People v. Wood, Docket No. 159063

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtClement, J.
Citation506 Mich. 114,954 N.W.2d 494
Parties PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Keith Eric WOOD, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberDocket No. 159063,Calendar No. 6
Decision Date28 July 2020

506 Mich. 114
954 N.W.2d 494

PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Keith Eric WOOD, Defendant-Appellant.

Docket No. 159063
Calendar No. 6

Supreme Court of Michigan.

Argued March 4, 2020
Decided July 28, 2020


Clement, J.

506 Mich. 117

A criminal statute, MCL 750.120a(1), prohibits any individual from willfully attempting to "influence the decision of a juror in any case by argument or persuasion ...." In this case, we consider the meaning of "juror" under this statute. Defendant was charged with jury tampering after handing pamphlets outside a courthouse to individuals arriving for their first day of jury duty. We hold that the individuals here who were merely summoned for jury duty and had not participated in a case were not jurors under MCL 750.120a(1).

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

What does the case of Andrew Yoder, an Amish man indicted for violating environmental regulations, have

506 Mich. 118

to do with jury nullification? Very little. But the two converge in defendant's case. At some point, defendant, Keith E. Wood, became interested in jury nullification, the concept that a jury can vote to acquit even if it finds that the accused violated the law beyond a reasonable doubt.1 Yoder's case also "piqued [defendant's] interest" after he learned of the case through an "email blast" sent to several people. Defendant claims—and it is not disputed—that he

954 N.W.2d 497

neither personally knew Yoder nor had any contact with him. Nevertheless, defendant attended the pretrial hearing in the Yoder case on November 4, 2015, at which the court scheduled Yoder's trial for November 24th.

On the morning set for Yoder's trial, defendant showed up and began handing out pamphlets outside the courthouse's front entrance to anyone who would take one. The pamphlets—entitled "Your Jury Rights: True or False?"—promoted jury nullification.2 Defendant had found the pamphlets at the website of the Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA).3 They mentioned

506 Mich. 119

nothing specifically about the Yoder case. When asked why he handed out pamphlets that morning, defendant answered that he "believed that there were going to be a lot of people around the courthouse and it was going to give [him] a really good opportunity to educate" them. According to defendant, he had no interest in the outcome of the Yoder case. Defendant also testified that he did not know that the Yoder case was going to be the only case scheduled for November 24th. After spending some time handing out pamphlets to a number of people, defendant was arrested. And the Yoder case, before any proceedings began, was ultimately resolved through a plea bargain, and the summoned individuals were sent home.

Defendant was charged with one count of jury tampering,4 MCL 750.120a(1), and one count of obstruction of justice, MCL 750.505. Before trial, defendant moved to dismiss both charges, but the district court dismissed only the obstruction charge. As to the jury-tampering charge, defendant argued that he had not attempted to influence a "juror" as that term is used in MCL 750.120a(1), and he raised several constitutional arguments, including a First Amendment free-speech challenge.

When the district court denied his motion to dismiss the jury-tampering charge, defendant sought leave for an interlocutory appeal, but the circuit court denied his application, as did the Court of Appeals "for failure to persuade the Court of the need for immediate appellate review." People v. Wood , unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered December 2, 2016 (Docket No. 334410). This Court also denied leave. People v. Wood , 500 Mich. 963, 891 N.W.2d 495 (2017).

506 Mich. 120

A jury trial was then held on the jury-tampering charge. Although defendant had handed pamphlets to a number of people outside the courthouse, his jury-tampering charge was based on his interactions on the morning of Yoder's trial with Jennifer Johnson and Theresa DeVries, both of whom had been summoned for jury duty. As for Johnson, she testified that when she arrived for the first time at the courthouse, she approached defendant at the front entrance of the courthouse because she saw others walking up to defendant and thought she was supposed to check in with him. She could not remember whether she had told defendant that

954 N.W.2d 498

she was checking in for jury duty or whether defendant had asked if she was there for jury duty; either way, it was clear to defendant that she was there for jury duty. Defendant then handed her a pamphlet and pointed to the door. As for DeVries, she testified that when she showed up for the first time, as she walked up to the courthouse, defendant approached her and asked, " ‘Are you here for jury selection?’ " She answered, "Yes." Defendant then handed her a pamphlet and said, " ‘Do you know what your rights are for being ... on jury duty?’ " She said, "Oh," grabbed the pamphlet, and walked into the courthouse.

After the prosecution rested, defendant moved again to dismiss the charge, but the district court denied the motion. Over defendant's objection, the district court instructed the jury as to the elements of jury tampering, stating in relevant part, "The word ‘juror’ includes a person who has been summoned to appear in court to decide the facts in a specific trial." The jury convicted defendant of jury tampering. Defendant then appealed in the circuit court, which affirmed his convictions.

In the Court of Appeals, defendant raised three arguments. First, defendant argued that he had not

506 Mich. 121

tampered with a "juror in any case" because the ordinary meaning of "juror" is someone who serves on a jury and no jury had been sworn. He also argued that the statute is at least ambiguous in this regard and, as a result, the rule of lenity should apply. Second, defendant argued that if the Court of Appeals were to accept the prosecution's interpretation of "juror," then the statute would violate his First Amendment right to free speech. Third, defendant argued that the statute was void for vagueness under due-process principles. The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction in a split, published decision. In doing so, the majority held that "juror" under MCL 750.120a(1) included those summoned for jury duty, "even if never selected [or] sworn to serve on a jury." People v. Wood , 326 Mich. App. 561, 571, 928 N.W.2d 267 (2018). The majority also denied defendant's constitutional claims. The dissent, however, would have held that there is no juror for purposes of MCL 750.120a(1) "at the point in time that [a person] has merely been summoned for jury duty and arrives at the courthouse." Id. at 592, 928 N.W.2d 267 ( MURPHY , J., dissenting).

