Jury tampering conviction upheld for man who passed out fliers on sidewalk

Posted at 4:06 PM, Feb 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-02 16:40:18-05

MECOSTA COUNTY, Mich. -- Twenty-seven months into his case, a judge denied the appeal for the man convicted of jury tampering, after passing out jury rights' pamphlets on a sidewalk before the Mecosta County Courthouse.

Friday in the Mecosta County, Isabella County District Judge Eric Janes upheld Keith Wood's conviction for the one-year misdemeanor jury tampering. Wood was escorted in handcuffs from the courtroom he first faced Nov. 24 2015, after he says Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic ordered his arrest for passing out 50 Fully Informed Jury Association fliers. Wood stood on the sidewalk in front of that courthouse the day another trial was set to begin.

For Wood, his case has been merciless from the start: when he exclusively spoke on camera with FOX 17 saying he was "speechless" after his 2015 arrest. Wood was initially charged with a five-year felony for obstructing justice and jury tampering, then held on a $150,000 bond two days before Thanksgiving that year.

"[Wood's] record was fine, he’s no flight risk whatsoever, eight children, and they set $150,000 bond?" Kallman said Friday in court. "Your Honor, I think that speaks volumes to the government action here.”

“It has a huge chilling effect on people," said David Kallman to FOX 17, Keith Wood's attorney, regarding this ruling.

"I guess you better not be on public sidewalks, and better not be handing out information to anybody, because you could get prosecuted.”

Kallman and Wood believe this case has dire implications for First Amendment rights, despite the fact they were barred from arguing free speech during Wood's trial last summer.

“Of any kind of speech you can think of, the Supreme Court has repeatedly said, speech in public areas and public sidewalks, pubic fora, have the highest level of protection and therefore have the highest level of scrutiny," Kallman argued Friday during oral arguments for their appeal.

Mecosta County Prosecutor Brian Thiede refutes Wood's First Amendment rights, and argued Wood's speech became threats to a jury.

"When speech is the means for committing an offense, then it’s not protected; it is outside the constitutional protection of the First Amendment," Thiede told Judge Janes on Friday. "And so what we have here is speech that had an intent and an end other than making a speech, it had and end of influencing a jury."

After his felony charge was dropped, Wood went to trial for jury tampering; however, his defense was also barred from mentioning the fact to their jury that no jurors were under oath the day Wood passed fliers out. That unrelated case, involving an Amish man and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, never went to trial.

Though Judge Janes said Wood's case is closed Friday, Kallman says they will file an appeal and emergency stay with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

"This case is far from over," Kallman said.

Thiede was unavailable for comment but told FOX 17 "justice was served."

Family members of Wood tell FOX 17 they are heartbroken and shocked that his case went this far. Wood is serving his first of eight consecutive weekends in jail, then six months' probation and fines for jury tampering.