Bath, Michigan – Keith Wood, a Michigan businessman who was convicted of “jury tampering” for handing out pamphlets on a public sidewalk, was presented with the “Spokesperson for Liberty Award” by the Libertarian Party of Michigan on Saturday night.
The Defender of Liberty Award Banquet (AKA “LibbyFest”) was held March 10th at the Eagle Eye Banquet Center, Bath, Michigan. The “Spokesperson for Liberty Award” is one of three “Defender of Liberty Awards” that may be presented annually. It goes to a member of the community whose patriotism and conviction have inspired contributions to the cause of liberty.
Wood’s case remains in the appeal process. He was initially arrested in 2015 after distributing a pamphlet entitled, “Jury Rights: True or False?” from the sidewalk in front of the Mecosta County courthouse in Big Rapids. The pamphlet described the important American legal tradition that juries may choose not to convict a person for violating a law the jury decides is unjust. In 2017 Wood was sentenced by a Mecosta County judge to eight weekends in jail, six months’ probation, 120 hours of community service, and $545.00 in fines, for jury tampering.
After receiving the award, Wood commented “Earlier in my life I felt powerless; not being able to effect change or make a difference. Then I learned of jury nullification and became excited about the power one juror has to make a difference in another’s life. An individual can make a difference, and I wanted to make sure others realized they could make a difference too.”
While presenting the award, nominator Scotty Boman said, “He was simply exercising his right to free expression… he was convicted of tampering with a jury that didn’t even exist!”
Keith Wood was initially charged with jury tampering and obstruction of justice because prosecutors claimed that he 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’s case never went to trial and Wood said he didn’t know Yoder. Rather, he said he just wanted to inform potential jurors that they had the right to vote their conscience over the law.
The obstruction charges were dropped last March and Wood was tried by a jury of six in June. The jury found him guilty of jury tampering. This, after the judge barred the defense from mentioning the fact that no jury trials were scheduled, and thus no jurors were under oath the day Wood passed fliers out.
The case was appealed, but on February 2nd of this year, in Mecosta County, Isabella County District Judge Eric Janes upheld the conviction.
The other Defender of Liberty Award went to Loel Gnadt, who received the Producer of Liberty Award, which goes to a dedicated, behind-the-scenes Libertarian whose quiet labors over the years exemplifies the backbone of the Libertarian Party.