on that public sidewalk that day. It was very clear."

On Nov. 24, 2015 Wood, now a father of eight and former pastor, was arrested after passing out about 50 Fully Informed Jury Association fliers on the sidewalk in front of the Mecosta County Courthouse on the day of another trial. The fliers discuss juror rights including those that are debated and often not read by judges in jury instructions: including a juror's right to vote their conscience, or jury nullification.

Wood testified in his own defense Thursday and refuted claims by another witness: he says he did not ask anyone walking into the courthouse Nov. 24, 2015 if they were a juror, and says he stayed on the sidewalk but never blocked an area.

Wood also says he learned of the case against Andy Yoder, scheduled for trial Nov. 24, 2015, through an email blast and was interested that the government had a say in someone's personal property rights. In that case, Yoder was accused of violating the Department of Environmental Quality for draining a wetland that was on Yoder's property.

That's when Wood says he went to Yoder's pre-trial conference, then ordered the pamphlets and went to the courthouse the day Yoder's trial was scheduled. Yoder is an Amish man and when asked by the jury, Wood says he has no ties to the Amish community other than buying produce from them locally.

Thursday the prosecutor began closing arguments saying in part:

"This pamphlet from beginning to end is designed to benefit a criminal defendant," said Nathan Hull, Mecosta County assistant prosecutor.

"Once again the pamphlet by itself, fine, people have views on what the law should be, that’s fine. It’s the manner by which this pamphlet was handed out."

Then, Wood's Defense Attorney David Kallman followed saying the pamphlets are historical and generic, they state nothing about the Yoder case or any Michigan court:

"It’s not enough to hand out a general informational brochure," said Kallman, "I understand why the courts, Judge Jaklevic, the prosecutor’s office don’t like it; they can disagree with it."

"I understand they don’t like it, but you know what, in our country again we can still speak freely. At least I think we can, and people can have differences of opinion."

At that point, after Kallman said "speak freely" the prosecutor said, "Judge!" and Judge Booher told Kallman to "be careful."

Previously Wednesday, Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic, former long-time Mecosta County prosecutor, testified. He said he was "very concerned" when he saw some of his jury pool carrying the pamphlets into the courtroom. The also magistrate testified earlier that he believes 12 to 20 people had the pamphlets.

"I thought this was going to trash my jury trial, basically," testified Judge Jaklevic. "It just didn't sound right."

Jacklevic ended up sending that jury pool home on Nov. 24, 2015 when Yoder took a plea.

Jaklevic continued to testify that he stepped into the hallway with Mecosta County Prosecutor Brian Thiede when Det. Erlandson and a deputy brought Wood into the courthouse that day. Mecosta County Deputy Jeff Roberts testified he "asked Wood to come inside because the Judge wanted to talk with him," then threatened to call a city cop if Wood did not come inside.

Wood testified Judge Jaklevic never spoke to him that day, or him any questions, before ordering his arrest. He tells FOX 17 he had concerns his case was tried in Mecosta County where all of this happened, involving several court officials including the judge.

"We did have this concern that this all happened, everything transpired with the actors of Mecosta County," said Wood.

"So our taxpayer dollars are paying their salary, and they were the actors in this case to arrest me, to imprison me, and all that. I did have a very great concern that they were the ones trying the case, because they work together day in and day out."

Kallman tells FOX 17 they will appeal this verdict.

"There were a lot of things we were prohibited from arguing to the jury," said Kallman.

"And of course, the First Amendment issues are critical: that we believe our client had the absolute First Amendment right to hand out these brochures right here on this sidewalk. That’s part of the problem of where we feel we were handcuffed quite a bit."

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58 comments

  • Martin Kinnaman

    1) Information from outside the courtroom. WTF is the case about if information from outside the courtroom about the case is not relevant. The jury’s responsibilities as a jurist is relevant! If the judge withholds information on their responsibility is that the fault of the jury or the judge?
    2) The government can NOT legislate, decree, or “rule” beyond the very clear and succinct LIMITATIONS on their authority and autonomy that the first 10 Amendments are/state!

