Jurors in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial have asked multiple questions during their deliberations so far, one of which sparked a second mistrial bid from defense attorneys, but what could they mean for the case?
The jury has been deliberating for three days as of Thursday with the mistrial request now hanging over the politically and racially fraught case.
Rittenhouse, 18, is on trial on homicide and attempted homicide charges for killing two men and wounding a third with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle during a tumultuous night of protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, Black man, by a white police officer. Rittenhouse, a then-17-year-old former police youth cadet, said he went to Kenosha to protect property from rioters.
He shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, now 28. Rittenhouse is white, as were those he shot. The case has become a flashpoint in the debate over guns, racial injustice, vigilantism and self-defense in the U.S.
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Rittenhouse could get life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge against him.
So what has happened so far during deliberations? Here's a breakdown:
Rittenhouse Jury Asks to See Video on Day 2 of Deliberations, Leading to Mistrial Bid
The second mistrial bid was sparked by a jury request Wednesday to re-watch video evidence, including drone footage that prosecutors used to try to undermine Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim and portray him as the instigator of the bloodshed in Kenosha in the summer of 2020.
Prosecutors said the video showed him pointing his rifle at protesters before the shooting erupted.
But the defense team said Wednesday that it had received an inferior copy of the potentially critical video from prosecutors, prompting its second mistrial motion in a week. Judge Bruce Schroeder agreed to let the jury re-watch the video and did not immediately rule on the mistrial request.
Rittenhouse attorney Corey Chirafisi said the defense would have approached things differently if it had received the better footage earlier in the case. Chirafisi said the mistrial request would be made “without prejudice,” meaning prosecutors could still retry Rittenhouse.
Last week, the defense asked for a mistrial with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse could not be put on trial again. That request was prompted by what the defense said were improper questions asked by prosecutor Thomas Binger during his cross-examination of Rittenhouse.
The prosecution contends the drone video proves Rittenhouse lied on the stand when he said he didn’t point his rifle at protesters. But the key moment in the footage is hard to decipher because of how far away the drone was and how small a figure Rittenhouse is in the frame.
A smaller file size or lower-resolution video file is fuzzier and grainier, particularly if played on a larger screen, said Dennis Keeling, an adjunct professor in the cinema and television arts department at Columbia College Chicago.
Prosecutors told the judge Wednesday that the jury saw the highest-quality version during the trial and that it was not the state's fault that the file size got smaller when received by the defense.
“We’re focusing too heavily on a technological glitch," prosecutor James Kraus said.
The judge said the mistrial request will have to be addressed if there is a guilty verdict. If Rittenhouse is acquitted, the dispute won't matter. But if he is found guilty, a mistrial ruling would essentially void the verdict.
Where Do Jurors View Video?
Jurors asked if they should view videos in private or in the courtroom.
Judge rules jurors will be allowed to view video in courtroom as many times as they want, but viewing will remain private, with everyone, including the judge, leaving the room.
The jury also asked for an additional video in regular and slow motion, and inquired as to whether they can stop and start the video at their request.
Jurors Ask for Copies of Instructions
On their first day of deliberations the Rittenhouse jury made a request to the judge in the case asking for extra copies of the jury instructions, specifically pages one through six, which relate to self defense and provocation.
The jury later made a second request for 11 copies of the full instructions given by the court.