Jury selection was completed during the first day of the Kyle Rittenhouse homicide trial. 20 jurors were chosen, which includes eight alternates.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, who formerly resided in Antioch, is facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, first-degree reckless homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.
Preliminary examination of the potential jurors began around 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce E. Schroeder said at the beginning of the trial that 20 jurors will be chosen. 12 will hear the case and 8 will be alternates.
34 of the approximately 150 potential jurors were in the courtroom, while the others listened in the county boardroom.
Schroeder told the potential jurors he anticipates the trial will last two weeks, plus two days just in case.
Schroeder asked if any of the potential jurors had circumstances that would lead to them being excused from serving.
Schroeder made it clear that being excused from jury duty does not happen easily.
“Being excused from jury duty is a major thing and it’s not just going to just happen easily or routinely, but you’re not going to get shouted down either,” he said.
Many potential jurors asked to be excused due to circumstances such as work, surgery, or single parents looking after their children.
Some potential jurors were excused, while many others were taken under consideration.
“This is not a political trial,” Schroeder emphasized.
“We’re concerned here in this courtroom to try this case in accord with our law, what our law provides, what our rules of evidence prescribe, which have developed over hundreds of years, to improve the level of fairness,” he said.
Schroeder introduced the basics of the case and the charges against Rittenhouse to the potential jurors.
Many potential jurors were dismissed due to strong opinions that would not lead to an impartial decision.
Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger began questioning the potential jurors, asking questions like if they participated in any of the events in response to the officer-involved shooting of Jacob Blake on August 23, 2020.
None of the potential jurors raised their hand to that question.
Binger also asked if any of the potential jurors’ close friends or family participated in the events.
One potential juror said their granddaughter participated in a march. That potential juror said they would not be able to keep an open mind throughout the trial. They were subsequently struck for cause. The defense had no objection.
When asked if any of the potential jurors took steps to protect themselves or their property during the unrest, one said they got a gun to protect their home and their family.
Corey Chirafisi, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, followed up on questions asked by Binger.
One potential juror said her neighbors yelled at her to not have an American flag up at her home. She said she left the flag up and got a gun afterward.
“For whatever reason, I left it up and got a gun,” she said.
Chirafisi asked the potential jurors if any of them tried to follow or keep track of the case. No one raised their hands.
Chirafisi then asked if anyone was angry about what had happened from “the whole riots thing” from August 24 to August 25.
Schroeder interjected and told Chirafisi to be clearer on what he was asking.
“We’re not here for the riot. Be clearer on exactly what you’re stating,” Schroeder said.
One potential juror said he got very anxious about what was happening because he lived close to the unrest.
None of the potential jurors raised their hands when Chirafisi asked if any of them thought damaging property as a form of protesting was okay.
Chirafisi also asked if any of the potential jurors saw the aftermath of the unrest in downtown Kenosha.
One potential juror said she went to see the aftermath of the unrest and was affected by the damage she saw. However, she told Chirafisi she is a “very objective person” and what she saw would not have an impact on the case.
A potential juror told Chirafisi that the weapon Rittenhouse used should not belong to the general public.
“I don’t think a weapon like that should belong to the general public,” she said. She told Chirafisi she would have difficulty setting aside her thoughts when judging the case.
Binger asked her, “If the evidence shows that the defendant possessed an AR-15, you would find him guilty on all of the charges just based on that fact?”
“Pretty much,” she answered. She was struck for cause and the prosecution had no objection.
Multiple potential jurors expressed concern for their safety if they served on the jury.
“My fear is walking out of any of the days of court and just wondering what we’re walking up to. What are our cars going to look like when we’re going out to them? Are they going to be slashed? Are they going to be damaged? Am I going to be able to get home safe? That’s scary,” one said.
Schroeder reassured them, saying, “I’ve never had a juror threatened, I’ve never had a juror bothered in any way, I have not been bothered, and I don’t have any special arrangements either.”
“When was the last time you read of a juror being harmed?” Schroeder asked. “You don’t hear about it.”
The jury was selected at 6 p.m. Monday. They consist of 11 women and 9 men, according to the Associated Press.
They were instructed to return Tuesday at 9 a.m for opening statements.