    Now, if he harmed jurists or anyone, he is guilty of assualt. Jury tampering is if he is using coercion or fraud to alter or manage the jury’s mindset or actions. Did he do this? Did the judge and the state apparatus do this (this sounds more likely from their arguments published in this article)?
    3) The Oath of Office is a legal and binding contract. This is the promise, vow, giving of one’s word, that all office holders must swear or affirm to sit their office. Does this not apply to judges?
    If this is a Federal Court, then this is a Federal Judge. He is sworn to uphold the LIMITATIONS that the 1st 10 Amendments represent. This means if he violates his Oath he/she is committing a crime! Fraud is a crime. Withholding evidence is a crime. Lying to the jury about their responsibilities is a crime!
    This sounds like a Constitutional question. The Federal Government were GRANTED the responsibility to live and act within the confines of the Constitutional Law. They don’t make LAW for Law is the Common Law or “the law” (9th Amendment). They make rules/”laws” that are for the government. That is the system as established! They do not have the jurisdiction to add to, subtract from, or alter the Constitution in ANY manner or form. That requires a Successful Amendment Process. Has the 1st Amendment been altered?
    If a “jury of my peers” is required by Constitutional LAW, then fraudulently instructing the jury is a Federal Crime.

    • daremonai

      Wood committed fraud. The claim that it doesn’t count because he gave it to everyone instead of targeting the specific jurists relevant to the case he was trying to interfere with does not change this.

      The constitutional question is long settled. What we have here are amateur historians and lawyers who read a few faxes or emails or watch youtube videos and all of a sudden believe they know more about the law then people who spend decades studying it. Which is why what Wood did was fraud on the jury pool, his interoperation of the constitution was deeply flawed and provided potential jurists with inaccurate information in order to change the outcome of a specific trial.

      • Roggie

        “What we have here are amateur historians and lawyers who read a few faxes or emails or watch youtube videos and all of a sudden believe they know more about the law then people who spend decades studying it.”

        Says some clown on the Internet.

      • FreeRadical

        Fraud? Fraud is narrowly defined to mean deception used to provide advantage (legal of financial) to the person engaged in fraudulent activity. It does not apply to the actions of Wood.

        Handing out fliers is not fraud. The government does not have the power to determine the “truth” of opinions of citizens. That could lead to “truth commissions” and totally destroy the right guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.

        This verdict is a shameful act of injustice.

        • thecarnivale

          This sets a dangerous precedent for protesting a court case, which is and has been a legally protected right/action. It sounds like the prosecutor is throwing his lolly in the mud. Above all else he should be removed from office for stepping on individual rights of the public. This is very shameful behavior from him and his office.

        • Dante

          Innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt applies here. There was nothing to prove fraudulent intent. Wood violated no law. He exercised his rights to clarify and inform regarding our laws. He did it on public property and peacefully. Whether or not he was trying to influence specific persons was not proven. Even if he sought out jurors, he was disseminating public information every juror, in any court case should be aware of, the judge himself had the duty to inform the jury of and that could not have biased the jury in any way pertinent to the case involved.

          The only reason given for charging Wood was the judge thought, “It just didn’t sound right.”. How many times are people tried and convicted on that basis.

          Thirdly, the fact that Wood was tried in the same court jurisdiction that raised brought the charges on a judges/prosecutor’s whim reeks of a railroad job.

          The fact that a man, exercising his free rights of expression, can be pulled off the street and convicted on bogus charges because some judge feels like it threatens all our rights and should be opposed.

      • Rich Roth

        Unless he used coercion or enticements he is guilty of nothing other than providing information that all potential jury members should know and judges should be required to inform them of.

      • rev_dave

        I’m throwing down the BS flag on you, dude.

        First of all, I’m familiar with what is in the FIJA pamphlets (Fully Informed Jury Association). It’s all taken from the Constitution itself and from various court cases and precedents. I even pass them out at times. Second, your claim to fraud. What part of this do you think is fraud, how would you defend that statement, and when did you sit in his trial for fraud so that you could declare him guilty?

        In fact, I challenge you to support every sentence in your comment. I don’t believe you can do it.

        Judges who give the jury instructions contrary to what the Constitution says about juror’s rights and responsibilities are the fraudulent actors (trying to win cases for their prosecutor friends based on illegal instructions). A judge’s privilege of running her/his court as they like is still subject to the Constitution as the law of the land. Any instructions contrary to the express statements in the Constitution about a jury’s ‘responsibility to convict’ are false, and contrary to US law. The conviction should be thrown out.

      • Kiel

        How is it possibly illegal to inform people of their rights? It doesn’t matter who, they should be informed of all their rights by the judge. This is the judiciary keeping power from the people.

      • robbin george stewart

        Since Wood sincerely belived the pamphlet, it wasn’t fraud for him to distribute it. As I dimly recall from law school, fraud has 9 elements, not all of which were present here. I have not read the pamphlet. Anyone havee a link to it? I aam wriiting this from Indiana, one state south of Michigan, and our state constitution spells out, in article 1 sectionw 19 and 20 that juries have the right to judge the facts and the law. Michigan meanwhile has at least this in it’s constitution: Every person may freely speak, write, express and publish his views on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of such right; and no law shall be enacted to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.

      • Sam Eugene

        The REAL fraud in this case was perpetrated by the very court system that adjudged a person guilty of any crime in the course of providing factual information to jurists or potential jurists regarding their lawful constitutional responsibilitys as jurists. That court system and it’s attendant actors under the “color of law” need to be held in contempt of the constitution.

      • dammad

        In your sad, small world, informing someone of their rights is verboten. Dred Scott and Plessy were “long settled” as well until the Civil War and Brown. Why do not judges not tell juries what their rights as jurors are? A moment of thought might tell you. It is clear from the debacle of Obergefell and the self-recusal of judges that mopre needs to be done to oversee the judiciary.

      • Bill Cleveland

        Name/define the specific “fraud” committed. You are correct – the Constitutional question is long settled; unfortunately for yourself – not in the direction you seek to mislead folks in. Jury nullification is a specific authority and right, by precedent law, that a jury can yield against a judge or prosecutor who has failed to meet their lawful responsibility. Judges and prosecutors do not provide a jury, in 99.99% of the cases, the lawful direction they have the responsibility to provide. Wood needs to file a Class Action Civil Rights suite against the scum buckets involved and force them to defend their actions before a fully informed and educated jury. The most deeply flawed thing here is your defense of the indefensible.

    • Mac Zeff

      What this man did, was perfectly legal. It is not fraud. People have the right to judge both the accused AND the law being applied. They can find the accused NOT guilty because the law being used does not fit the charge. or the actions of the accused do not warrent a charge. I can tell that you Martin Kinnaman have not spent much time studying law, or spent much time in court systems.

  • Brandon M Magoon

    So they denied him a fair trial, violated his civil rights and they committed the very crime he was laughable accused of.
    “Before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in both the police and the courts.”

  • A.H.

    Some facts (as I was present throughout all)
    #1 Keith is concerned about righteousness.
    #2 Keith is concerned that all have a fair trial.
    #3 Keith is concerned that all jurors are informed of their rights so that a trial might be fair– any juror, any trial
    #4 Keith wants everyone to know about juror rights, no matter who you are.
    #5 Keith hears about a specific trial and shortly after hears about juror rights and thinks the jurors are entitled to know their rights. (He has no ties to this particular case nor does he personally know anyone involved in it)
    #6 Keith has never done this before, but due to the nature of the case, is motivated to start doing so. (Something has to motivate you to the first time.)
    #7 There has to be a first time of passing out fliers.
    #8 Keith does not know who jurors will be at this case.
    #9 Keith hands out fliers for two purposes: #1 That all people will know their rights; #2 that jurors on this case will know their actual rights. There was no intention to influence the decision of the fury either way; merely that they knew their rights. And there is nothing in the paper itself trying to influence someone either way. The conclusion is to vote your conscience, and that you are a juror have a right (which judges do not directly inform you) to not find someone guilty of an unjust law.
    #10 Keith may have intended to continue to do this in more cases, but we will never know since he was arrested. (Therefore, the wicked prosecutors claim that Keith only did this once in this particular case is completely invalid. If you got “caught” on your first attempt, that does not mean that you chose that case only and that you did not have others in mind or that you would begin doing so in every case.)
    #11 Keith has a 1st amendment right to hand out any information on a public sidewalk, truthful or untruthful, intentional or unintentional. (In fact, he does have a 1st amendment right even to stand outside the courthouse on a public sidewalk with a huge side saying “VOTE NOT GUILTY”. People do this all the time, especially in widely publicized cases) This is NOT jury tampering. (And even if this was the only case he intended to do it for, and if he did personally know people involved, handing out a flier about general information is not wrong. If I knew someone involved in a case, I would definitely want to make sure that any jurors involved would full well know all of their rights as a juror so that a fair trial was made.)
    #12 Keith hands out pamphlets to anyone on the sidewalk with neutral information that has nothing to do with the case, but only information about juror rights in general.
    #13 Judge J. and his prosecutor friend (who are in a coalition together and enjoy their tyranny and ability to control the cases, and enjoy their plea bargaining tactics to allure many people to plead guilty to crimes they have never done out of fear) understand that if jurors know their rights that their tyranny will not be able to continue to prevail.
    #14 Judge J and his prosecutor friends, fearing this loss of overweening power, check on the issue. They try to stop it. They, being whimps and crybabies, send out a police officer. This police officer does not have jurisdiction to arrest keith since he is off court property. Several times Keith asks if he is being detained, and the police officers deny.
    #15 Judge J decides that he cannot do anything to Keith unless he is in the courthouse.
    #16 In order to destroy Keith and protect his tyranny, Judge J decides to lure Keith into the courthouse.
    #17 Judge J sends someone to tell him to come into the courthouse, because Judge J. wants to talk to him.
    #18 Keith says that if Judge J wants to talk to him, he can come outside and talk to him. He denies going into the courthouse twice.
    #19 After this fails, Judge J sends out an officer to tell Keith, “We will call the city police to arrest you OR you can come inside to talk to Judge. J.”
    #18 Keith asks if he is being detained. The officer says no.
    #19 Keith feels though, that to avoid being arrested, he has no choice but to go into the courthouse. (The option to leave the grounds was never given.)
    #20 Once he has been forced inside involuntarily (being guided by a police officer who clearly stated that he was not being detained), Judge J. and his prosecutor allies, have Keith arrested on the spot and put in jail.
    #21 They set his bail at $150,000 (which is more than is given even in most cases to those accused of murder)
    #22 They refuse to grant him a court appointed laywer.
    #23 Keith maxes out a credit card to get out to be with his family for the holidays.
    #24 Due to the obvious judge and prosecutor coalition (this is beyond obvious to anyone who was an eyewitness of the case), Keith and his paid lawyer, understanding that Keith cannot have a fair trial with such an evil coalition going on, request that the trial be heard in another district. This is denied. They are heard by another judge, who is also part of this tyranny coalition.
    #25 The prosecutor and the judge conspired together to ban Keith’s lawyer from being allowed to mention anything about the 1st amendment in this case. They also conspired together to allow that nothing about his outrageous bond or being denied the right to have a court appointed lawyer be mentioned.
    #26 Over and over again during the actual case, Keith’s lawyer is prevented by both the prosecutor and the judge (who are obviously conspiring together) from bringing out many pertinent facts in the case, especially to prove that this entire thing was a set up by the tyrannical prosecutors and judges who are trying to abolish first amendment rights.
    #27 For reasons unknown, and completely baffling, a juror of 6 (who apparently likes the idea of having their 1st amendment rights squashed) decides that Keith is guilty of tampering the jury by handing out general information that has nothing to do with the case for which he was handing out information.