Defendant sought leave to appeal in this Court, raising the same issues as below, and we granted leave to appeal and heard oral argument. People v. Wood , 504 Mich. 975, 933 N.W.2d 311 (2019). We disagree with the Court of Appeals and reverse its decision.

II. ANALYSIS

The issue in this case is the proper interpretation of the term "juror." We review this question of statutory interpretation de novo. People v. Gardner , 482 Mich. 41, 46, 753 N.W.2d 78 (2008). MCL 750.120a(1) provides:5

506 Mich. 122
A person who willfully attempts to influence the decision of a juror in any case by argument or persuasion, other than as part of the proceedings in open court in the trial of the case, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.

According to defendant, "juror" in MCL 750.120a(1) includes only the individuals who are selected and sworn to serve on a jury. The prosecution, by contrast, argues that "juror" includes all the individuals

954 N.W.2d 499

summoned for jury duty. Although we do not decide, on the basis of the facts here, whether "juror" should be interpreted as narrowly as defendant proposes, we nevertheless disagree with the prosecution's broad interpretation.6

"We begin by construing the language of the statute itself." People v. Maynor , 470 Mich. 289, 295, 683 N.W.2d 565 (2004). Our goal is to determine the "plain and ordinary" meaning of "juror" as used in this statute. People v. Monaco , 474 Mich. 48, 55, 710 N.W.2d 46 (2006). The text of MCL 750.120a(1) prohibits a person from influencing the decision of a juror, but the statute fails to provide a definition of "juror." We start, therefore, by consulting dictionary definitions "to determine the plain and ordinary meaning" of "juror." People v. Rea , 500 Mich. 422, 428, 902 N.W.2d 362 (2017).

Dictionaries generally provide two definitions of the word "juror." On the one hand, as defendant argues, some dictionaries define "juror" narrowly as "one member of a jury." Black's Law Dictionary (Deluxe 4th ed.); see also, e.g., Webster's Third New International Dictionary

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11 practice notes
  • Rott v. Rott, 161051
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 30, 2021
    ...extra-textual statutory purpose"). And while purpose can sometimes be gleaned from a careful reading of the text, see People v. Wood , 506 Mich. 114, 146 & n. 44, 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) ( VIVIANO , J., dissenting), it can easily lead to sweeping assertions of legislative goals that bear litt......
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    ...rule in Michigan, we must apply legal texts as written and have no power to excuse violations of them.26 See generally People v Wood , 506 Mich. 114, 146, 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) ( Viviano , J., dissenting) ("A proper contextual analysis in this case includes consideration of statutory purpos......
  • Taxpayers for Mich. Constitutional Gov't v. State, Docket No. 160658
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    ...to consult dictionaries from after 1978 to understand the meaning of the term when the Headlee Amendment was ratified. People v. Wood , 506 Mich. 114, 133 n. 5, 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) ( Viviano , J., dissenting), quoting Scalia & Garner, A Note on the Use of Dictionaries , 16 Green Bag 2d 41......
  • Taxpayers For Michigan Constitutional Government v. State, Department of Technology, Management and Budget, 160658
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 28, 2021
    ...to consult dictionaries from after 1978 to understand the meaning of the term when the Headlee Amendment was ratified. People v Wood, 506 Mich. 114, 133 n 5; 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) (Viviano, J., dissenting), quoting Scalia & Garner, A Note on the Use of Dictionaries, 16 Green Bag 2d 419, 423......
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10 cases
  • Rott v. Rott, 161051
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 30, 2021
    ...extra-textual statutory purpose"). And while purpose can sometimes be gleaned from a careful reading of the text, see People v. Wood , 506 Mich. 114, 146 & n. 44, 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) ( VIVIANO , J., dissenting), it can easily lead to sweeping assertions of legislative goals that bear litt......
  • Taxpayers for Mich. Constitutional Gov't v. State, Docket No. 160658
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 28, 2021
    ...to consult dictionaries from after 1978 to understand the meaning of the term when the Headlee Amendment was ratified. People v. Wood , 506 Mich. 114, 133 n. 5, 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) ( Viviano , J., dissenting), quoting Scalia & Garner, A Note on the Use of Dictionaries , 16 Green Bag 2d 41......
  • Taxpayers For Michigan Constitutional Government v. State, Department of Technology, Management and Budget, 160658
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 28, 2021
    ...to consult dictionaries from after 1978 to understand the meaning of the term when the Headlee Amendment was ratified. People v Wood, 506 Mich. 114, 133 n 5; 954 N.W.2d 494 (2020) (Viviano, J., dissenting), quoting Scalia & Garner, A Note on the Use of Dictionaries, 16 Green Bag 2d 419, 423......
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    ...definitions may be consulted to determine the plain and ordinary meaning of terms and phrases in a statute. See, e.g. , People v. Wood , 506 Mich. 114, 954 N.W.2d 494, 499 (2020). However, because "[c]ontext is a primary determinant of meaning," the text of a statute must always be interpre......
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