KENOSHA – A juror in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial was dismissed Thursday after admitting he tried to tell a joke about Kenosha police shooting Jacob Blake Jr.
The incident with the juror happened Wednesday. At the end of court that day, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger asked the juror be dismissed, but Judge Bruce Schroeder said they would take it up Thursday morning.
“To me, anyone who would find that funny” has more than bad taste, Binger said Thursday. “There’s a plethora of bad jokes about everything to do with all of this. But to me, this suggests some sort of racial bias.”
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On Thursday, the defense attorneys said they would not agree to dismissing the juror without more information. Schroeder brought the older, white male juror into court and asked him if had tried to tell a joke to a deputy on Wednesday.
The juror, wearing a mask, nodded yes. When asked if he’d like to repeat it, he shook his head no.
Since the trial started Monday, Schroeder has mentioned repeatedly the need for the public to perceive the trial as fair, since emotions are high among supporters and critics of Rittenhouse, whose lawyers say acted in a lawful self-defense.
“It’s clear that the appearance of bias is present and it would seriously undermine the outcome of the case,” he said.
At the very least, Schroeder said, “it was bad judgment to tell a joke of that nature.”
The defense conceded that the man’s refusal to repeat the joke probably put it in worse light, and objected to his dismissal.
Perhaps not realizing he’d already been dismissed, the juror then said, “My feeling is it had nothing to do with the case.”
Schroeder quickly cut him off.
“I try to confine my judgments to things I have to judge. I don’t want to get into that,” he said.
The man had made it to the panel of 20 jurors after a long day of jury selection on Monday.
About three dozen people were excused for cause, like imminent European travel plans, health conditions, or because they no longer live in the county. Several said they had strong opinions about what the outcome should be, and were convinced no evidence presented at trial could change them.
Before the trial started, many lawyers were surprised at Schroeder’s plan to get a jury empaneled in one day, exactly because the events of August 2020 had such widespread and powerful impact in the community.
Rittenhouse also became an instant cause célèbre among conservatives and gun rights advocates nationwide.
Schroeder had settled on having 20 jurors, 12 plus eight alternates. So even with Thursday’s dismissal, plenty of jurors remain. There are 11 women and eight men left. There is one person of color.
A potential juror was cited for disorderly conduct after a sheriff’s deputy found him smoking in a courthouse restroom, where it is prohibited.