    Conclusion this tyrannical coalition of prosecutors and judges wants to crush everything that challenges their reign.

    On a side note:
    “For example, last year in Denver [2015], two men were charged with seven felony counts each for handing out FIJA brochures as jurors were entering the courthouse. Since then, federal courts have granted and upheld a preliminary injunction against any further such arrests because this is First Amendment-protected activity, and a state court has thrown out all of the charges against the two juror rights educators, again because their activity was legal and protected speech under the First Amendment. ”

    “In the only well-documented Supreme Court case involving a jury trial, first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay, explicitly acknowledged to jurors their right to judge the law as well as the facts in the case. Samuel Chase, the only Supreme Court justice ever impeached, was impeached in part because of his refusal to allow attorneys to argue jury nullification to the jury.”

    “If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
    Thomas Jefferson.

    This tyranny wants the ability to control the minds and decisions of jurors according to their whim. They do not like it when jurors are allowed to decide something different than them. This is a threat to their tyranny. However, having rights like this, is the only way to protect citizens from a tyranny.

    Regardless, even if the 1st amendment is taken away, the most important thing is that I always have the ability and obligation to testify about Jesus Christ and righteousness. And in the end, we must obey God rather than any human, even to death. Keith is a brother in the Lord Jesus, and, even if not, I am obligated to stand up for those who are being treated unrighteously.

    • A.H.

      Also, it should be noted, that Keith intentionally and purposefully never asked if someone was a juror for the case. He only extended the brochure and said something along the lines of “Here’s Jury Rights information the judge won’t tell you about.” And he was not disruptive, or blocking anyone, or causing any disturbance, or being forceful.

    • John C

      The Judge set out a COURT OFFICER to con the victim of his crime into the court, that is why he had no authority outside and had to threaten to call the Police.

    • rev_dave

      At the bottom of it all is the very obvious fact that the man was railroaded by one judge and a prosecutor, because passing out information on juror rights to everyone threatened another judge. But let’s be honest – judges and prosecutors have a vested interest in convicting whomever the prosecutor decides should be prosecuted – and since they work together on a daily basis, it’s not surprising (to me at least) that they would cooperate to railroad this guy. After all, if they always got juries with knowledgeable jurors, their conviction rates might fall drastically. Some laws might even become unenforceable – like Prohibition – and then the apple cart would be upset!

  • rev_dave

    Jury Nullification info should be handed out on college and high school campuses. Get into their minds before they are ever arrested or in court, or summoned for jury service.

    • rev_dave

      Yeah, it did say that. I forgot.

      Sure. http://www.FIJA.org. Check it out. You can even order a few of them there.

      As to the ‘guilty’, I doubt it will stick. Most likely the jury in that case was instructed by the judge – as is common practice – that if the prosecution proves its case they MUST convict. It’s a clear violation of the Constitution which states that the jury is to try ‘the law and the facts’ – meaning that a fully informed jury could have refused to convict the man if they felt the law was unjust or unfairly applied. But instructing a jury that they must convict violates the ‘try the law’ part. THAT is jury tampering, not handing them a pamphlet about their Constitutional rights when seated.

      So, they found him guilty, but likely not with proper instruction – “…Circuit Judge Kimberly Booher tried the case and ruled against the defense arguing much of First Amendment issues before the jury.” – so she likely also did not remind them of what the Constitution says about a jury’s duties or rights.

  • Tom Speed

    It is NOT an offence to hand out Jury nullification leaflests so logn as one does not directly to acertain is the person recieving them is a Juror themselves. That is, one can freely hand them out to any & all outside a court building, but just keep your mouth shut whilst doing so!

