JASON PROEFROCK: Case still waiting

To the Editor,

A year ago, just before Thanksgiving, a man was arrested outside the Mecosta County Courthouse and charged with misdemeanor jury tampering for passing out flyers from the Fully Informed Jury Association (www.fija.org).

Since there was no jury seated at the time, and the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled twice that a person is not a juror until sworn in as a juror, this is a completely idiotic charge that I bet has cost the county taxpayers thousands of dollars already.

The man was charged with jury tampering when there was no jury in existence that day. Think about that. He handed out flyers to potential jurors, not actual jurors. Could I be charged with jury tampering for sharing FIJA’s message to four hundred potential jurors on social media? All of us adults are potential jurors, aren’t we? In fact, why not go visit www.fija.org before you even finish reading this letter. Take 15 minutes and digest what they have to say. (No really, go do it now, then finish reading.)

There. Could I now be arrested for jury tampering, since I shared FIJA’s message with all of the potential jurors reading this? It is a slippery slope, and a dangerous one.

The part that spooks me more than anything though, is the almost dead silence from the community. I have contacted nearly every elected official at the county level and have only heard back from one, and that response was to tell me that their office had no power over the courts’ decisions. There have been three or four of us that have spoken out publicly, via letters to the editor, on this subject. (A letter to the editor is the closest thing we have to a public soapbox in Mecosta County.)

Before his arrest, I had never heard of the defendant in this case, which is still ongoing. I did get the opportunity to meet him at a hearing back in July, so he isn’t a total stranger anymore. Mecosta County has always been my home, and it probably always will be. I will always choose to stick up for the unknown little guy, rather than ignore injustice just so I can go on living a comfortable life, staying on good terms with those in power.

I think the silence can be described as a local form of political correctness. Very few want to upset the apple cart and speak out against those locally in power over us.

I will finish with a quote from Martin Niemöller, a pastor who was a critic of Nazism in Europe during WWII. This quote has several versions, as he said it multiple times. When you read his words, think of how you can “speak up.” Do you play golf with some of the players in this case? Are you in any professional organizations with them?

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” — Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1945.

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