Welcome back and thanks for joining us for this continuing discussion on jury tampering in Michigan. We’ve been discussing an interesting case that’s been dragging on for several years now, in which a man who tried to inform jury members of their rights before a scheduled trial was later accused of jury tampering. Although the man accused of the crime was a former pastor and an activist in Mecosta County, Michigan, and the pamphlets he was handing out were all from Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA), he was still accused of jury tampering!
What does the law say about your right to vote your conscience?
A juror’s right to vote their conscience, which is sometimes known as jury nullification, is the legal right of every juror in Michigan. Not sure what we mean by that? Here’s a quick reminder: When a jury acquits a defendant, despite all the evidence against them, it’s often referred to as jury nullification. In essence, it is when a jury chooses to vote with their conscience instead of basing their choice on facts, evidence and legal direction given to the jury by the judge.
Why don’t more judges tell jurors about their rights?
For over 100 years, many judges have chosen not to include jury nullification in their instructions to juries, despite the fact that it’s still allowed under the law. Wood felt that it was important to ensure that all potential jurors knew what all of their rights are. But Mecosta County District Judge Peter Jaklevic disagreed, and the defendant (Woods) was arrested and charged with jury tampering.
Woods claimed his first amendment rights had been violated!
Wood was charged with Jury Tampering – a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and fines of up to $1,000. He was also charged with Obstruction of Justice, which under Michigan law, is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Woods fought the charge, claiming that by refusing to allow him to pass out legal info, the court was violating his first amendment rights. But that argument didn’t get him far, and Woods was convicted on both counts.
The case ended up before the Appeals Court.
The three Michigan Court of Appeals judges that ruled on this case didn’t agree. Judges Christopher Murray and Thomas Cameron said that the state has a compelling interest in protecting the sanctity of the jury. “We cannot overemphasize the importance of the jury’s finding that (Wood) intended to influence two jurors summoned for Yoder’s case. It is that specific level of intent that takes defendant’s case out of the general pamphletting activities protected by the First Amendment.” Judge William Murphy, however, said he would have overturned Woods’ conviction.
A well informed jury is important to a fair trial.
If you or a loved one are ever accused of a crime in Michigan, and you end up going to trial, you’ll need a highly skilled and experienced defense attorney. Jury tampering may be a serious crime, but making sure you have a good jury and a fair trial if you’re accused of a crime is incredibly important! So don’t leave your future in the hands of the weak, inexpert, or fearful. The right attorney is critical. Call The Kronzek Firm today at 866 766 5245 (866 7No Jail) and make sure you get the help you need, from the people who can make a difference in your life.