    And finally, 6 is NOT a valid Jury count! 12 minimum, though historically, in fact, it ought to be 25!

    THE best book on the Trial by Jury, and how it differs from the noe ever so present Trial by *Government*.

    http://www.barefootsworld.net/trial01.html

    • Fred Wiedner

      The court doesn’t care. This is money in the pockets of another government agency (CPS) by seizing the children and tending to their ‘welfare’. This gives un-elected bureaucrats legitimacy.

  • Matthew Bongers

    It doesn’t matter if his pamphlets did or did not contain factual information on jury law. The argument taking place is, does the government have the authority to criminally convict someone of opinonated speech on public land with no victim?. If this took place in the courthouse then yes he would have had a problem but on a sidewalk either five feet from the courthouse or in the next county over does not matter.

  • John C

    This case will be won on appeal as the defendant did NOTHING illegal. The judge and the prosecutor need to go back and restudy or study for the first time Constitutional Law. The judge, certainly NOT a justice, should be disbarred for his fraudulent actions of allow a case with no legal standing to go forward. The Prosecutor should also face disciplinary action for bring this case forward.

  • DJG

    All citizens are subject to jury duty. What substantial First Amendment difference is there between educating someone summoned to jury duty and educating someone subject to jury duty?
    Will it become a (judge-made) crime to educate any citizen about jury rights?

  • Adam Kirk

    I’m for tar and feathering or hanging EVERY SINGLE TRAITOR to the CONSTITUTION! This means the PROSECUTOR AND JUDGE for the case are INCLUDED! LIBERTY OR DEATH.. I’ll be waiting with or without you.

  • Edwin Taber

    If it takes years of study such as is required to become a lawyer – how in the hell can i be accountable to a law which the justice system says that I cannot possibly comprehend?

    • rev_dave

      Law, like mathematics or logic, is a closed system. It works, because it defines the parameters in which it works, and admits nothing outside of that. So the law says ‘ignorance of the law is no defense’, and all lawyers (vested interest here of course), and law enforcers (cops and judges, also with a vested interest) support that premise. As ‘the law’ has benefits for the rest of us, we normally abide by that tenet, up until we end up on the short end of it, at which point we question it. So you’re held to account whether you like it or not, and your only defenses against being held to account are 1) play the game and get a lawyer, or 2) start shooting and live the short rest of your life as a hunted fugitive. There may be other choices, but I’ve yet to think of one.

      So we all need to know about juror rights. Why, one might ask? Well, the law isn’t always just, but one of the things the Constitution says jurors do is ‘try the law’ – because when it was written we had as a people had issues with a King and his Generals who made laws that were onerous, and pointless sometimes, and at times only made so they could have a law under which to charge someone who annoyed them – ‘pesky, rebellious colonists’ perhaps.

      Here’s a example – in some states like mine, it’s illegal to ‘interfere with an officer during the course of duty’. Sounds reasonable on the surface, correct? But if he’s chasing a burglar thru your yard, and your little dog goes after him, he can shoot it and you have no right to do anything other than file a complaint later. Same thing if he decides to rape your daughter in the front yard – try to stop him and he’ll kill you and claim she was resisting arrest or some such crap. (Yes, unlikely scenario – but under the law as written, it’s entirely possible.) So we need the ability to destroy unreasonable and immoral law – and we do that by juries making those laws unenforceable. THAT was how the US got rid of Prohibition. Yes, it was repealed. But why? Because the feds couldn’t get convictions any longer!

  • Wm Layer

    This is rubbish, a blatant disregard of 1st Amendment rights, it is judicial and prosecutorial abuse by a legal system that doesn’t want jurors to know their rights.

  • tomterrific1954

    Clearly (CLEARLY!) US courts and judges are a huge part of the problem — but not as big as juries full of sheep.