New salvos fired in jury nullification battle include felony case over pamphlet handout
A Michigan man is facing a felony obstruction of justice charge, in the latest salvo in an ongoing national battle over the extent to which jurors should be informed of their right to vote their conscience, regardless of applicable law.
Keith Wood was also charged with misdemeanor jury tampering for handing out pamphlets outside the Mecosta County courthouse, Fox affiliate WXMI reports.
Wood, who was freed on $150,000 bond, is represented by attorney Dave Kallman, who called the case “just a blatant illegal improper use of government power to squelch a person’s Constitutional rights of free speech,” the station reports.
Meanwhile, the Fully Informed Jury Association filed an amicus brief (PDF) last week in a federal appeal in an unrelated case that also focuses on jury nullification.
At issue in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case is whether a trial court judge should have instructed the jury: “You cannot substitute your sense of justice, whatever that means, for your duty to follow the law, whether you agree with it or not,” explains a news release summarizing the dispute from the advocacy group’s standpoint.
“It is not your determination whether a law is just or whether a law is unjust,” the disputed jury instruction continues. “That cannot be your task. There is no such thing as valid jury nullification. You would violate your oath and the law if you willfully brought a verdict contrary to the law given to you in this case.”
An earlier Los Angeles Times (sub. req.) provides more details about the underlying California drug prosecution of Noah Kleinman.
ABAJournal.com: “Nonprofit Considers Suit re Judge’s Ban on Jury ‘Education’ Material Outside Courthouses”
ABAJournal.com: “Is it dangerous to tell jurors about nullification? New Hampshire bill would make it mandatory”
ABAJournal.com: “Advocacy group sues Denver over courthouse leafleting arrests”