NATIONAL NEWS

Juror in Rittenhouse trial dismissed for joke about police shooting of Jacob Blake

Nov 4, 2021, 12:45 PM
Kyle Rittenhouse listens as his lawyer gives opening statements to the jury at the Kenosha County C...
Kyle Rittenhouse listens as his lawyer gives opening statements to the jury at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Kenosha News, Sean Krajacic)
(AP Photo/Kenosha News, Sean Krajacic)

(CNN) — A juror was dismissed in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial Thursday morning after he told a joke to a deputy earlier this week about the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The incident occurred when a male juror being escorted to his car made a joke about the shooting, Judge Bruce Schroeder said.

“I’m going to summarize what I remember, what I was told,” Schroeder said. “He was telling a joke … he told the officer … he made a reference about telling a joke about ‘Why did it take seven shots to shoot Jacob Blake,’ something to that effect.”

Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger took particular issue with the incident.

“The joke is in bad taste, there are a plethora of bad jokes out there with everything to do with all this, this is one of them. But I think the rest of this joke, as it were, suggests some sort of racial bias which I think comes into play,” he said.

The judge called the juror into court for questioning, and the juror affirmed he told the joke but declined to repeat it.

The middle-aged juror appeared ill-at-ease, fumbling to hold a portable microphone and speaking through a multi-colored face mask while speaking to the judge, according to a pool reporter in court.

“It had nothing to do with the case,” he told the judge.

“It is clear that the appearance to bias is present and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case,” Schroeder said.

“My feelings is, it was nothing to do with the case. It was nothing to do with Kyle and his charges,” the juror told the judge.

“The public needs to be confident that this is a fair trial,” Schroeder responded.

Both the defense and the prosecution agreed to dismiss the juror.

The juror’s dismissal leaves the panel with 19 total jurors, 11 women and now eight men. That number will be narrowed to 12 once deliberations begin, according to the judge.

The dismissal came amid the first week of testimony in Rittenouse’s homicide trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, 17 at the time, killed two men and wounded another during the volatile unrest after police shot Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, seven times on August 23, 2020. He was left paralyzed.

An uncle of Blake said Thursday his family is “disturbed and disgusted” by reports of the dismissed juror’s joke.

“The juror’s mentality shows his bias and callousness and he should be nowhere near the jury box in this case,” Justin Blake told CNN.

“It shows the depravity and racism and the lowness of a member of a jury that was selected in one day,” Justin Blake added.

Rittenhouse, now 18, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and first-degree attempted intentional homicide.

In opening statements, the prosecution said evidence would show Rittenhouse chased down and fatally shot Rosenbaum, 36, and then shot at three other people who tried to confront what they believed to be an active shooter. However, Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, said Rittenhouse acted in self-defense, describing Rosenbaum as the aggressor and the others as part of a “mob.”

The violence in Kenosha, a city of about 100,000 people, came amid a tense summer of protests and unrest as masses of people denounced how American police treated Black people. On August 23, 2020, a Kenosha police officer shot Blake, and the ensuing public anger led to incidents of violence and destruction, pushing some people to arm themselves and take the community’s safety into their own hands.

Rittenhouse fired an AR-15-style weapon eight times in all during the unrest: four shots at Rosenbaum, who was unarmed; two shots at an unarmed unknown individual who kicked Rittenhouse; one fatal shot at Anthony Huber, who hit Rittenhouse with a skateboard; and one shot at Gaige Grosskreutz, who was holding a gun, according to prosecutors.

Rosenbaum and Huber, 26, were killed, and Grosskreutz, now 27, was wounded.

Videos show final moments

On Wednesday and Thursday, prosecutors played about a dozen videos that, taken together, showed what happened before, during and after Rittenhouse killed two men and wounded another in Kenosha.

In particular, new FBI infrared aerial surveillance video provided a unique angle into the final moments before the teenager fatally shot Rosenbaum. The infrared video, grainy and shot from 8,500 feet overheard, shows Rittenhouse hustling along a sidewalk and passing Rosenbaum, who is positioned next to a cluster of parked cars.

The video shows the two stop and interact, and Rosenbaum, who was unarmed, then begins to run toward Rittenhouse, who is armed with a rifle. Rittenhouse, then 17, runs away from Rosenbaum before the teenager ultimately turns and shoots him four times, the video shows.

The new FBI aerial video was shown in court during testimony from Kenosha Police Det. Martin Howard, the lead investigator on the case.

Richards, Rittenhouse’s attorney, alleged that Rosenbaum was in the parking lot setting a Duramax vehicle on fire. Richards argued that Rosenbaum “was in hiding” as Rittenhouse arrived at the parking lot, which Howard confirmed.

Videos taken of the scene from other witnesses show Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse during the chase, but Rosenbaum was otherwise unarmed. The videos also show that a different person fired a gunshot in the air about 2.5 seconds before Rittenhouse opened fire.

That initial shot was fired by Joshua Ziminski, Howard testified. Afterward, Rittenhouse fired four times at Rosenbaum. There were another three shots afterward, the videos show, but Howard said investigators still do not know who fired those.

Ziminski, 36, has separately been charged with disorderly conduct using a dangerous weapon, arson and obstructing an officer, and he has pleaded not guilty, court records show. A criminal complaint says he admitted to firing a “warning shot” in the air that night.

Other videos that night from a variety of perspectives show what happened next. Rittenhouse ran from the shooting scene and people began to chase after him, yelling that he had shot someone. Rittenhouse then fell to the ground, and three people confronted him; Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber and shot Grosskreutz in the arm, the videos show.

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Juror in Rittenhouse trial dismissed for joke about police shooting of Jacob Blake