The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which began this week, has already become a trending topic.
Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a juror for making a joke about Jacob Blake, the Black man whose shooting by police sparked protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Rittenhouse later shot and killed two protesters.
Although his name is withheld for obvious reasons, the juror is a retired man, and the joke made to a sheriff’s deputy as he was being escorted to his car on Wednesday afternoon.
The officer promptly reported the joke to Judge Bruce Schroeder.
The next morning, Thursday, Nov. 4, the juror was called before the judge and lawyers where he confirmed that he made the joke but declined to repeat it.
“It was my understanding it was something along the lines of, ‘Why did the Kenosha police shoot, Jacob Blake, seven times?” said prosecutor Thomas Binger. “It’s my understanding that the rest of the joke is: ‘Because they ran out of bullets.’”
Blake, who was 29-years-old at the time, was shot seven times in the back by Officer Rusten Sheskey, a white Kenosha resident, outside an apartment building on Aug. 23, 2020. Police had been called to the building by a woman who had previously filed a sexual assault complaint against Blake.
Both police and Blake acknowledge he was holding a knife, though Blake says he was moving to place it in his car after it fell from his pants. Binger asked the judge to dismiss the juror, saying the joke suggested racial bias.
Rittenhouse’s defense lawyers initially opposed the dismissal, but they ultimately declined to object after the juror refused to repeat the joke, saying that his unwillingness to do so “could be taken in a worse light.”
“Regardless whether the issue is as grave as [Binger] presented it in terms of inner feelings, it’s clear that the appearance of bias is present, and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case,” said Schroeder as he dismissed the juror. “The public needs to be confident that this is a fair trial.”
Jury selection has taken center stage with the Kyle Rittenhouse case, as it now consists of 11 women and eight men. Twelve will ultimately serve on the jury panel, while the other seven are considered to be alternates.
Of the 20 people selected, one person of color will be on the jury, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Many possible jurors asked to be excused for a variety of reasons, including job obligations, child care issues, and health conditions.
Others were excused because of conflicts of interest.
Testimony continues Friday, Nov. 5, as the prosecution makes its case.
The trial is expected to last at least one more week, with high ramifications similar to the Ahmaud Arbery trial, where opening statements began Friday. In both cases, there were requests to not call the men killed by the defendants “victims.”