A fourth day of jury deliberations was underway Friday in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial, a divisive case that has onlookers around the country and even lawyers in Kenosha wondering when a verdict will be reached.
Rittenhouse, 18, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide stemming from shootings during a violent night of protest over police brutality and racial justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020. He faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of the most serious charge.
The night of unrest came following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was left paralyzed when a white police officer shot him several times. The officer was cleared of any state or federal charges.
Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. His defense lawyers say Rittenhouse feared for his life while prosecutors say the then-17-year-old provoked the attack with his AR-15 style rifle.
As the jury deliberates, the possibility of the a mistrial still looms. The defense has twice asked for Judge Bruce Schroeder to throw out the case – the first time with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse couldn’t be retired, and the second time leaving the door open for another trial. Schroeder has not ruled on either motion.
What happens if the jury is deadlocked?
The jury passed the 24-hour mark of deliberations Friday with no word yet on a verdict.
Ion Meyn, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said the length of jury deliberations “seems to me to fall within the bell curve” given the case’s complexity and the number of charges, including lesser offenses, being considered.
“The fact that the jury is looking so closely at the law and facts — a fact made clear by questions from the jury to the judge — suggests the jury is actively considering charging options, versus being at a standstill,” Meyn said.
If jurors are deadlocked, it is common for them to send a note saying so to the judge. Schroeder could give them some form of an “Allen charge,” urging jurors to keep trying, before concluding he must declare a mistrial.
“Allen charge” comes from the case in which it was first used, in Massachusetts in the 19th century. It was upheld and approved in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1896.
The judge would likely tell jurors they should make an honest effort to reach an unanimous verdict but that no one should be forced to agree or feel that they would not be allowed to leave until they do.
MSNBC banned from Kenosha courtroom in day of stressful waiting, chilly protests
Thursday, inside the Kenosha County courthouse, the jury entered its third full day of deliberations. The group was silent and forwarded no questions to court officials.
Dozens of protesters showed up on the steps of the courthouse despite colder weather. Kenosha Sheriff David Beth was seen handing out cookies and doughnuts “for peace.” Police arrested one protester who was seen armed, but no further details were immediately available.
Day 3 of jury deliberations:MSNBC barred from courtroom
Schroeder on Thursday banned MSNBC from the courthouse after police briefly detained a man who supposedly followed the jury bus and may have tried to photograph jurors.
Schroeder said the man claimed to work for MSNBC.
NBC News said in a statement that the man was a freelancer who received a citation for a traffic violation that took place near the jury vehicle, and he “never contacted or intended to contact the jurors during deliberations, and never photographed or intended to photograph them.”
What would a mistrial mean for Kyle Rittenhouse?
Rittenhouse’s defense team first asked for a mistrial over questions from Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger as Rittenhouse took the stand. The lawyers said Binger improperly commented on Rittenhouse’s right to remain silent and later tried to introduce evidence Schroeder had not allowed. The defense’s request was for a mistrial with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse couldn’t face another trial on the same charges.
In a written version of a motion filed Monday, the defense team also mentioned drone video, which became the basis for their second mistrial motion.
After jurors asked to see videos from the evidence, the defense argued a drone video that shows Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum was given to them in a lower quality. The defense said they did not realize the discrepancy until after the evidence had closed and both sides were debating jury instructions.
Will there be a mistrial? Here’s what it would mean for Kyle Rittenhouse and his case
Prosecutor James Kraus said the video was accidentally sent in lower quality as a detective emailed it. But Rittenhouse’s defense should have had access to the video months ago when his first attorney appeared on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show with the video, Kraus argued.
The video is a key element to the prosecution’s contention that Rittenhouse provoked the attack, thereby losing his self defense case.
Legal experts say if a mistrial is declared it would bring even more scrutiny to an already divisive case since such rulings typically help defendants.
Still, the defense must explain to the judge why what happened hurt Rittenhouse, Meyn said.
“You can’t just say the state gave me a lower-quality video and therefore I get a mistrial,” Meyn said. “That’s a losing argument for sure.”
How much prison time could Rittenhouse face?
Rittenhouse’s most serious charge, first-degree intentional homicide in Huber’s death, includes a mandatory life sentence if he’s convicted; he could face lengthy prison time for the other charges.
Jurors may consider lesser charges in Huber’s death that could carry up to 60 years in prison, and the first-degree reckless homicide charge in Rosenbaum’s death carries up to 60 years with an additional five years for the “use of a dangerous weapon” modifier.
The attempted first-degree intentional homicide of Grosskreutz could carry a 60-year sentence plus five years for the same weapon modifier, and the jury can consider lesser charges in that count.
Each count of first-degree recklessly endangering safety could carry up to 12½ years in prison, plus a five-year weapon modifier. Rittenhouse fired at an unidentified man twice before he shot Huber and Grosskreutz. A Daily Caller reporter was at the scene of the Rosenbaum shooting and said a bullet whizzed past him.
Contributing: Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel