by Scott Bauer, Michael Tarm and Amy Forlitti
Kenosha, Wis. (AP) — Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial opened Monday with the daunting task of sitting down jurors who hadn’t already made up their mind about the young aspiring police officer who shot and killed two people over the course of a night and injured a third. Last year there were anti-racism demonstrations in Kenosha.
Rittenhouse was 17 when he made the short trip from his home in Illinois, across the Wisconsin state line, during unrest after a white Kenosha police officer shot a black man, Jacob Blake, in August 2020.
Rittenhouse, now 18, faces life imprisonment if convicted of first-degree homicide, one of several charges against him. His lawyers have argued that he fired in self-defense.
Judge Bruce Schroeder repeatedly insisted that jurors should decide the case solely after hearing it in the courtroom, and warned: “This is not a political trial.”
“It was mentioned last year by both political campaigns and presidential campaigns, in some instances very unintentionally,” he said.
And he said the misinformation was written by people who “don’t know what you’re going to know. Those of you who have been elected to this jury, who are going to hear the real evidence in this case themselves.”
The judge said Rittenhouse’s constitutional right to a fair trial, not the Second Amendment right to bear arms, would come into play, and “I don’t want that to be turned into other issues.”
Still, several jurors said they had already made up their mind, and at least 19 were dismissed from the lunch break for a variety of reasons. Among them were a man who said he was at the protest site when “all of that happened” and a woman who said she knew one of the potential witnesses in the case well and may have compared that person’s testimony to others. will give more importance.
Another woman who said she watched a livestream video of what happened was dismissed because she wasn’t sure she could put aside what she saw. One man was dropped from the case because he said he was bound by the biblical command “thou shalt not kill” even in matters of self-defense.
Another woman was fired after saying she was paranoid about the unrest in the city. One person who said he was “relentlessly commenting on the news feed and Facebook” was also pardoned.
A man who said his son was a friend of the man who bought the gun Rittenhouse used in the shooting was not immediately dismissed by the judge.
Schroeder told lawyers he thought a jury could be chosen from among 150 potential jurors in one day.
Jury selection started off slow. During the unexplained delay, the judge shouted “Danger!” played a fake game of With potential jurors in the courtroom, something he occasionally does as a lawyer. This prompted several negative comments on the Facebook livestream of the test, with many saying it was unfair.
Schroeder told potential jurors that he would select 20 of them to hear the case, which is expected to last about two weeks. In the end, 12 will deliberate, and the rest will be rejected as optional. He said he almost certainly won’t set the jury apart.
Lawyers for both sides had urged the judge to send questionnaires to those called as potential jurors to detect bias and speed up the process. Schroeder, the longest-serving Circuit Court judge in Wisconsin, denied the request.
The judge said he disliked questionnaires in general because he feared most people would not fill them out or that it would tell him they might be on the Rittenhouse case, causing him to discuss it with friends and family.
The case is polarizing, with Rittenhouse portrayed by his supporters as a patriot exercising his self-defense and Second Amendment gun rights. Others see him as a vigilante and police wannabe who shouldn’t have been armed in Kenosha in the first place. Rittenhouse is white, as is the shot he shot, but many are viewing his trial as the latest referendum on race and the American legal system.
Rittenhouse fatally shot 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle after Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse across a parking lot and threw a plastic bag at him shortly before midnight on August 25 . Moments later, as Rittenhouse was walking down a street, he shot and killed 26-year-old Anthony Huber, a Silver Lake, Wisconsin protester, and wounded 27-year-old Gage Groskretz, a West Ellis, Wisconsin protester .
Bystander video caught Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse, but not the actual shooting. The video showed Huber swinging on a skateboard at Rittenhouse before being shot. As he walked towards Rittenhouse, Grosskretz had a gun in his hand and was shot.
Rittenhouse faces two counts, one in attempted murder and two others recklessly endangering security for firing his weapon near him. He is also charged with possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18.
___ Bauer reported from Minneapolis to Madison, Wisconsin, Forlity. Associated Press writer Tammy Weber contributed from Fenton, Michigan.
Get the AP’s full coverage on Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse