There is a highly disturbing criminal case out of Mecosta, Michigan where Keith Wood, 39, has been charged with a felony for obstruction of justice and misdemeanor of tampering with a jury. His felonious conduct? Passing out fliers about jury nullification rights on the sidewalk of the Mecosta County courthouse. The fliers from the Fully Informed Jury Association describe juror rights that some complain are omitted by judges and prosecutors in explaining jury service before trial.
For the purposes of full disclosure, I served as counsel to the Rocky Flats grand jury which was criminally investigated for going public with their allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and a cover-up of crimes committed at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant in Colorado. Click here and here. It was the first grand jury to be represented by private counsel in history and led to years of litigation seeking the release of the report quashed by the Justice Department.
FIJA works to:
• Inform potential jurors of their traditional, legal authority to refuse to enforce unjust laws
• Inform potential jurors that they cannot be required to check their consciences at the courthouse door
• Inform potential jurors that they cannot be punished for their verdicts
• Inform everyone that juror veto—jury nullification—is a peaceful way to protect human rights against corrupt politicians and government tyranny
Many courts have rules against lawyers arguing for jury nullification. The case law in this area is sketchy. There is no question that jury nullification has long been recognized as a historical element of the jury system. Indeed, in 1895 in Sparf v. United States, Justice John Marshall Harlan, wrote a 5-4 opinion saying that a trial judge has no responsibility to inform the jury of the right to nullify laws. It was a controversial decision since courts have recognized the existence of this right while penalizing anyone who tells the jury about it. See e.g., U.S. v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002 (4th Cir.1969); United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113 (D.C. Cir. 1972).
Putting aside the accuracy of such fliers (which I have not reviewed), this would seem to be an exercise of free speech by a citizen opposing what he views as governmental injustice. Now, after posting an absurdly high bond of $150,000, he is facing a five-year felony with up to $10,000 in fines, and attempting to influence jurors is a one-year misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000.
What do you think?