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22 Jul, 2017 04:07

Michigan man gets jail time for distributing jury nullification flyers outside courthouse

Michigan man gets jail time for distributing jury nullification flyers outside courthouse

A former pastor has been sentenced to eight weekends in jail for jury tampering after distributing pamphlets on a sidewalk in front of a Michigan courthouse. The man argued he was exercising his free speech rights while advocating for jury nullification.

On Friday, District Judge Kimberly Booher ordered Keith Wood to serve eight weekends in jail, six months of probation and pay fines, according to WMXI.

The prosecution asked the judge to sentence Wood to 45 days in jail, but defense attorneys argued that was inappropriate since Wood has no prior criminal record, is self-employed and he is the only financial supporter for his wife and eight children.

Booher agreed to a shortened sentence, but said it would be inappropriate for him not to serve jail time.

"He's going straight to jail today," Booher said, according to WMXI.

Wood was arrested in 2015 after handing out a pamphlet from the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) entitled “Your Jury Rights: True or False?’’ while standing on a public sidewalk in front of a courthouse in Big Rapids.

Prosecutors argued that Wood was trying to influence potential jurors before they heard a case against Andy Yoder, an Amish man who was accused of draining a wetland that was on his property.

Yoder took a plea deal that day and the case never went to trial. Wood said he did not know Yoder, and he only wanted to inform potential jurors that they had the right to vote their conscience over the law.

Wood initially faced a felony charge for obstruction of justice and a misdemeanor for attempting to influence jurors. His bond was set at $150,000, but he was released after posting 10 percent of the bond or $1,500.

The felony charge, which carried a possible five-year sentence and up to $10,000 in fines, was dropped last March. Then, in June, a jury of six found Wood guilty of attempting to influence a jury, which, according to Michigan law involves someone 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."

The FIJA website argues that Wood was not discussing any particular case with anyone, therefore, he was not trying to influence the jurors.

Wood’s attorney, David Kallman, argued that his client was only trying to educate the public about the rights jurors have and “judges don’t tell you about.”

“He exercised what he believes are his free speech rights, did it out on the sidewalk before this court, and that because of that, that deserves 45 days in jail, let alone one day in jail?" Kallman said, according to WMXI. "I totally disagree with that.”

Nathan Hull, the assistant prosecutor for Mecosta County, however, argued that Wood was not innocent.

"This is not a person who made a one-time mistake, he hasn’t demonstrated that he has kind of shown that he realizes now the significance of what he’s done, in fact the testimony shows the contrary," Hull said, according to WMXI.

Kallman told WMXI that he plans to appeal the misdemeanor conviction.