Jury selection was underway Monday in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.
By using different rooms, different buildings and video feeds, Judge Bruce Schroeder hoped to streamline the process and get his jury seated in a single day. But the goal was not completed, and jury selection will continue on Tuesday.
While equipment was being checked out, the judge played “Jeopardy” with the prospective jurors. It was a moment of levity in what will otherwise be a serious trial garnering national attention.
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Schroeder warned jurors about the attention the trial will draw and the different perspectives they will see in the media.
“You will be on the front line,” he told the 150 people in the jury pool. “You will get to hear what happened for yourself.”
In the end, Schroeder hopes to pick 20 of what he calls “full-fledged” jurors. He says the number will be whittled down to 12 as the case progresses. At the end, if they still have more than the necessary 12, other jurors will be told their services are no longer needed. So far, seven jurors have told the judge they cannot put aside the pretrial publicity and will not be able to make an unbiased decision on the case. The judge is taking their statements under advisement.
Rittenhouse, who arrived at the courtroom about half an hour before the process began, is facing seven counts including reckless homicide and attempted homicide in the first degree in connection with his actions on Aug. 25, 2020, during the protests that followed the shooting of Jacob Blake.
While claiming to be in Kenosha to protect local businesses, Rittenhouse shot three people, two of them fatally when the protests turned to riots. He claims he acted in self defense.
Among the charges he faces is being in possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18. Rittenhouse, who is from Antioch, Illinois, was 17 at the time of the shooting.
More than 200 witnesses could potentially be called in this trial, which the judge estimates will take a little more than two weeks. Among those witnesses are the families of the alleged victims in the case and at least of the people allegedly shot.
The judge has prohibited either side from referring to those killed or wounded as “victims.” In an already controversial ruling, he insisted they be called “looters” or “rioters.”
Schroeder says the jurors will likely not be sequestered during the trial.
“There is a less than 1 percent chance it will come to that,” he told the potential jurors.
Opening arguments are expected to start as soon as the jury is seated. That could be late on Monday or early on Tuesday morning.