Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Juror excused for making joke about police shooting of Jacob Blake
Rittenhouse is on trial for shooting three men at a protest over Blake’s shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020
A juror on Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial has been excused after they reportedly made a joke about the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
The juror, described as an older white man, was removed on Thursday, the third day of the trial.
Mr Rittenhouse, 18, is facing charges for shooting three men at a protest over Mr Blake’s shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on 25 August, 2020.
Mr Blake was left paralysed after he was shot in the back seven times by a Kenosha police officer serving an arrest warrant on 23 August, 2020. The officer, Rusten Sheskey, claimed he thought Mr Blake, who is Black, was going to stab him. Mr Sheskey was not charged with any wrongdoing and has since returned to the force.
Prosecutors sought to exclude the juror for “racial bias” after he allegedly joked: “Why did the Kenosha police shoot Jacob Blake seven times?” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger said the intended punchline was “because they ran out of bullets. It is unclear whether the juror delivered that punchline or stopped short.
In court on Thursday, the juror acknowledged making the joke but declined to repeat it.
“My feeling is it has nothing to do with the case,” he told the court. “It has nothing to do with Kyle and his seven charges.”
Mr Rittenhouse had traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to serve as an armed guard at the protests and riots that erupted in the wake of Mr Blake’s shooting, prosecutors say. The defendant, who was 17 at the time, shot three protesters during the chaos, killing two of them.
Prosecutors argued that the juror’s joke showed racial bias. The defence initially opposed his dismissal but did not object after he refused to repeat the joke.
Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder sided with the prosecution, saying: “I’ve talked quite a bit about public confidence in the outcome of the trial. It is clear that the appearance of bias is present, and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case.”
Mr Blake’s uncle reacted to the juror’s joke outside the court, asserting that it casts doubt on the predominantly white jury and the trial as a whole.
“It gives you an insight to what kind of people we’re dealing with and how racist they are and the thoughts that they have in their mind. And the audacity that (he) was sitting in the jury box says a lot,” Justin Blake told the Chicago Tribune. “It shows that this process of picking a jury in one day is flawed.”